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What are practical ways to start loving myself?
In an earlier blog, we discussed how to begin to love and care for yourself (LINK) and the aim of this article is to pick up right where that one left off, to give our readers practical tips and ways to build self- love. Some may feel that it is inherently selfish to begin to take care of oneself, however, it truly is one of the most beneficial things we can do for one another, as when we feel good about ourselves, we are kinder, more generous and patient as we move through the world and interact with others. This makes for a world built on mutual understanding and respect.
1. Seek out meaningful experiences
Spend time with others who bring happiness to your life, and seek to engage with them in a meaningful way, whether that means talking about shared interests, philosophies or ideas about the world, or engaging in vulnerability with trusted others. Allow others to see different sides of you, and pursue avenues where you are able to be known by them. But first, spend some alone time getting to know yourself, what you like, and how you want to exist in the world.
2. Make a list of your accomplishments
Write a paper and pen copy, or save it as a file on your computer. Think about all the different realms of your life, be it academics, work or hobbies, your home life, athletics or the arts. Don’t forget to include all the intangible things accomplished as well, whether it was an important life lesson learned, a time of personal growth and self-improvement, something immaterial given to others including wisdom or assistance, or times you may have functioned in an important leadership role. When you get stuck, enlist the help of another who can help give you perspective and allow you to see outside of the story you have always told yourself.
Throughout your day, draw attention to your successes, no matter how small and celebrate them. Cultivate in yourself gratitude for the path you have taken thus far, and do your best to focus on yourself, and not to play the comparison game
3. Envision your ideal you & ideal future
Make a vision board represent who you are now, and make a separate one for the life you want to live. Fill it with quotes, favorite sayings, images that bring you joy, or other things to remind you who you are right now and the life you are pursuing. Notice the differences between them as well as the ways that you are on the right track. Focus on one small difference and make that your goal for the week or month.
4. Forgive yourself for your mistakes
Give yourself the benefit of the doubt that you are doing the best that you can with the resources available to you. Extend to yourself some self-compassion, whether that’s to the future, past or present you. Do the work to dig deeper and understand yourself and your motives, but remember that many times you’re doing the best you can. Stop being so hard on yourself, accept that it is a human quality to make mistakes sometimes or make a poor choice here or there. Owning up to your mistakes in the past actually helps to give you the power to help make a change in the future moving forward.
5. Surprise yourself
Say “yes” to something that you would normally say “no” to, or would typically count out right away. Follow through with something you normally may not have, start a new project and carry it to completion, or push yourself 10 extra minutes of exercising, journaling, reading or walking. Challenge yourself to try something new and to step outside of your comfort zone. Make sure to take joy in completing something that you were not always sure you could accomplish. And in that same vein, learn to say “no” also in order to protect your own boundaries. Surprise yourself by choosing “discomfort over resentment” in moments when you feel overextended, overworked, and allow your own needs to come first for a change.
6. Work on self- trust
Begin to believe that you can accomplish the things in life that you seek. Have confidence in future you, and in your problem-solving skills, that no presenting issue will be too great to tackle.
Think about the people that you have in your life: Do they undermine your attempts at bettering yourself? Do they really deserve a place in your life?
- Avoid people who are unsupportive.
Just as our actions are constantly communicating messages to others about what they can expect from us, we are also constantly crafting our own identity based on what fits for us and what doesn’t. Be willing to challenge unhelpful ideas about who you are and what you’re capable of and be the type of person that you can count on.
- Keep the promises you make to yourself.
Be willing to erase the tapes that have been playing in your mind long enough about your worth, and what you have to contribute to the world. Preach to yourself the beauty of your own humanity, and seek and practice understanding.
- Speak kindly to yourself.
7. Practice loving-kindness meditations
Spend some time in mindfulness meditations meant to increase your sense of self and ability to extend a sense of compassion and love inward.
Begin by picturing someone in your life who has loved you without hesitation, judgement or expectation. Imagine them in the room with you; picture that sense of love and compassion flowing freely from them and directed towards you, and imagine yourself receiving and basking in their love. Expound upon the love you have felt from them, and what it’s like to be accepted regardless of your flaws. Allow yourself to sit in this experience of compassion.
Move to allow this person to fade from conscious thought, and to instead become yourself both the source and object of the feelings, sending kindness, compassion and love inward. Observe how this feels, in your body and mind, and realize that you are worthy of acceptance and belonging even if you have flaws, have made mistakes, or have done things you are not proud of. Assume ownership over the task of giving unconditional positive regard just as was possible for the imagined person in first part of this exercise.
Allow all judgments to fade, especially regarding the difficulty of the practice. You may find that it is difficult to focus or latch onto more than just one moment of kindness and compassion.
Rest in the following intentions, and allow them to seep in and resonate within:
May I be free from suffering.
May I know peace.
May I experience contentment
8. Take care of yourself
Strive to find balance in your life between work and play, and look to fill your life and your schedule with more positivity, including setting aside time for the care and keeping of you. Give yourself breaks when you’re working hard, recognize your own importance, and seek to implement your own self-care plan, taking into account your physical, emotional, intellectual, social and spiritual wellbeing needs. At Nsight Psychology and Addiction, we want to help you find your way back to yourself, and meeting with a counselor may be an important step in doing so, as is recognizing that you are worthy of love and compassion.