As human beings we can be pretty hard on ourselves. Even the kindest and most generous of us can still be plagued by self-doubt and self-criticism. Why are we quicker to forgive the people we love when they fail than we are to extend ourselves the same courtesy? We still love them and shower them with understanding equal to or even greater than their failure, but we often can’t give ourselves the smallest break for even the tiniest of screw-ups.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s good to be humble and recognize that we’re all far from perfect, but we don’t need to beat ourselves up emotionally. A dash of knowing your weaknesses is a good thing, but repeated self-criticism is destructive, unwarranted, and unhealthy. It creates stress hormones that tear down our cells, encourage premature aging, and weakens our immune systems. Self-criticism also leads to depression, apathy, and the alienation of friends, family, boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses, and lovers. Not loving ourselves can drive away those who might want to love us until there isn’t an ounce of love left internally or externally to lean on.
Your mental, emotional, and physical health are all tied to your self-image. Make sure you are healthy in and out by falling in love with who you are now and who you can become. Here are a few ideas.
Accept Compliments – Don’t look down, blush, kick your feet, and mumble, “Twernt nuttin.” Own it! Accept the compliment, smile, look the other person in the eye, and say, “Thank you. I needed that today.” Pushing aside compliments is a form of rejection. You reject the good things about yourself and you reject the person who pointed them out. Accept them and let them drive your self-esteem higher.
Give Compliments – What comes around goes around. Give freely of compliments and people will notice your friendly praise and be more inclined to praise others, including you. The world would be a better place if everyone gave at least one good compliment a day.
Focus on What You do Well – Yeah, you’ve got some flaws. Who doesn’t? Highlight what you’re good at instead of emphasizing what you mess up on, don’t have, or wish you did better. You are unique and talented in your own ways. Pride yourself on those traits that make you special and different or even a little weird. Embrace these and highlight them.
Smile – Smiles and laughter are contagious, brighten moods, release endorphins, and chase away fears, sadness, depression, and insecurity. Even if you aren’t totally feeling it, a smile can change your mood and outlook for the better. So slap one on as often as possible. Set reminders to smile. Pull up a silly video that makes you laugh. Ask someone at work to share a joke. Smile!
Silence the Inner Critic – “Why did I do that? Why didn’t I do this instead? I’m so stupid. I feel old. I look fat in these.” Any time this voice pops into your head, kill it immediately with fire like the viral infestation that it is. The more we let this voice talk, the more it permeates our lives, destroys our happiness, and makes us doubt everything we do and say. Tell it to shut its ugly mouth and then shove its smug face aside. Do not entertain it, invite it in, cook it dinner, set up the guest bed, and allow it to erode your confidence for one second longer than it already has.
Pretend You’re Your BFF – Plant yourself in front of a mirror and pretend you are a dear friend who is insecure about some aspect of his or herself. Tell yourself what you would say to a loved one who needed your support. You build your loved ones up all the time, don’t you? Do yourself a favor and let that edification fall on you this time and then more often in the future too.
Stay Positive – Optimists get sick less often, heal faster, and even experience less pain when injured. Look for the good in every situation and in yourself no matter what. There is always another way to look at each problem. Find the humor in it. See how it was a great learning experience. Smile and move on.
Acknowledge the Effort – You may not always succeed at everything you attempt. The result isn’t always the prize. Sometimes it’s the experience, the work that went into it, and what you learned that really count. Never discount the effort you put into something just because it ended up off target. Don’t discount the work when you succeed either. Bask in what you accomplished either way. If you ran every day for six months and didn’t lose a pound, that effort is an accomplishment and should be celebrated.
Kick Worry to the Curb – Worrying about future events that may or may not come to pass is a waste of time. No one knows exactly what will happen, so stop worrying about it. Worry can’t change anything anyway, only careful planning can. Make plans and detailed goals instead and avoid worry at all costs.
Be Generous – Charity and generosity makes us feel better about ourselves and our own problems. Give to those in need. Tip well. Sweep your neighbor’s driveway. Buy someone lunch who doesn’t make as much as you. Put as much goodness out into the world and it will come back to you in ways you may not expect, as friendships, love, support, and joy.
Believe in/Trust Yourself – Be confident in who you are and what you are capable of. Any individual can enact change in themselves and their lives. Know that! Embrace your capability to change and use that trust to fuel that change.
Forgive Yourself – You are just as human as the friends and family you readily forgive for very big things. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you make immediately, forget them, and move on. Life is too precious to waste it tearing into yourself over every flaw, every failure, and every little stumbling block in the road. Let it go.
Accept Yourself – Once you’ve forgiven yourself, you should be able to accept who you are, flaws and all. You can still work on those flaws, but be happy with the current you while you do so. Smile at those flaws and love them like you would a child. Encourage them to be better, guide them, but ultimately accept what they become.
Date Yourself – Give yourself some alone time once in a while where you can dream, visualize, meditate, talk to yourself, and get to know you. Read a book, go for a walk, take a relaxing bubble bath, and treat yourself to something fun now and again. You need some regular “me-time” to recharge and remind yourself why you’re so great, because you really are.
Exercise – Exercise releases endorphins, boosts mood, and improves confidence. Start with what you can handle and build from there, even if it’s just a walk around the block. You will feel better, stand taller, and be a happier and healthier you in no time.
Seek Out Inspiration – We all have things that refill our creativity, inspiration, and passion reserves. Find yours and indulge in them often. Visit an art museum, take a cooking class, listen to music, read a good book, go to a play, hang with great friends, watch a good movie, or attend a seminar. Figure out what builds up your passion and take advantage of it.
Follow Your Heart and Dreams – Don’t give up on dreams just because they are hard, impossible, or too far away. Nurture them and work toward them bit by bit. Celebrate the small steps in the right direction as you make them. Even if you never reach the peak, you will be able to look back and see all the progress you have made with satisfaction and peace of mind. Accomplishment really is all the little goals you achieved along the journey.
Have Some Fun – Life can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be all the time. Inject fun into your life. Enjoy it as often as possible and look for ways to have fun everywhere you go no matter what you’re doing. Fun can be found anywhere. Build a fort in your living room. Jump in the puddles on the dreariest days. Dance by your desk. Sing or hum to yourself. Skip down the hallway. Pretend the floor is lava. Shut the lights off, light some candles, and tell stories. Fun is important. Never lose your fun.
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