What do you see when you look in the mirror? Do you see friend or foe? If you're like the majority of people, it's a little bit of both, but often more animosity than love.
Isn't this strange? Why wouldn't we love ourself — the person we spend the most time with — more than anyone or anything else?
According to Lisa Firestone Ph.D., it has to do with the way our parents treated us and the way our parents saw themselves. If you grew up in an environment where you felt criticized or if you had a parent who was self-critical, you are more likely to be critical of yourself into adulthood.
So are you doomed to a life of self-loathing? Hell no! Learning to love yourself is a practice, and practice makes p̶e̶r̶f̶e̶c̶t̶ pretty good. Here are simple practices to incorporate into your life that can help you learn to love and accept yourself.
1. Turn Your Thoughts Around
According to researchers at Queen's University in Canada, humans have more than 6,000 thoughts a day. That's more than 250 thoughts per hour. How many of those are negative? If you find it hard to love yourself, you likely have a lot of negative thoughts about yourself.
You can change your negative thinking. Each time a negative thought enters your head, stop and hold it in your consciousness. Explore the thought. Where is that thought really coming from? Is it truth? Most likely it has no basis in reality.
Take that thought and reposition it. For example the statement, "I fail at everything I try." No, I have failed at some things I have tried. Everybody fails sometimes. Failure is a learning experience and an opportunity for growth.
2. Find a Challenge and Work Towards a Goal
Overcoming challenges and reaching goals is a surefire way to gain strength and confidence in yourself. Sign up for a race and train for it. Fix a personal relationship that has gone sour, lose 10 pounds, work on a novel.
Whatever it is, work on it a little bit every day. It doesn't matter how quickly you complete it, just be consistent and hold yourself accountable. Starting is the hardest part, but showing up for yourself regularly will give you something to be proud of.
3. Forgive Yourself and Others
Forgiveness is the first step to loving yourself and to being able to love others. What is it that you hold against yourself, that you just can't accept? Hold it in your mind's eye each day for a few minutes and tell yourself it's OK. Look in the mirror and say, "I forgive you."
Then offer that same clemency to others in your life you may be holding a grudge against or resent. According to tell-it-like-it-is self-help guru Mark Manson, forgiveness means seeing that something isn't perfect but loving it anyway.
The more you're able to see and accept those things about yourself that you may not like, the easier it will be to accept others fully.
4. Go to Therapy
You cannot underestimate the importance of speaking to an unbiased professional. They will challenge your declarations of self-loathing and help you turn them around. They will hold you accountable and even give you homework.
Therapy can be daunting at first, but just try it. Ask for recommendations from friends or find a therapist online. Try a few different therapists if you need to to find the one that's a good fit for you.
5. Take Care of Yourself
When you don't like yourself, it's hard to devote time to self-care. But it's so important. Self-care can be anything from eating a healthy diet and exercising, to drinking a cup of tea and listening to relaxing music before bed.
It's time you take to devote to your health and wellbeing doing activities that make you feel good and good about yourself. Take a walk in nature, practice yoga, meditate, make yourself a delicious meal. Whatever it is, do at least one of these things daily.
6. Take the Pressure Off
Do you dislike yourself because you expect more from yourself than is realistic? Do you expect yourself to always say and do the right thing, look a certain way, succeed at everything, measure up to what you see on social media? Stop.
It's OK to not be perfect or succeed at everything. It's OK not to look like the images on Instagram — that's just makeup and lighting anyways. Relax, do less, expect less. Set smaller goals that are achievable. Don't measure your success against others. Just let go a little bit.
This article was written by health and fitness expert and PIXIBU founder Jody Braverman, PN1, NASM-CPT, NASM-FNS, RYT 200.
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