When I wrote my earlier post on Loving Myself – Is is Vanity or Necessity and shared it on my FB page, a former student commented that it would be good to learn about the “how to” also. Therefore this post. I hasten to add that all these are tried and tested ways when I went through a “low self esteem” phase.
(I hope this is useful, Swati.)
1. Discover yourself.
Ask yourself these questions: Do you know yourself well? What are your strong points? What are the areas where you have developmental needs? Write them all in a private journal. The more you know about yourself, the better you can accept yourself.
2. Smile often.
Research says that one uses less facial muscles to smile and more to frown. Therefore smile should come to us easily and naturally. It is not for nothing there is this saying that exhorts one to smile, for ‘it adds to one’s face value.’ Smiles beget smiles and what an amount of happy cheerful energy surrounds you! This is the most positive aspect of smiles. They are like sunshine – life giving and radiating.
3. Cultivate acceptance.
You are what you are physically. Technology has advanced so much that there are costly quick fixes like Botox or tummy tucks and the like to enhance one’s body image. It is also worth remembering that such alteration comes with heavy prices – the actual cost factor and the after effects that can be even life threatening. Look at yourself in the mirror and lovingly tell yourself “I love my … “ (fill it with every body part from head to toe). Look at yourself with new eyes. What a marvel you are thanks to each and every invisible part in your body! Take the case of your heart – it does the job silently. Should it stop, we cease to exist. But have we ever thanked our heart for keeping us alive? Our legs, for taking us from place to place? This exercise of thanking each and every part of our body will help us with not only acceptance but also fill us with gratitude.
4. Learn from mistakes.
Society abhors the ‘F’ word – failure I mean. Historically educators as well as adults have created a climate that does not encourage errors. Failure is pictured as a bottomless abyss from which pupils / people can never come out. No wonder then that many young teens are hope-less and despondent even before they have entered the brave new adult world. Whether it is homework, test taking, making friends or playing games, learning is enriched through making mistakes. It is here that a parent /mentor/educator can play a vital role – encourage all even when they make mistakes. This will prompt them to try again and not give up in despair.
5. Be kind & positive to yourself.
Many cannot forgive the lapses they make or that of others. Research says that ruminating about the past and about mistakes committed releases so many negative emotions and expressions, increase cardiac reactivity and impair the body’s parasympathetic calming response. Compassion and forgiveness on the other hand generate a host of positive emotions and responses, giving the body comfort, control and the right social orientation. So, it is worth letting go of bitterness and grudges. The moment you do that you stop being and acting like a victim. More importantly, forgive your own trespasses. Close your eyes, take a deep breath and say, “I forgive myself for——.” Another technique is to write a letter to your own self about the transgression. Burn it (be careful and prevent accidents of fire). This is symbolic of burning the thoughts of guilt and being reborn from its ashes, like the proverbial phoenix.
6. Silence the inner critic in you.
Is your negative self with its nonstop chatter, chiding you at each and every step? Stop this; else it will kill your self-confidence, and leave you at the very edge of depression and anxiety. Such an inner critic is all about the past and looks for blame. Replace that which beats you up with something new that will make you feel good – something constructive, positive. Accept your imperfections and be grateful that you are you and not anyone else. Remember it is perfectly ok to not be perfect.
7. Affirmations – use them lavishly.“I live in the present, here and now.” “I am very contented and happy.” “I am fit and healthy.” “I am me, I am ok.”
Words are expressions of thought and repeated positive and fostering expressions send positive vibrations to the Universe and make thoughts happen. So use suitable affirmations to develop love for yourself.
8. Look after your Body.
Eat healthy. Nurture it with proper nutrition and exercise. Treat it with utmost respect and care. Nourish it with Love. Very often many body image issues occur because the body lacks love and care.
9. Stay away from the comparison trap.
Can you ever compare apples with oranges? Each has its unique features. Never compare yourself with others. Comparing results in judging and leads to resentment, hatred. It evokes either inferiority or superiority, besides a host of other negative, damaging feelings. How do you stop comparing? Count your blessings! Focus on your positives, your strengths. To love yourself is to stop comparing.
10. Journal and plot your shift.
This is a highly reflective and effective exercise. Look at the good and the bad / the high and the low of each day. Jot it down in a private diary. It is an amazing stress buster and helps to release all pent up emotions. The consequent reflection empowers you by clearing your mind and giving you focus. When life hits unprecedented lows of change, hurt, loss and pain, journal writing can detoxify and heal. It can be an observation journal or the very effective gratitude journal.
So, there we are – love yourself first. When nobody celebrates or compliments you, learn to do them to yourself. Learn to enjoy your own company. The more you like yourself, the less you will want the lives of other people. The more the encouragement comes from within you, the more wholesome you will be. And the more wholesome you are, the more you will love yourself!