So you wanna love yourself more? Maybe you struggle with your inner critic? Or maybe those good habits you know you need have been lacking. Your to do list is collecting dust? Self compassion can be a struggle, specially living in North America, a society that profiteers of our own dissatisfaction with ourselves. Social media has us mindlessly scrolling at touched up faces. Technology has given us immediate access to celebrity images, people who get paid to look hot and take care of themselves have been given god-like status. The billion dollar beauty industry has us spending thousands of dollars to change ourselves. Don’t like how you look? No wonder. There are so many factors working against you. So many billionaires are out there are banking on our made up need to improve our selves.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all about self improvement. Why should we not grow and strive to achieve meaningful changes in our lives? My concern is the superficial, the constantly changing beautify trends, the naturally unattainable bodies. Do I really want to look like how Calvin Kline or Tommy Hilfiger say you should?
In today’s day and age, self-love is an act of rebellion. It’s a complete disregard to the powers that be. It is being bombarded with mass media’s rhetoric of “You are not good enough” and saying “No thank you.” (Respectfully).
Befriending Yourself 101
Ok, so I might not be able to promise that at the end of this post you’ll be loving yourself entirely, because as you might already know, love takes time, same goes with being your own best friend. Cultivating a best friendship with yourself will take work. What I can offer you is some activities and maybe a fresh start, or possibly, a fresh view on something. Here are a few tips, tricks and activities that might help you get started on your self-love journey.
Know your love language.
Do you know your love language? Love languages include acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, words of affirmation and physical touch. Learning how one prefers to be loved is an excellent way to understand how to love yourself. There are heaps of tests on the internet that can shed some light on your love preferences. Love receiving gifts, buy yourself a fancy hot drink. Quality time? Do something you love. Intentionally set aside time in your day to do these things. Put in the work and you may be surprised at what comes out of it.
Find your people.
Finding your people can be so helpful. Be with people who make you feel love, who appreciate your existence. In the same vein, appreciate the people in your life that bring you joy. Tell your friends you love them, make them cards, spend time with them, discuss big life questions over a plate of nachos.
Notice the negative.
One of my art therapy supervisors once told me that for every form of criticism you give someone (including yourself) you have to provide 7 positives. (Some days she would challenge me with 20). Noticing is the key to change. If we can notice when our critic takes charge of our thoughts, we can redirect. I try to remember Callahan’s 3 R’s. (Rest, Recognize, Return). Rest the mind, recognize when it wanders, and return it back to where we are happiest). The more we recognize the negative, the critical, the harsh, the more we can redirect to something more helpful.
I’ve noticed, especially in working environments, that positive affirmations are not easy to come by. How often are we praised for good behaviour or an excellent job? I can almost guarantee that if something isn’t just right you’ll hear about it though. For some, praise and encouragement are unnatural. Like all good habits, this takes practice. Start small (like as small as it gets). Stay tuned for a future blog post on ways to celebrate yourself (coming soon).
Inner critic work.
We all have an inner critic, that ugly creature that lives rent free in our minds. Peering over our every move. Stalking us. Hyper aware of every miss step or awkward fumble. Our inner critic can be loud and intrusive. One activity I do with my clients is to draw out your inner critic. What does it look like? Where did it come from? When is it the loudest? What does it tell you when you are feeling at your lowest? Get to know it as best you can. Is there space for compassion for this creature? Maybe write it a letter.
Make a list.
Make a list of 100 things you love about yourself. This may not get done in one sitting or one day. You may need to collect information from outside sources. The more positive narratives we have about ourselves, the easier time our brain will have in holding on to these phrases in times of negativity. Words are powerful. What we say, we become. Water your brain-plant with love and compassion and see what grows.
Acknowledge the beauty of every day.
There is beauty that surrounds us. The large tree on our street, the bee covered in pollen buzzing around an open flower, the rushing water of a nearby river. Whether it be the elegance of nature, or the marvel of a human made structure, finding the beauty in the world that surrounds us can be heartwarming. Notice these things, take pictures, and breathe in these moments. Hug a tree, feel the rough bark on your skin. Nature is our life source, without it we would die.
Find yourself a new hobby.
Trying something new can give us a shot of dopamine. Learning a new skill can give yourself a sense of accomplishment and a novel sense of pride in self. Whether it’s building boats in glass bottles, or becoming a master abstract painter, now is a time to try that thing you’ve always wanted too. (Also, equally important, be gentle with yourself as you learn new skills, ever watch a baby learn to walk? Already found a new hobby? Most excellent! Be brave and share this new love. Hobbies can help you build community but connect you to like minded humans.
Move your body. This can be very challenging. Especially on the days we don’t want to leave our bed. When motivation is at its lowest. When all we have the energy to do is stare at our phones or watch our comfort show on Netflix (even Bojack Horsemen tried running for a bit, if he can do it, so can you!). I’d like to share with you my favourite app. It’s called Seek. It helps identify your local wildlife. This app has helped me learn new species, and take notice of the nature that is around me. Best part, you get points and badges. Healthy competition between my friends has kept me exploring new territories and roaming outside my comfort zone.
Ok, this one might be the hardest. Radical self love is not for the faint of heart. It takes bravery, to disregard the societal pressures, the inner critic, your nagging parent, whatever the powers that be. Embrace your flaws. Love them. Take them out to dinner. Romance them. Write them love poems. Even the tiniest bit of acceptance is better than none at all. Not there yet? No problem! Accept that that is where you are at at this stage in your life. Microdose self-acceptance through ity-bity moments of okness. I promise, it get easier.
Make Mini Goals
When I do goal setting with my clients, my suggestion is to always make the tiniest goals imaginable. It might help to think of your desire in its smallest unit. Want to run a marathon? The very first step of that goal may be to buy the shoes, or better yet, window shopping for shoes. Make the goal small, the smaller the better.
“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.” – Vincent Van GoghWise words of wisdom from a man who build up timeless beauty through small gobs of paint.
Acknowledge your lack of control.
My final tip might be the most important. So much of the world is outside of our control. (If the pandemic has taught me anything it is just this). Big change can happen in a weekend. One day, the world as we knew it change drastically. Did we have a say in this? Absolutely not. But, the reverse can also be true. Big changes can happen in a weekend, especially for the good. Acknowledge what we cannot control, and focus on what we can. Everyday we are given the opportunity to make changes for ourselves. What is stopping you? Is that thing big, small, manageable, changeable? Is there a different way of looking at it maybe?
Everest is not climbed in a day, but through tiny small steps. (Fun fact, it takes about 3 months to complete the journey!) While we climb, be sure to enjoy the view along the way, and acknowledge the hard work we put into these intentional steps. Celebrate the peaks in life, and work through the valleys. No feeling, including joy, is a permanent one.
Did I forget something? Miss the boat on another? Please let me know. I am all for learning and expanding my knowledge of these topics. Need more help with this? Maybe talking to a professional can help. If not me, check out these network to find your ideal match. Affordable Therapy Network, Inclusive Therapists or Psychology Today, can help you find just the right person for you.