Today we’re getting so many messages from all avenues of the media reporting on mindful living and that we should "learn to love ourselves." Sounds simple right! So… where do we start? …Seems easier said than done.
First of all, its important to know why its so important to be mindful about loving yourself to begin with. How many of us have heard something like this:
“Loving yourself is essential to your personal growth, to the fulfillment of your dreams, and to developing healthy, happy relationships with others”
In Laymen’s terms, being mindful about loving yourself helps improve one’s self-confidence and self worth. When you feel good about yourself you generally feel more positive about what’s going on around you and what’s happening to you. Once your confidence improves, you will find that you stop caring so much about what others think of you as well as stop comparing yourself to others. Being mindful about Self-love could result in no longer being dependent on others for validation. It then becomes easier to love others once we love ourselves first; this is a direct outcome of our minds being less cluttered with negative thoughts and constant worrying about not being good enough or about what others may think of us.
When one doesn’t love one’s self they do not value themselves, meaning they don’t think it’s worth fighting for what could make them happy. A low self worth can lead to self-sabotaging whether consciously or not, preventing them from advocating for even their most basic needs in order to focus on gaining others’ approval.
Many of us seem to believe we already have self-love; but when we take a closer look at ourselves and reflect on our thoughts and behaviors we may come to realize that we don’t love ourselves the way we should or in some cases, perhaps not at all. We often have a tendency to make other’s needs a priority before our own. The notion that putting our needs first is selfish and that we should care more about other’s than about ourselves is a misconception I encounter time and time again in therapy.
Below are some basic steps to help us over obstacles start being mindful about falling in love with ourselves:
Adjust your negative self talk
• Calling yourself a name reduces you from a person to a single negative element about yourself that is most likely untrue.
• Saying “I am such a loser or failure” after not getting a job or something you wanted to get is unfair. Instead be mindful about focusing those thoughts and energy on getting another job or learning from the experience to have a better one next time.
• Saying “I am so stupid” is also minimizing you to a single element that is most likely not true. If you feel that way perhaps it is because you don’t know enough about a particular subject. Re-focus on learning more about it so that you become more confident in yourself and improve upon that subject.
Note: Its so important to overcome our negative beliefs about ourselves! Most of these negative thoughts that are almost engrained in us come from outside sources. Perhaps they came from people whose opinion we value such as: Our parents, teachers, colleagues and friends because we seek to be accepted and validated by them so we take their opinions or statements and make them our own. Reflect if that is really how you feel about a certain subject and reframe that negative thought. Look at it from a more realistic and positive perspective.
Write down your positive attributes
• Think of one positive thing about yourself to add to the list once a week. At the end of each day, reflect on your entire list.
• The list can consist of anything. From something a friend or coworker said about you to something you know about yourself. For example if you’re a thoughtful person and often think of other’s well being that is an attribute. If you are very punctual, that is an attribute as well!
• As you reflect on your list, keep in mind that it doesn’t matter how small or insignificant any attribute may seem to you because each item on your list is a reason for you to be respected and loved not only by others but most importantly by you.
Create a list of your achievements
• This is such a great way to boost your self worth! By highlighting what you’ve accomplished you allow yourself to feel good about yourself. We tend to forget about the positives and only focus on the negatives. This is a wonderful way of reminding yourself of all the positives you’ve been able to achieve thus far. It serves to motivate you and love yourself.
Celebrate and treat yourself
• This is my favorite part about being mindful about loving yourself. No matter how small you think a particular accomplishment is, celebrate it.
• Think of how much effort and time it took you to accomplish that particular thing and reward yourself for it. If you were able take the time and make the effort to finish the laundry then you deserve a treat! Maybe a bubble bath or a movie you’ve been wanting to catch on Netflix. There is no celebration not worth having. Think about what you do every day, and find a reason to reward yourself with even a little something. Make your favorite for dinner, get that massage, catch up with friends. Don’t let anything go unnoticed or un-rewarded.
• Its good to actually take the time to celebrate even the little things. Share with others what you were able to finish and be proud of what you’ve done. Give yourself the credit! You deserve it!
Visit a therapist
• An experienced therapist can help navigate through the painful memories, identify certain triggers and provide helpful tools to help you be mindful of them and learn how to cope in healthy adaptive ways.
• Therapy can be a great way to learn about yourself and how to cope with your negative thoughts and memories and pave the way to acknowledge your positive attributes and accomplishments leading you to love yourself.
Do things that make you feel good
• Apply yourself to making yourself feel good and do what it takes to stick to a routine.
• Starts participating in activities you’ve been putting off like exercising, taking up a particular class of interest, yoga, or meditation.
• Spend time with yourself! Take yourself on dates to a new place you’ve wanted to try whether it’s a park, restaurant, the movies, or take on a new hobby. Do activities you enjoy with just you. You’ll learn a lot about yourself.
Many of us tend to focus on the negative aspects of our lives more than anything else. Too much focus on the bad stuff or the less than perfect stuff more accurately, can lead us to miss out on so much of the good that constantly surrounds us. If you find you complain often about circumstances or about aspects of yourself try adjusting your focus but finding evidence of the good surrounding you. Chances are, you’ll start to find that there are so many more positive aspects of your life than not.
To learn to love yourself, practice reframing evens in your life in a positive light, and don’t worry about trying to be perfect. Instead of allowing outside opinions to affect how you see yourself, focus on the things you like about yourself and keep working towards your goals. Be your own biggest cheerleader and work towards overcoming obstacles instead of calling yourself names or assuming the worst will always happen.
The bottom line is: ‘People will come and go. Years will pass by. But a true love for yourself will always remain with you, if you nurture it.’ Regardless of how much we may already love ourselves there’s always room for more!