“If you make friends with yourself you will never be alone.” ~Maxwell Maltz
I’ve always been a rebel—independent, and a bit of a loner. I’ve prided myself on self-sufficiency. I like to do things my own way, and I don’t care for unrequested input (to put it mildly!).
I’ve been self-employed since I was 22 in a profession it can be tough to make a living in. In large part, I’ve been successful because of my ability to care for and emotionally support myself.
For me, this self-love has served my goal of doing what I want to do with my life, regardless of whether I have any support from the outside world or not.
Despite all the practice, I don’t fully have this self-love thing down. It’s an ongoing project, and some days are better than others. On the not-so-fab days, I’ve got some techniques I use to up the ante on feeling great about me.
1. Make a list of your accomplishments.
I guarantee there have been many. Nobel prize nominations are not required. Maybe you bake amazing pies, or you’re the person your friends always call when they want a sympathetic ear, or you earned a degree late in life.
Refer to this list when you’re feeling bad about yourself. Soak in all the cool stuff you’ve achieved and remind yourself how awesome you are. Personally, I love the reminder that I was voted “most unique” in high school.
2. Learn something new.
You don’t have to become an expert on an entire subject (unless that’s appealing). Learn how to say “have a nice day” in German (“Habt einen schönen tag!”), check out a Ted talk, or hit up Wikipedia’s “random article” link until you find something interesting.
Pointing our focus toward something outside of ourselves is stimulating; it also expands our world and our perspective. Additionally, learning makes your brain happy.
3. Ask your very best friend/partner/favorite family member what they love about you and specifically how you are amazing.
Take note of what they say and refer to it later when you are feeling a bit unloved. While our view of ourselves is of primary importance (it is about self-love, after all), it’s always nice to hear some complimentary words from someone we love whose opinion we respect.
Let me be super-clear: I am not talking about the “friend” who is actually a frenemy, or the family member who insists on subtly criticizing your life choices. This question is reserved for one of your very favorite people who happens to feel the very same way toward you.
4. Put your focus on others with small acts of kindness.
If I’m having a self-critical day, my tendency is to want to turn inward and pay little attention to the outside world (and expend my energy getting down on myself—not very useful). Instead of allowing that, I will make an effort to chat with people I come across and offer a kind word; I’ll be a more considerate driver; I’ll make a point of saying “hi” to people I don’t know.
For me, focusing on others serves as a simple reminder that we are all connected, as well as sending the message to my system that playing the introvert and self-criticizing is not acceptable to me.
5. And sometimes, turn inward.
I trust myself enough to know when I just need an hour or two of nothing. No email, internet, or other diversions—just me and a cup of something, hanging out, plotting my future, thinking about what I want, where I’m going, and how I’m going to get there.
For me, this is like hitting a re-set button. It clears my brain of some of the clutter, alleviates some of the negative internal dialogue, and leaves me feeling motivated and renewed. Meditation is great. So is a half-hour in a coffee shop sans boss and kids. Both can be incredibly fulfilling. Do whatever works for you.
6. Put on your most-loved music and dance.
Its an incredibly basic concept, but oh so easy, super fun, and all good baby. I defy you to feel bad after your endorphin-pumping, stress-relieving, body-moving, shamelessly personalized dance party for one.
7. Practice self-care.
The most effective tool I use to avoid the not-so-great-in-the-self-love-department days is regular self-care. I engage in many small acts of self-care, with occasional larger ones thrown in.
Getting up early enough to enjoy my morning coffee; scheduling myself in a way that doesn’t cause my head to explode when I look at my calendar for the day; making sure my refrigerator is well-stocked so I don’t end up having olives and old celery for dinner—these details work for me and support me in feeling strong and solid.
I simply feel better about myself when my life is running smoothly. And since I’m the one running my life, the responsibility to make it so is mine.
Remember: While we are all connected, and in many ways are the same, you are the only you there is. You are unique, amazing, and special. Revel in it, ‘cause you rock.