On my quest for internal peace I’ve stumbled upon a sincere, painful reality – loving yourself is one of the most difficult, but important, aspects of living happily. I don’t mean becoming a narcissist, over talking all of your accomplishments, and striving to put others down. I’m talking about looking in the mirror each day and smiling; talking about your interests with confidence and positivity; recognizing what makes you a good person and accepting what may chip away at that goodness on occasion.
With Google being my go-to for mental health advice, I punched in “how to love yourself” and – what do you know – came up with an actual list of ways to learn to love who you are! Weird that people think of these things, isn’t it? Anywho, let’s go through some of the suggestions found on http://www.wikihow.com/Love-Yourself on how to embrace ourselves and see if they really work:
- Treat others with love and respect.
Maybe this was a quality beaten into me as a child, but I’ve always kept this at the forefront of my mind. Treating others right will ensure you are treated right. It’s true – being kind to people makes you inherently kinder at heart, doesn’t it? They say that if you fake a smile for five minutes, your bad mood will eventually shift. Perhaps this idea falls into the same category. This doesn’t mean acting fake or overly friendly; just do what feels natural. My stance is that humans are naturally warm, kind creatures. So release your inner human. Treat people right.
- Practice random deeds of kindness.
For me, this means tipping the guy that pumps your gas in the rain. Tossing an extra dollar to a waitress that did a good job. Letting the old lady who just wants to buy a bag of Depends in front of you on the grocery line and going out of your way to comment a coworker’s new hairdo. Admit it – you love when someone does something kind for you when they don’t have to, especially if it’s a stranger. I try to live my life by this practice whenever possible. And guess what? It’s nice to be the receiver, but it’s even better to be the giver.
- Express yourself through a diary or short stories.
Did you ever go through an old notebook or diary and think, “Gee, I remember why I wrote that”? As a writer, I’ve gone through moments where I’ve rediscovered a creative writing piece and, upon reading it, realized, “Wow, this character was so-and-so, and this situation was a parody of when that happened, and the other character felt this way because that’s how I felt, and… Huh. I don’t even think I realized what I was basing this off of when I was writing it. How strange.” Our thoughts and feelings come out subliminally in our writings – that’s why I think writing is so important. We release tension even when we don’t need to; that’s where a writer’s euphoria derives from after finishing a piece of work. Purposefully or not, expression is key to letting things go.
Maybe my problem is writer’s block…
- Learn to let go of past events.
I’ll be honest, readers. Call me a thick-headed Aries, but I have a SERIOUS problem with letting things go! I still remember every word that came out of my fifth-grade teacher’s mouth when she told me I didn’t know how to write, and to be honest, I think the kid in me still holds it against her! Letting go and forgetting are two different acts – forgetting means that you’re depending on time to do your job for you. I’ve spent years struggling to let go of things I’ve done to people and that people have done to me; some quests were successful, and some I’m still working on. But for every little thing I’ve learned to let go, I feel a little lighter. One day I hope to float.
- Forgive yourself.
Another thing I haven’t accomplished, yet another important thing to learn. Self-forgiveness is the only path to healing. I still blame myself for things that I’ve done long ago; things both abstract and very, very concrete. But how can you ever expect to happily live as the person you so harshly judge? The next time you’re beating yourself up over something look hard in the mirror and say, “I am sorry; I forgive you.” Just like that. And then move on to bigger and better things that aren’t forever stuck in the past.
- Put positive statements up in some places you will see them every day.
This is one of those corny practices people learn in their help groups, right? I’ve never done it myself, but I have thought about it. I know a couple girls with eating disorders that have “I AM BEAUTIFUL” scrawled across their mirrors; it’s fascinating the way they approach their images with a hostile face, become distracted by the writing, and then sigh heavily and soften their gaze. It’s true. It’s also hypnotism – but is it really hypnosis if you’re absorbing the truth? Try it out, readers, and tell me if it works!
- Be persistent.
This is the most important lesson on the list.
PERSISTENCE. PERSISTENCE. PERSISTENCE.
Only YOU have the ability to quit on your own goals. Whenever you feel yourself slipping back into that dark place, close your eyes and breathe slowly. Remind yourself that tomorrow is a new day; you have had a minor setback, but only YOU can determine how long that lasts for. You are in control of your own thought process. One thought in particular that helps me stay on the bandwagon is a piece of real scientific research – just as negative thought processes are a learned programming of the brain, so are positive thought processes. Just as you were able to slip into negativity, you can slip right back into positivity with a little hard work and PERSISENCE. Every day I remind myself: I am rewiring my brain, and it’s going to take a little bit of work to achieve. It won’t happen overnight – but every week I feel a bit better, and that must be another wire having gone the right way.
- Start working toward how and what you want to do and be.
It’s ironic; in a way, negative people feel like all they’re doing is working. It’s work just to make it through the day, man; now you want us to work toward real life goals?! This was a lesson I quite literally stumbled upon a couple months ago – I was having a meltdown in the middle of New Paltz campus, screaming at my mother and sister about how I was so inundated with their wants and wishes for me that I didn’t have time to think about what I wanted. So my mother posed the question: “Well, what DO you want for yourself, anyway?” My jaw dropped. I didn’t know.
And that was the first step. Sometimes, we have to recover purpose in order to discover inner peace. Lack of personal direction is often what has set us off track all along. Anxieties ease when you have a concept of who you want to be – just make sure whoever that is, they have been made with love for yourself. Don’t give yourself a predetermined path of destruction. Have a little faith in yourself.
- Be who you really are.
This can be so, so, SO hard to do. I’ve only recently become comfortable with who I am. I had “given up” on trying to be someone I wasn’t – I realized I wasn’t good at containing myself, and I hated myself more every day that I put on the act. So I eventually just let loose and said what came through my head. And you know what? People liked me more for it. Even those that didn’t like me came to respect my thoughts and opinions. If I didn’t agree with something, I said it. If I thought of something funny, I said it. If I wanted to do something new, I did it with total disregard for what others might think. And my life has become richer from this. So do what makes you happy – color your hair, sing loud and off-key, go out to lunch with your aesthetically awkward friend, state your unpopular political opinion and start wearing those high-heeled shoes or combat boots in public. Drive a Candy Apple Red Volkswagen Beetle and blast Norwegian Death Metal. Hell, you only get one chance to live this life (depending on your religious understanding, anyway) – don’t waste it in hiding.
- Trust yourself.
I dare you to tell me you do. I dare you.
Do you trust yourself to wake up on time for work every day? Maybe. Do you trust yourself to live alone and pay for all your own finances? Perhaps. Do you trust yourself to fly solo halfway across the world with nothing but a backpack and a prepaid phone? Do you trust yourself to learn something new, like flying a plane or driving a boat, and have other people’s lives at stake if you screw up? And if you don’t think you have that kind of talent, do you trust yourself to admit that to others for everyone’s sake?
We all have our reservations about ourselves, even as we know ourselves so well. Dare to understand yourself more. Dare to take a couple leaps of faith. Know when you’re really stretching your abilities too far and listen to your gut – your real gut, not the fear that masquerades as your gut and tells you not to go parasailing, or scuba diving, or white water rafting (although, really, white water rafting is some scary stuff) – when you’re asked to exceed your limits. Understand yourself. You’re the only one who really can.
This article gave a list of 24 ways to love yourself; I picked my top ten. What are your top ten? Do any of mine resonate with you? Or is this all hogwash, written by some scholar that’s never actually psychoanalyzed a self-hater in their entire career? Let me know!
Until next time!
– The Muse