5 Easy Ways to Practice Self-Love
Posted on 23 February 2016
There is this idea that others can't fully love us until we love ourselves. I don't know how true that is...but I do know that a lot of us tend to be unnecessarily hard on ourselves. I have a tendency to make insanely unreal expectations...push myself to achieve them...and then beat myself up when I fall just a little short of something that could never be done to begin with.
For the last 10 years, I have searched for a gentler approach. Below is a simple little list of things I've picked up along the way, that help me to stay present, happy...and to realize that, hey, I'm pretty great. Things don't always look the way I think they SHOULD but that doesn't mean they aren't beautiful and exactly where I need to be.
If you can relate to any of this, read on:
1/ Love your body...now.
Easier said then done, I know.
Here's a simple story. I was kind of a chubby kid and this weird combo of out-going "look at me!" and oversized / shy / akward. Recently, I found a video of myself, doing gymnastics, at the mortifying age of 12. Watching my ungraceful (but not unskilled) movements - highlighted with picking my leotard wedgie at regular intervals...and eye-rolling at the camera (mouthing "stop taping this") - was sheer torture. It took everything in me to not make deprecating comments, but my 2 1/2-year-old daughter was in the room. Around the 2nd tumbling pass, Finley starts to get really excited, "I want to do THAT! Mommy, I WANT to do that! I want to be like MOMMY! I WANT to be like YOU!" Mike and I had quiet tears in our eyes.
I see a lot of my own body-type in my daughter. She is tall and stout (nick-named "the Powerhouse", because she moves with such a confident and assertive stride.) She has no insecurities about her body, right now, and I hope and pray that she never does. I realize I can't prevent her from these feelings. They are a part of growing up. But I can at least give her an example of a mom who feels good in her skin.
The moral of this story is fake-it-until-you-make-it. None of us are Heidi Klum (...well except Heidi Klum). But if you didn't win the genetic lottery and you don't have the time or bank account to go to Soul Cycle 6x a week, try this: pick one thing you LOVE about yourself. Maybe it's your hair...or your eyes...or you have pretty hands, feet...whatever. I love that I have broad shoulders (which makes my waist look smaller.) Take pride in thing that is yours. Your spouse/partner thinks you are pretty hot...and when you say negative things about your body, they start to see it as well. Love yourself just as the beautiful person you are, if not for you, than for those that love you.
2/ Trust the process.
I took model drawing in college. I was pretty good, too. If you are a creative (or an athlete) you can relate to that "zone" you get into. The edges just sort of melt away and it's just you and whatever you are focusing on...drawing the perfect line of someone's hip curve, shooting the ball effortlessly into the center of the basket, nailing that crazy balancing pose in yoga. During my Junior year I hit this wall; I couldn't find my zone. My drawing felt forced, and awkward. I felt doubt. My professor, at the time, gave me this little gem of widsom:
"Whenever I go through a phase where my drawing feels forced or uncomfortable, it's usually right before an artistic breakthrough. My style evolves. I find something new in my skill-set. Just draw through it. You'll find your way."
I've used this advice at really tough points in my life. We've all been there. Doing the same thing that always worked, but now it's not. The thing that made you happy...it doesn't now. Or you've achieved that goal you always dreamed of...but it's not really what you thought it was going to be. In these times of doubt, trust the awkwardness, and listen to that inner voice. Keep moving forward...you are headed towards positive change. Try not to dig your heels in and resist. "Draw through it."
3/ Be grateful, daily.
This is the easiest thing to do, and you will see the fruits of your labor almost immediately. Buy a journal. Keep it by your bed. Every night before you go to sleep, write down three things that you are grateful for. These can be big (we've paid off the debt of starting our new company!), or small (I had a great hair day!)
A wonderful yoga teacher gave me this exercise:
Look around the room you are in. Find every red object you can...got them all? Okay, now close your eyes. Picture the room. Tell me everything that is blue. It's impossible, right?
Where you put your focus, becomes your life view. By focusing on the wonderful gifts you have daily, it helps to let go of the things that aren't so perfect right now. You will find your life view become more positive, and therefore your life will BE more positive.
4/ Take a break
Meditation will change your life. We've all heard this.
BEFORE my daughter, I had a fantastic mediation practice: 20min 2x/day. My employees were asking how I had become so calm and centered.
AFTER baby, I haven't had the time or dedication to mediate. The spare times I try, I no longer "drop in"..but have a running task list on constant rotation. Even if I can get a yoga class in, the mental chatter is on full volume.
I do still however stick to a method my mom taught me, called the "5 minute vacation." This started as a joke, when I was about to completely loose my $#*t at work. I'd grab a cup of tea, and pace around the building, away from my desk for 3-4 minutes. But it's moved to something more powerful.
It's critical that we take time for ourselves. The idea of the 5-minute vacation is to go somewhere "away" (this can even be, and often is, the bathroom), and have 5 minutes to yourself.
Ideally, use this time to do a simple breathing exercise, like breathing in to the count of 4, hold for a count of 7, breath out for a count of 8 (making exhales longer than inhales will naturally slow your heart-rate.) But most of the time, I just pick a relaxing spot (Muir Woods in San Francisco is mine...it's the most peaceful place I've ever been) and visualize being there...what do I hear? What do I smell? What do I see? How relaxed do I feel? It's sounds super-silly, but give it a try the next time you feel yourself moving towards anger, overwhelmed...or just generally over it. Think of the 5-minute vacation as a mini-reset button.
5/ Let it go
I've found, in my life, that my "craziest" friends - those who've had the most extensive amount of therapy - tend to have the most sage advice. The best of this advice is simply to "stop telling your story."
We all have an ego. The purpose of the ego is to keep your id from robbing a liquor store to pay for that Balmain bag you have no business buying. It's essentially there to make you act like an adult. It's also the ever-playing record that defines everything you like to think about yourself. When in doubt, try to tune it out. It's not that it doesn't matter that something negative happened to you as a kid...but it's that the negative experience no longer defines you.
Maybe a friend betrayed you. And you'll never forgive her. Never ever. She knows what she did. Your holding onto it for dear life. But...what if you can still no longer have the friendship, but you stop telling the story? Something happened. You both moved on. Holding the grudge does more damage and carries more weight on you, then it does to the person you're angry with. Letting go of the story makes you lighter. It gives you flexibility to learn and grow.
This isn't a list of things I've mastered. But they are little bits of wisdom have helped me to improve myself and have a more happy and fulfilled life. Every day is a work-in-progress, but that's kind of the fun of it.