5 Ways To Improve Self-Love
This month is all about learning to love ourselves. As women, we'll often put others first above our own wants and needs. Although compassion and selflessness are admirable qualities, at some point, we lose ourselves in the process and have a hard time focusing on ourselves.
There are times when we have to put ourselves first. When our mental health suffers, our physical health suffers. When we’re not in a good place emotionally, we have to address those issues so that we can move forward and continue living. Wellness is important, and working on it is a journey. Yet, so many women find themselves stuck in this state of ignoring their needs that they convince themselves that they’re okay.
Around 12 million women in the U.S. experience clinical depression every year. Women are treated for anxiety two times more than men. It’s theorized that nearly every woman will experience depression, anxiety, or a related self-esteem issue at least once between the ages of 25 and 44, and that range is slowly becoming wider. So what can you do to help improve your mood this year and keep that self-love alive?
Learn To Accept Compliments
This is probably one of the harder ones for women. We’ve been taught to deflect compliments in an effort to avoid narcissism, but this can actually do more harm than good. When we’re on the receiving end of a compliment, we often reply with a sentence that either negates the compliment or knocks it down to a level that seems more socially acceptable.
If you’ve ever received a compliment and replied with, “Oh it was nothing,” or “I’m sure I don’t deserve it,” you’ve engaged in this kind of unhealthy behavior. It’s not your fault. You felt discomfort and responded with apathy. This is the kind of answer that centuries of societal history has ingrained in you, but it’s time to break that cycle now. There is nothing wrong with being grateful for a compliment. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be recognized for your skills, your talent, your beauty, or your personality. It’s nice to get some affirmation.
Extend that appreciation by saying thank you. The next time you’re talking to one of your friends, work colleagues, or family members and they compliment you, try a different way of responding. Instead, try saying, “Thank you, I really appreciate the compliment.” They won't take it as narcissism but will be happy that they made your day.
Celebrate What You’re Good At
Let’s be honest, no one is perfect. No one is equally talented at everything they do or set their mind to. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things that an individual is truly good at. It’s important to recognize the skills and talents you have. It’s even more important to celebrate them.
Often we feel that others don’t acknowledge the things we've done well or worked hard on to be the best version of ourselves. When we don't get the celebration we want, we can criticize ourselves and question whether or not we’re actually skilled or talented. We play the comparison game and start to doubt our strengths. We fixate on the things we feel we’re not good at and the self-destructive cycle finds its way into our daily lives.
Instead of thinking about the things you wish you were better at, focus on the things you are good at. Make healthy choices for your soul and celebrate your achievements instead of downgrading them. These can be simple things like you’re good at cooking, or you’re good at making your friends laugh, or you have a healthy body. Recognize the skills you have and take pride in them.
Take Time For Yourself
When life becomes particularly stressful, taking time for yourself is an important step toward overcoming challenges. Putting yourself first is not selfish, it is necessary. When we’re not operating at our best or we feel that we need help, taking a step back to feel better is important to maintaining a healthy mind and a healthy body. Think of this as your medication.
So how can you take time for yourself in ways that are meaningful and helpful to you? Spend some time alone without having to care for anyone else. Allow yourself to decompress and focus on the things you want. Whether it’s enjoying one of your hobbies, working through your frustrations, engaging in physical activity, or relaxing with a spa day, taking some time alone can help you clear your head.
Another thing to try is doing something you’ve never done before. Sometimes we get into a routine that makes us feel lethargic and affects our motivation. Break the cycle once in a while and do something completely new. Try new healthy foods, try out a new hobby, go hiking on a new trail or try a new type of physical exercise. Sometimes making a change can help you feel energized and ready to advance through other challenges in your life. So take the time to challenge yourself and do something new!
Let Go of Self-Criticism
We are our biggest critics. While we may be able to recognize the things that we need to improve on, we can often turn constructive criticism into self-damaging attitudes. There is a fine balance between recognizing when you need to work on honing a new skill and imagining a problem that doesn’t exist. Remember to show yourself some empathy too.
Let’s think of this in a way that most women can relate to. Over 90 percent of women report feeling unhappy with their bodies. Negative body image stigma remains one of the most pervasive sources of self-esteem issues among women in the U.S. We have become overly critical of our body's weaknesses based on the beauty standards that have been presented to us. This leads to depression, anxiety, eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia, and a slew of other incredibly unhealthy physical and mental states.
But what evidence do you really have to support these self-critical thoughts? None! Your pant size is not an indication of a healthy body or healthy mind. Do you know what is a good indication of wellness? Cholesterol levels, iron levels, T-cell levels, low blood pressure, and everything that goes on inside your body. Your physical appearance is not the determining factor of your health. So the next time you feel yourself criticizing your weight, complexion, or waist-size, stop for a second and say to yourself, “Do these things really define my worth? No, they don’t.” Forming healthy habits and letting go of self-criticism is hard but important for your health.
Learning to stop criticizing yourself is half of the battle when it comes to breaking old, durable habits. The other half of it is to recognize what you’re grateful for. Showing gratitude for the things that make you feel happy or calm, can be starters to lessening feelings of anxiety and depression. Whether you’re grateful for your friends, your family, your pets, your job, your therapist, the dinner you had last night, or your new mattress, recognize the good things in your life.
Here’s an example to help get the ball rolling. Let’s say you’re feeling anxious about your job. You’re worried that you may not be able to take on more responsibility at your workplace. A negative thought pops up saying that you’re not good at your job. Before you give in to that thought, have a disclaimer and think about what you’re grateful for about your job and say those thoughts out loud. They could be as simple as, “I’m grateful that I have a job,” or “I’m grateful for my coworkers, they’re extremely helpful.”
By focusing on the things that make you grateful, you’re signaling to your brain that there’s no need for you to feel stressed. These things help you in your day-to-day life and are worthy of celebrating.
Love Yourself As Much As You Love Others
Self-love doesn’t get enough recognition. It’s the foundational block of your interactions with others and it can influence more than just your mental health. It can also influence your physical health. Practice these five tips to help see what self-love means and show empathy and compassion to yourself first. No one can take better care of you than you, but you have to be willing to love yourself.