The harshest words ever spoken about you have probably come from you. How many times throughout the day do you think or speak negative things about yourself? How many times throughout the day do you put your needs on the backburner to make room for someone else’s? We are taught that it’s selfish to put our needs ahead of others. We are taught that it’s arrogant to be proud of ourselves and our accomplishments. We are made to feel guilty about saying no to people. Too often we say yes to others and no to ourselves. When we do that no one wins because we end up not giving our best selves.
Similar to knowing yourself, loving yourself is critical to moving forward to the life that you desire to create. You ever heard the phrases: “We teach people how to treat us” or “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent?” There is so much truth in those statements. The way others see and treat you is a reflection of what you are putting out.
If you keep encountering the same negative situations or reactions from people, it may be worth examining yourself to inspect what you are transmitting. This is not to say that negative behavior from others is your fault; not at all! But what I’m saying is that if you don’t love you, why should anyone else? If you don’t see the value in you, how can anyone else? If you don’t think you’re worth the time and space, why should anyone else?
Over the years, I have put a few things into practice to help me both grow in love with myself (yes, that’s a thing) and express love to myself. Sounds crazy, I know. But think about it, how do you express your love to yourself? How do you show yourself that you’re valued? It’s something you have to practice. Our natural inclination is to take on whatever negative story or feedback we hear or feel about ourselves. You can get 15 compliments and one negative critique but the thing that takes over your mind is the criticism. Start practicing self-love by celebrating yourself, having grace with yourself, avoid comparing yourself to others, and practicing gratitude and generosity.
Humility is a virtue when it is in balance. There is absolutely nothing wrong with celebrating your wins or your talents. Have you ever kicked serious butt on a project and felt like doing the Jerry Maguire “Woo?” Do it! Celebrate your wins. Celebrate the times you followed through on your goals. Celebrate when you step out and learn something new. Don’t apologize for being talented, smart, strong, beautiful, creative, or whatever other wonderful things you are. You are wonderfully and beautifully made, so why shouldn’t you be celebrated?
Have grace with yourself
Newsflash: you are not perfect. There, we got that out of the way. You will make some missteps. Learn from them and move on. You won’t always be your best self; do better the next day. Don’t keep looping the replay in your mind. It happened. You could have done better, but you didn’t. Now what? Grant yourself some grace. (In this case, I am defining grace as courteous goodwill.) You have no problem granting grace to the person who accidentally bumped you or who unknowingly took your place in line. Do you deserve any less?
Avoid comparison and perfection
The only person you should compete with is YOU. I’ll repeat: you are not perfect. And you don’t have to be! Perfection is a hoax. Your time is better spent pursuing excellence and consistency. Back in my half-marathon days (I am still mulling over if I’m retired or not), I never cared about placing in my age group or beating someone’s time. When I stepped up to the starting line I had two goals: finish and do better than the last time. That’s it. It didn’t matter where I ranked or who passed me.
Look around at nature. There is beauty in the imperfection. That craggy tree by the lake is a wonder to behold. The clouds in the sky are not perfect puffs in symmetrical shapes, nor are they all the same. It’s okay to aspire to emulate the qualities of someone else, but do it in the context of who you are. Seek to be your best self, not the replica of someone else.
Practice gratitude and generosity
Gratitude increases happiness and decreases depression. Gratitude improves self-esteem. An article I read in Forbes Magazine about the “7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude” counts improved self-esteem as one of the seven benefits. Gratitude can lead to optimal performance, less social comparison, and less resentment towards others. Hello?!
Practicing gratitude is simply taking moments to appreciate who you are, what you have, the people around you, and what you get to experience. It’s about taking stock of the right now and what has been in a way that moves you forward. How can you expect more if you never stop to appreciate what you have now?
A benefit of gratitude is generosity. And it’s not always about writing big checks. Be generous with compliments, time, your gifts & talents, your laughter, your consideration. Generosity creates a cycle of “good” in your life. When you have a spirit of generosity, you will enjoy more years of life.
Love yourself daily
Actively practicing loving yourself goes against a lot of what we are taught by society and religion. Understand that I am not promoting arrogance or selfishness. Instead, I am proposing that in order for you to give your best to anyone else you must first experience your best for your self. Confidence in your abilities and what you bring to the world is not a negative thing. LOVE YOURSELF so that you can be better at loving others.