Tuesday, December 1, 2009

How to Love Yourself Better in 8 Simple Steps

Author: Vanessa
Blog: Chicken Soup For The Dorky Soul
Date: 9 May 2009

We all have something about ourselves that's hard reconcile. I am 4'11" and wear size 10 jeans. I wake up with a giant, tangled, afro-like mess on my head. I bite my fingers bloody due to what is likely a psychological disorder. I am almost always loud and sarcastic simultaneously. I was a nerd in high school to whom no boys payed attention (or made fun of my huge boobs, if we're talking about that jerk in middle school) and the girls in my classes hounded for having too many answers. I like to think that as I got older, and especially since I got to college, I have started to be more loving to and accepting of myself. I do believe that if you want to be successful and to be loved, you have to start treating yourself in a more positive manner. I'm hoping that if you take some of this advice to heart, you'll be able to feel a little bit better and smile a little bit more. I'm not saying that I always perfectly heed my own advice, but I try. Sometimes that's all we can do-- and sometimes it works.

1. Develop a Positive Mantra

Whatever it is that you're fighting right now, be it poor body image, a lack of confidence in your work, or relationship problems (and the list goes on, of course), success begins with changing the way you see yourself and your situation. So much of our unhappiness is generated right inside our minds. When we tell ourselves we're not pretty enough, smart enough, talented enough, lovable enough, or whatever the case may be, we hold ourselves back. Take some time every day to look yourself in the eye and say something positive. Tell yourself you are that thing you feel you're not. I'm willing to bet that you're not as bad as you think you are anyway, so none of this "but that would be lying!" crap. Nope. Just say it, and watch yourself start to believe it over time. Also, when I say positive, I mean your mantra should be something like "I am beautiful," not "I am not ugly." Keep those bad words far away.

2. Write Yourself a Love Letter

I've done this several times when I felt I needed it most. Sit down, jot down "Dear Me"/"Dear [Your Name]," and go from there. Tell yourself you love him/her. Apologize for the things you feel you've done wrong. Make promises that you truly feel you can keep. Tell yourself how much you appreciate the positive things that s/he does for you on a daily basis. Write whatever you want, however you want, but just be sure to keep it clear that this a love letter. Don't be spiteful or negative, because you don't deserve that. None of it. And be as honest as you can-- after all, no one has to see it if you don't want them to. If you want, as a separate exercise, write a letter containing all the terrible things you have done/said to yourself (and we all have some for sure) and burn it. Purge yourself of these nasty things and start over. You deserve that clean slate.

3. Do What Makes You Feel Good

I encourage you all to take a little more time to think of things you can do to make yourself feel great and lovely. If you love rock music, take a few minutes out of your busy schedule to sit back with some ear buds and bang your head. If working out makes you feel better about yourself, go to the gym, walk the dog, or slip in a workout DVD when you get a break from work or school. Maybe you love bright red, manicured nails-- make an appointment for a manicure on your day off, or grab some polish and relive the joy of childhood slumber parties with some girl friends if a professional is strictly forbidden by your budget. In other words, take care of and pamper yourself. Life can be hard and stressful, and being relaxed and taking the time to focus on your own needs is incredibly rewarding. Try to do something healthy for both body and soul on a daily basis.

4. Eat the Goddam Butterfinger.

Following up on the previous note, let yourself enjoy indulgences. Life is short. There is no rule that says you are a better person if you choose the carrot stick when you really, really want the candy bar. (Side Note: according to my boyfriend, the two of the least attractive traits in a women are too much makeup and an unwillingness to eat non-diet food).

5. Take Stock of Your Relationships, and Prune the Bad Ones

Most of us have a lot of complex relationships in our lives. We have family, significant others, coworkers, teachers, the person who always hands us our prescription at CVS, etc. Some of these relationships are great, but some of them can be toxic. When I refer to a toxic relationship, I'm referring to someone with whom you can't get along or is just no damn good for you-- they make you feel bad about yourself and put you in the worst mood on a regular basis. Get these people out of your life. Do not waste your time with people who are preventing you from living up to your potential or are just causing you misery in general. I say this from the point of view of a woman who, for a couple of years, chased a man who absolutely did not love me. I was so in love with him at the time-- and so unsure that I'd ever find a man who would want to be around me again-- that I allowed myself to waste a lot of time, feelings, money, and sexual favors in hopes that all that "devotion" would turn him around. People like this are no good for you. I don't talk to him anymore (and of course, once I got into a good relationship, he said he'd "changed" and wanted me to be his girlfriend again). Please, ladies and gents, take a good hard look at the people you surround yourself with. Drop Debbie Downer from your speed dial and start hanging out with some more positive people. Break up with the dead beat boyfriend or girlfriend. Try to find a job where you're not walked all over. I believe that this policy can apply to parents-- you were born to them, but that doesn't mean you can't have a toxic relationship with them. Sometimes for everyone's sanity, you have to minimize contact.

6. Take the Compliment!

If someone compliments you, they mean it. I am not going to tell you you're pretty if I don't think you are-- and even if I really don't, what does it matter? It's a nice thing to say. Compliments are meant to make you feel good, and it's terribly aggravating and unattractive to reply to "wow, you look great!" with "no, I don't, I look fat." It's insulting to whoever you're saying it to, and it's certainly not going to make you feel any better about yourself. Say "thanks," and try to take the nice words as truth. You'll drop the skepticism after awhile and feel a million times better when you can unabashedly beam with pride.

7. Minimize Judgmentalness

We all make judgments. We're human, after all. However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to stop the catty internal dialogue that a lot of us have going on sometimes. Play the Compliment Game, and for every person you see, try to think of one kind comment to make about them (and even say them to that person if you want to add some extra challenge). You'll feel better without the chip on your shoulder (that chip almost always stems from insecurity), and it just feels plain old nice to be nice.

8. Make a List of Healthy Goals and Make Them Happen

What do you want to achieve? What is realistic and beneficial to try to achieve? How are you going to achieve these things? I find it really comforting to have a list in front of me. If it's not your thing, fair enough, but still give some thought to how you're going to do what you want to do with your life. If your life dream is to be a math teacher, but you didn't go to college... well, you'd better go get that college degree. People tend to sit around languishing over the things they haven't done with their lives, wish they were doing in their lives, but it's all just an eternal pity party if you're not going to try to get what you want. If your happiness hinges on getting out of the office and into the circus, find out what you have to do to join the circus and do it, for goodness sake! Part of our mental health and satisfaction is how well we feel we've actualized our potential. Even taking little wee baby steps toward it will do you a world of good. Still, remember that you shouldn't quit your dayjob to become a singer-songwriter if you can't carry a tune. Dreams are great to follow, but the real world isn't always so kind, so you need to keep a realistic outlook on life.

What are the things you do to love yourself more? What are your thoughts? As always leave a comment and don't forget to visit Chicken Soup for the Dorky Soul to check out the rest of Vanessa's fabulous blog!


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