In my mind, I am a very kind and loving person. I have the best intentions of giving sincere compliments, smiling at everyone I meet, never raising my voice and being the most generous mother to my children. But in reality, it never comes off that great. I often stumble over my words, catch myself scowling as I walk past the store window, snap at unsuspecting family members when I'm hangry (hungry + angry), and neglect to compliment someone who is being helpful or kind.
How can I possibly love myself when I have so many flaws? I make mistakes every single day. I say stupid or thoughtless things. I eat too much chocolate. I fall short of my goals and plans. It's hard not to feel unloveable.
We don't expect the ones we love the most -- our spouses, our children, our parents, our friends -- to be perfect before we will bestow our love upon them, so why do we demand it of ourselves? Must we be absolutely impeccable in every way before we practice self-love? Absolutely not. It's possible to love ourselves just as we are right now, warts and all. It just takes a little bit of practice.
Here are some ways you can give yourself a break and start feeling the LOVE:
1. Make a list of 10 things about yourself that you're grateful for. Maybe you have great hair, or beautiful, white teeth. Perhaps you make a mean chocolate cake, or can balance a spoon on your nose. Whatever it is, put it on the list and feel true gratitude for this wonderful trait. Repeat daily.
2. Write a letter to your body and thank it for all that it's done for you throughout your life. Thank your heart for beating, your lungs for breathing, your blood for flowing, and your stomach for digesting your food. Thank your skin for covering your muscles and protecting your bones and internal organs. When you realize how much your body does for you each and every day, you will start to see it in a whole new light.
3. Take time to go for a walk outdoors. Slow down and really be in the moment, taking in the perfectly imperfect sights that Mother Nature has created. Notice the lumps in a tree, the random patterns on a rock, the varying colors and shapes of the wildflowers. Nothing in nature is perfect, and yet it is spectacularly beautiful.
4. Look at your reflection in the mirror and say the words "I love You". Say it over and over again until you actually believe it. Speaking words aloud is an act of creation. You are literally speaking your reality into existence, so choose your words carefully. Never use the word "hate" in reference to yourself, your body, or any other person.
5. Write the words "I love you" on your hand with a permanent marker and look at it thoughout the day. It will remind you to show yourself kindness, and you'll even start to feel that you have someone on your side (and you do!). I've done this several times, and no one has ever noticed it or thought I was weird or called me conceited, so no worries. And it washes off within a day. :)
6. Make a commitment to yourself and keep it. Whether it's an appointment to get your hair or nails done, a day at the spa, or an afternoon sipping cocoa and reading a book, make a plan to treat yourself in a special way. Write it down and don't cancel it no matter what else comes up.
7. Let go of unrealistic expectations. Stop expecting your body to be something it can't. You may wish to be small and petite, but you're tall and have a large bone structure -- let it go. You may want to be a bronze beauty, but you have fair skin and freckles -- let it go. You may think you have to be a certain number on the scale -- let it go. Rock the pale skin, the curvy thighs, or the whatever. Just do you.
It's wonderful to have goals for ourselves, to want to improve and change for the better. We should always be striving to learn more, love more, and enjoy life more. But pushing ourselves to extremes and not accepting anything less than perfection will do more harm than good. A better approach is to say to yourself each day "I totally and completely love myself just as I am right now". The more love you have for yourself, the more you will be able to give love to those around you. Kinda cool how that works out, isn't it?