By Jessica J Lockhart
A few days ago I was talking to some of my clients during a workshop and discussing possible ways to learn how to love ourselves better. There was so much interest that I decided to share with you the tips I gave them. Feel free to use them all or just some. They have an accumulative effect but can also be used one at a time. Enjoy loving yourself better from now on.
Grab a piece of paper and for once, make the effort of defining what you LIKE in yourself, instead of finding whatever it is that you believe needs changing/improving. Identify 3 things you like in each of the following fields:
physical – define 3 things you like in your body, including your face: your hair, your walking style, your height, your posture… anything.
emotional – define 3 traits in you that you like: generous, hard-working, sentimental… anything.
abilities – define 3 skills you have that you like: good handwriting, well organized, fast learner… anything.
Each morning after breakfast and each evening before you go to bed, look at yourself in the mirror, look deeply into your eyes, and remind you of those 9 things you like in yourself. Praise them. Praise yourself for them. Remember that there are AT LEAST 9 things in you that you like. Celebrate those 9 things.
It might be hard, specially at the beginning, because we’re so used to doing just the opposite and looking for flaws, mistakes and the like. But do try. Give yourself a break and be fair; stop JUST looking for the bad in you and start looking for, and praising, the GOOD.
Identify and improve your model
First of all, ask yourself who your teacher was. Who taught you how to love yourself as a human being? Did you learn it from your parents? From a friend? Most of us learn by imitating our role models, even subconsciously. Once you identify who you learned it from, ask yourself if you really like the way that person loved him or herself. Is that the type of love you want to give yourself? If it is, can you improve it? If it isn’t, can’t you find a better role model to imitate? The role model doesn’t need to be a person you know but could also be a character in a book or movie. Yes, I know they might not be “real” but what they’re portraying is the type of love you want to give yourself. Focus on that and learn what they do to transmit that love. At the end of the day, you just want to learn how to do it better.
Change your “yes buts” for “yes ands”
If you’re like many others, each time somebody praises you, your mind immediately looks for some kind of fault in you to counteract the positive comment that you may receive. For example, someone says something nice about your hair or clothes today; your mind instantly reminds you of the… “yes, but even if that looks OK today, it’s usually horrible,” or “yes, but look at my nose, even the best haircut can’t hide that ugly thing on my face,” or something of the kind. Sounds familiar?
I challenge you to turn your “yes buts” the opposite way around. Each time you hear OR THINK something negative about yourself, I want you to make the effort to consciously say, think or repeat a “yes but” in a positive sense. Example: you think, “gosh, my hair looks awful today!” (which would normally make you feel bad for some more time after the thought happened). This time I want you to “yes and” it in a positive way… “yes, and that means I need to try that new hat on,” or “yes, and that’s why I will do it in a different style today” or anything that ends the thinking process on a positive note.
Our brains follow established paths. Let’s create some new ones for ourselves.
Value your actions
If you started applying the first recommendation, you should already be valuing 9 positive things in you. Now I want you to feel grateful as well. Every evening, before going to sleep, think of 3 things you did right. Value your work or your contribution. Celebrate having done those good deeds and congratulate yourself for them. Feel grateful for everything that led you to being able to do what you did. Feel grateful for the people who made it possible; feel grateful for your skills, knowledge or abilities; feel grateful for having been there when you needed to; feel grateful for having decided to do whatever it is that you did… Feel grateful for being you. Gratitude is a very powerful feeling that makes our brains release dopamine, which reduces anxiety, improves our mood and our levels of energy and motivation.
Give yourself hope
Another little but powerful tool to love oneself better is giving ourselves the gift of hope. At night, after feeling grateful for what you did, give yourself permission to dream. And I don’t mean sleeping. Before you actually go to sleep but once you’re already in bed, I want you to daydream. The only rule is that the dreams are positive. If a negative thought tries to enter your mind, make the conscious effort to replace it and go back to your happy reverie. Imagine the good things that will happen to you tomorrow or this week. Visualize the dreams. Imagine them in great detail and have the fun of an artist creating a wonderland. Let yourself enjoy the happy feeling; after all, it’s only in your imagination. But… your brain doesn’t know it! When we make the conscious effort to imagine and try and experience happy feelings, our brain believes the “dream” and starts releasing chemical products that make us feel good: endorphines, oxytocin and the like. As a result, our bodies relax and not only can we actually sleep better, which is an important gift in itself, but once again, our brain discovers new paths into happier feelings. Consider this time a gift to yourself. We’re not daydreaming to create a new reality; this is not the power we’re trying to use. The goal is to have a nice, hopeful time to let our bodies and minds unwind and make us feel good about life.
These five simple exercises will gradually help you love yourself better. By loving yourself better, you will start having better feelings about yourself and, as a result, about the world. You’ll soon start feeling better in general. After all, we can’t change the world unless we change ourselves first.
Choose the type of life you want to live. Choose to love yourself first and others will see the love in you.
Enjoy life, ALL of it,