Recently, my best friend and I started doing a challenge, of sorts.
Any time one of us says something negative about ourselves—Ugh, I am so fat today!—the other challenges them to name five things they love about themselves instead.
Believe me, this is so much harder than it sounds.
I struggle to name two, every single time. Interestingly, we can list hundreds of things we love about each other, but naming anything positive about ourselves seems impossible.
Go ahead and try this. Name five things that you love about yourself.
Now think of someone you love and name five things you love about them. Which was easier? If you didn’t struggle with naming what you love about yourself, I commend you! If you did, keep reading.
This little challenge got me thinking: Holy sh*t, this is a problem!
We are taught at a young age to be kind to others, to use our manners, and to watch what we say—and if we don’t have anything nice to say, to not say anything at all. But why don’t these rules apply to the things we say to ourselves? I think about my children and all of the times that I have reminded them to be nice to their friends, and not once have I ever said, “Most importantly, be nice to yourself.”
We give love so freely to everyone except ourselves. We reserve our harshest words and most critical observations for ourselves. We obsess about our inadequacies (real or imagined) and yet, we do not give the same energy to obsessing about all of our amazing qualities. I would bet that we would never be friends with anyone who talked to us the way we talk to ourselves. We have become our own bullies!
We spend our entire lives searching for our person, our partner, the one, someone to give all of our love to. All the while, that person has been staring back at us in the mirror, begging us to love them.
When was the last time you looked in the mirror and loved everything you saw? When was the last time you said something nice to yourself? How many times per day do you say something unkind to yourself? If the answer is more than zero, we need to change this.
I read something recently that said we will have more conversations with ourselves than with anyone else on the planet. Think about that. You will talk to yourself more than anyone else, ever.
So how do we fix this harsh inner dialogue? How do we love ourselves more and criticize ourselves less? I would be lying if I said that I had the answer to this. For me, it is a constant work in progress. Something that I actively remind myself about several times each day.
On my quest to be more kind and loving to myself, I’ve found a few things to be helpful in shifting the negative internal dialogue:
1. Awareness. Before you can change anything, you have to be aware of it. Pay attention to all of the conversations you are having with yourself. Slowly challenge yourself to replace any negative words with positive words instead.
2. Be more selfish. I have found that the days that I am most hard on myself are the days that I am doing everything for everyone except me. We spend so much time taking care of the people we love, and in the process, we often forget to take care of ourselves. The days that I do things for me, I am generally more happy and less unkind to myself. The trick here is to not feel guilty about doing something for yourself—otherwise, it is counter-productive.
3. Love your reflection (or fake it until you do). Next time you look in the mirror and think something negative such as, “Ugh I look so fat,” stop and instead find one thing that you love about yourself. Do this every time that you look in the mirror and have any kind of negative thought. Perhaps this will become a habit.
4. Mantras. Something as simple as repeating the mantra “I am enough” as you meditate (or any time, really) can instantly boost your self-love meter. There are millions of different mantras you can use; find one that resonates with you.
5. “Just keep swimming.” Who knew that a talking blue fish could give such great life advice? Loving yourself more does not happen overnight. In fact, I would argue that this is a life-long practice. There will be days when you can’t come up with a single nice thing to say about yourself and that is okay. Each day is a new opportunity to practice, so “just keep swimming.”
The key is to find whatever works for you and then and start practicing. Like anything in life, the more you practice, the easier it becomes. I saw a quote once that said, “Loving yourself is the greatest revolution,” and this is a revolution that I want to be a part of.
If you need some inspiration to get you going on your self-love journey, this video is a great place to start.
Author: Kim Olowa
Image: emily mucha/Flickr
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Emily Bartran
Social Editor: Emily Bartran