There’s a funny thing about self-love. The less you have, the more you resist it — like the place where you fully accept yourself is at the peak of a mountain. Unless you're almost there, trekking to the top is way harder than slipping into the valley self-criticism. But you know what? The view from up there is amazing, and the effort to get there is worth it.
That effort isn’t a terrible one, either. Cultivating self-love, even after years of beating yourself up, is very doable. You need only commit to the daily repetition of a few positive habits.
Now, I’m no psychologist — but I do know something about self-criticism and the limitations it creates. I'm sharing strategies that have worked for me, with the hope of inspiring you to rise to the challenge, and then reap the benefits of confident living.
1. Optimize your style and beauty routine.
Switching up your clothes and make-up doesn’t change who you are. But the right clothes can momentarily change how you feel. You know when you have the perfect outfit on and you're ready to conquer the world? String together many of those small positive moments and you're building the foundation for sustainable confidence.
Spend a day with a friend, shopping and trying on clothes. Learn the styles that flatter your body type. When it’s time to add to your wardrobe, those are your go-to options.
Do the same with beauty products. Have a stylist do your make-up and recommend color choices. Ask for advice on a workable daily look that you can put together yourself at home.
2. Treat your senses.
We have more than enough stimulation in our lives, but much of it is meaningless and draining. Combat this by adding some sensory indulgences to your environment, and then take a moment each day to enjoy them.
What’s most impactful to you: the pungent smell of jasmine, the feel of a puppy’s fur, or the sight of the sun setting over the ocean?
- If you’re moved by scents, get a scented candle or body lotion that you can use daily.
- If textures transport you, sleep on a satin pillowcase or wear fur-lined slippers.
- If you are visually oriented, surround yourself with color at home. Buy new bath towels or throw pillows or add a painting or two to your walls.
- If it's sound you love, create your perfect playlist and listen to it daily.
3. Sleep more.
With enough rest and energy, we are calmer and readier to tackle challenges with a positive mindset. Cut out an hour of TV watching, social media stalking or Internet surfing to make room for more sleep each night.
4. Exercise more.
Exercise is amazingly good for your mental health and wellbeing. But many of us are challenged to experience those benefits. Maybe you don't have enough time. Or, you set your exercise goals high and then get frustrated with slower-than-expected progress.
Cultivate exercise as a habit, by starting with small, achievable goals that you can increase over time. If you don’t exercise at all, start with a 15-minute walk each week. Then, turn that one walk into two, and then three.
Take at least one minute daily to breathe deeply. And then thank yourself for the effort! An app, like Breathe in the iTunes Store, can remind you and also guide you through those breathing exercises.
6. Have a go-to mantra.
You can and should have a daily self-affirmation, but you also need a mantra for high-stress situations. A personal and meaningful mantra gives you some mental space, a second or two to regroup. It might be, “you got this” or “you are amazing” or “patience, grasshopper” — your goal is to relax and not react for moment. Only then can you deal with the situation productively.
7. Stop the negative self-talk.
Negative self-talk is a tough habit to break. When you self-criticize, go to your mantra. Take a moment to clear your head, then compliment yourself.
8. Separate yourself from toxic people.
There are people in this world who are toxic. If you have these people in your life, make a plan to reduce your interaction with them. Even if that means getting a new job, or a new best friend, do this for self-preservation, please.
9. Be self-forgiving and forward-thinking.
You will have setbacks as you learn the art of self-love. Even when you reach the peak of that mountain, you're likely to slide down a bit now and then. Forgive yourself for those moments. Speak your mantra, gather your thoughts, and then move on.
The process of loving yourself more happens one day at a time. Make each day better than the last, and you're heading in the right direction.