I was one of those people who never had a real appreciation for mental health issues. For me, mental health awareness meant avoiding depression and all the deep dark stuff. I easily translated self-love to mean ice-cream, spa appointments, and shopping sessions. However, as with most life lessons, experience can be a wholesome teacher and to this point, my experience came in the humbling form of a failed professional exam.
On the surface, it really wasn’t much of a big deal – I probably didn’t prepare well enough. However, my reaction to this failure was shocking – even to myself. I took it pretty bad. From nowhere, a floodgate of self-doubt, self-hate, and pessimism was opened in my mind. I started to criticize my physical appearance, doubt my professional capabilities, question my relationship with God, and everything else in between. Coupled with a move to a different country and temporary unemployment, I was a mess. Wallowing in self-pity became an expensive, time consuming and unsatisfying habit. I started getting impatient with myself and my unhappiness was transferred to everyone around me.
In a moment of desperation, I decided to seek help and I found it in the simplest form: talking. Talking to a friend I could trust to give me an unbiased assessment of my situation and having someone help me untangle the jumbled mess of my mind was a blessing and a gift. I also turned to journaling. Taking time to pour out my thoughts on paper was not only a solution to the internal chaos, but also a productive outlet for clarifying my ideas. Slowly and surely, clarity came, bringing with it a sense of calm, confidence, and optimism.
In all of the many lessons I learned in 2019, perhaps the most important lesson is that life can be pretty hard on its own. However, going through life disliking your self is pretty much a horrible existence. Taking a cue from my own experience, I have shared some points on how to like yourself more. As simple and intuitive as this seems, self-love is truly powerful and leads to a happier existence.
Talk to yourself like you are in love with yourself
Most of us grew up learning to differentiate between the indoor voice and outdoor voice. However, the most important voice you will listen to is your inner voice. What is the tone of your inner voice? How do you talk to yourself when you are unhappy with yourself? Most times, we are our own biggest critics. While I believe this is largely natural, the critical aspect of self-evaluation lies in the things we say to ourselves, and about ourselves, that no one else hears. You need to talk to yourself like you are head over heels in love with you.
Borrowing a leaf from Chimamanda’s “We Should All Be Feminists”, give yourself a pet name. If you fall flat on your face in the most embarrassing situation, use your soft voice with yourself. Be kind to yourself. Slowly, you train your mind to become your own best friend and ally. You will begin to root for yourself from within because you genuinely like yourself. The opinions of others will weigh lighter because of the weight of your own self-acceptance and self-validation. Remember, life is hard enough for you to go through it not liking yourself. Be very careful about what you say to yourself when you are upset with yourself. Those harsh words sink deeper because they are coming from within you.
Keep the promises you make to yourself (or don’t make them at all)
Ever had that friend that talks big but never shows up when you need them, is always unreliable and would bail out on you at the last minute? Don’t be that friend to yourself. To like yourself, you need to trust yourself and to develop a healthy level of self-trust and self-confidence, you need to be disciplined with keeping the promises you make to yourself. There is no short cut around this.
If you have hit the rock bottom – having depleted your reserves of self-confidence – there is a way out. Rebuild your relationship with yourself (your mind) by starting small. Tell yourself this: I won’t set a goal for myself if I have no intention of executing them.
When setting goals for yourself, don’t be ashamed to start small. For example, if you may have a goal of eating healthier and becoming fitter, start by setting small achievable goals for yourself like reducing your intake of fizzy drinks to once a week or brisk walking 15 to 20 minutes, three times a week. Don’t be ashamed to start small. The person you are trying to impress is you! So, any small achievable goal that you can consistently commit to will boost your overall sense of achievement, which will, in turn, increase your self-confidence and level of self-love.
Pay attention to the way you handle failure, rejection, and disappointments
Life can be unexpectedly challenging and disheartening. However, how you handle these dips and twists go a long way in determining our mental and physical posture. Never internalize failure. “You failed at Project X,” and “you are a failure,” are two separate matters. Learn to maintain a healthy distance from your failures. Pick the lessons you need from each episode and move on. Some may be more painful and weightier than others, but your mindset should be the same. That way, each disappointment becomes a rung in your ladder. I have learned to look at it this way. You can’t change the past, or magically ‘Ctrl-Z’ your mistakes, but you can determine your reaction to failure or rejection.
Be patient with yourself (and mind your business)
We live in an age of instant gratification and self-promotion. Everyone is quick to put their best foot forward on social media. Untrained minds will absorb the constant barrage of self-promotion and soon become adept at tending the gardens of others and comparing their progress and achievements with yours. Mind your business – also known as face your front and focus on your focus – is an age-old advice that is so critical today. We face the constant temptation to compare our own progress to that of others. In reality, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. If it appears greener, then it is being watered a lot more (and the water bills are higher), or it is good old Astroturf. Be patient with yourself in the execution of goals and while you are at it, please mind your business.
Go into the new year with a renewed mind and take active steps to improve your relationship with yourself because life is better enjoyed when you are always rooting for yourself.
Go ahead and love yourself right in 2020.