I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about self-love and what it means to be your own best friend. How many of you would say you smile when you see your own face in the mirror because that’s what you do when you’re greeting a friend? Because you are pleased to be you?
Not many, I suspect. And that’s a shame. Because there is only one person that you will truly spend every moment of every day with, through good times and bad, for the entirety of your life, and that’s yourself.
Self-love isn’t about putting yourself above others, though; instead, it’s about each of us doing the work and taking some accountability for cherishing ourselves. Self-love means respecting and taking delight in your strengths and unique skills, appreciating your weaknesses and trying to grow or improve where appropriate, and loving your body for its power, health, and intricacy.
Sadly, for a variety of reasons, most of us go through our lives berating ourselves, hating our looks or our bodies, feeling shameful, ugly, unattractive, undesirable, or unloved. If you pay attention, you might notice that you say mean things to yourself that you would never DREAM of saying to a friend.
This is what we call negative self-talk.
And negative self-talk:
- decreases our self-esteem
- decreases our capacity to create positive change
- decreases our energy to go after our dreams
- decreases our ability to believe in our own possibilities and potential successes, and
- decreases our resilience to overcome failures, setbacks, and unforeseen bumps in the road.
And what’s worse, this kind of negative self-talk is reinforcing. The more you let it run wild, the more it will run wild. The brain creates pathways for efficiency. The more you think a certain kind of thought, the easier it becomes to think that thought again in the future, and the faster your brain knows to jump down that pathway.
In the beginning, retraining your brain to counter negative self-talk and to cultivate self-love can seem like really hard work, and it is – you are literally carving out new brain pathways and creating new default behaviours. That ain’t easy.
But the reason I think it’s worth the work is is that I’ve become increasingly convinced that self-love is THE KEY TO IT ALL.
Imagine, for a moment, what your life would be like if the voice in your head (the one that is always talking – the Buddhists call it “monkey brain”) said the following to you:
- yes, you can achieve what you want
- yes, you can have your dreams
- yes, you are talented, unique, and marvellous
- yes, you have what it takes
- yes, you can recover from a setback or a failure
- yes, your body is beautiful and powerful
- yes, your self and your individuality are precious
- yes, you can do good in the world
If this was the voice in your ear, wouldn’t you feel happier, lighter, more joyful, and more powerful? You’d be unstoppable! So, how can you get started bringing more self-love into your life?
4 TIPS FOR CULTIVATING SELF-LOVE
1. Affirmations: these might work for you or they might not, but they are worth trying. Try repeating them in the morning when you wake up and at night before bed. Or, try repeating them every time you see yourself in the mirror, or, every time you observe yourself being critical. If you use a mirror, look yourself in the eye and repeat the phrases out loud. Enjoy it. Use different dramatic emphasis. Speak with meaning.
A few examples:
- I accept myself unconditionally right now.
- I am glowing, healthy, and strong
- I am beautiful just the way I am
- I am clever, competent, and capable, and I will find a way
- I am happy and loved
- I love who I have become
2. Self-love goes hand in hand with self-care. Eat well, exercise, and take time to do the things that make you feel most like you: reading, writing, walking, socializing, listening to music, painting, cooking, dancing, whatever. Create space for relaxation but also for positive energization. Take a bath. Go to bed early. Stay up late watching your favourite movie. Do more of what makes you feel good.
3. Gratitude lists. I love gratitude lists. If you want to cherish yourself, make a list about yourself. What do you like about you? Your taste in sofas? Your ability to make people laugh until their beverage comes out of their nose? Your diligence at work? How your favourite colour is periwinkle? Identify what makes you YOU, and then take a moment (or many) to feel grateful about it.
4. Admire your life for 5 minutes every day: Take 5 minutes every day to be present. That could mean meditating for 5 minutes, if that’s helpful to you, or simply taking 5 minutes in which you do your best to be quiet and still, and just look around at your world. Look at your home and admire it with fresh eyes. Look at your pets, your children, your spouse or partner, your flowerpot, the soup you just made, your computer screensaver, whatever. Take 5 minutes and deeply appreciate the unique life you have and how pivotal you are in it! Thank yourself for building this life and feel appreciation for what you have achieved, and what you can do.
© Eat Well, Live Vibrantly