For so many of us, it’s easy to show kindness, love, and compassion to others—and a totally different story when it comes being as lovely when we talk to ourselves. These 6 practices will change that.
One of the most important pieces of living a happy and healthy life is loving yourself. You’ve most likely heard the phrases, “If you can’t love yourself, how can you love anyone else?” and, “If you can’t love yourself, how can anyone else?”
Of course, the implied meaning of these phrases is not entirely accurate, but there is a kernel of truth: It’s hard to have a healthy relationship with anyone else when you don’t have a healthy relationship with yourself.
See also 10 Ways to Love Yourself (More) in the Modern World
6 Ways to Boost Self-Love
If you’ve struggled with showing yourself love, the following exercises will help you boost your self-love and extend understanding, compassion, and forgiveness to yourself. Keep an open mind and give these exercises a try—they just might have a profound effect on how you relate to yourself and to others.
1. Differentiate your inner critic from your authentic self
A key step toward enhancing your self-compassion and self-love is acknowledging your inner critic. This may sound counterintuitive, but it really is very important to be able to determine when your inner critic is speaking and when your optimistic and confident inner self is speaking.
Grab a journal or notebook and open it to a fresh page. Draw a small self-portrait in the center of the page. Don’t worry—it doesn’t matter if it’s good! Next, draw several thought bubbles sprouting out from your portrait. In these thought bubbles, write down your most frequent negative thoughts about yourself. This might be a little painful, but try to push through it. Once you’ve filled in all the bubbles, take a moment to recognize that all of these thoughts come from your inner critic. Label the portrait “My Inner Critic.”
Next, flip the page and do the exercise again, but with a focus on alternate ways to think about each bit of self-criticism. Label the portrait “My Authentic Self.”
Whenever your negative thoughts start crowding out the good ones, return to these two pages to remind yourself that you are not your negative thoughts and that they don’t need to define you.
See also 4 Ways to Take Down Your Inner Critic
2. Start a positive focus group
This may be the most difficult of these exercises, because it requires the commitment of several people; however, it is also one of the most impactful. A “positive focus group” is a group activity that involves each member taking turns as the subject of a discussion of their strengths and positive qualities. Here’s how you do it:
Enlist a group of friends and family members. If you have trouble getting people to agree to it, try reminding them that they will benefit from this exercise as well. Set aside an hour or so (depending on how big your group is) and gather in a comfortable and private space, such as someone’s living room. Choose someone to take the first turn, then engage in a discussion of everything you like about him or her: their strengths, their skills and talents, the qualities that make them a good friend or family member, and anything else you appreciate about them. Repeat until each group member has been the subject of the discussion.
If this sounds uncomfortable to you, then you’re probably one of those who stands to benefit the most from it! When you have low self-esteem and don’t show yourself enough love, it’s vital that you learn to recognize the good in yourself and believe in the positive things others say about you.
3. Create self-love affirmations
You may have already come up with some affirmations to boost your confidence, but you can also come up with some additional affirmations to enhance your self-love. Follow these guidelines to create effective self-love affirmations.
Write your affirmation in the present tense. Focus on accepting yourself for who you are, right here and now. Show yourself love in your current state.
Use a first-person perspective. Don’t write statements about yourself as if you were someone else; write them from your own point of view. Here are a few good examples of self-love affirmations:
I am a good person.
I am worthy of love and respect.
I accept and love myself exactly as I am.
Repeat your affirmations at least once a day. It can be helpful to set a time of day for your affirmations to make sure you always remember to do them. Many people repeat their affirmations in the morning to get a boost of self-love for the rest of their day. If at any point you feel yourself lagging in self-love during the day, go ahead and repeat them again. Don’t worry about overdoing it—you’re in no danger of developing too much self-love.
See also 4 Ways to Practice Compassion in a Pinch
4. Commit to the equality principle
If someone asked you whether you believe that all people are equal, what would you say? You’d probably say yes, right? But you’ve also probably had plenty of negative thoughts about yourself, like, “I’m not as good as her,” or “They’re so much better than I am,” or even, “I don’t deserve to have what she has.” Everyone has these thoughts at some point, but it’s unhealthy to think them too often.
To neutralize these negative thoughts and shift how you see yourself, try committing to the equality principle wholeheartedly. The equality principle is the principle that we are all equally human and deserving of dignity, love, and happiness—including you!
On days when you’re feeling particularly down, it might be tempting to make an exception for yourself—but remember that the equality principle has no exceptions. If everyone is deserving of love and happiness, you are deserving too.
If you’re having trouble embracing this principle and accepting that there are no exceptions, try this technique: picture a dear friend or beloved family member, and remind yourself that since there are no exceptions, you are just as deserving of good things as they are. It’s harder to keep up the negative thoughts when you have to apply them to someone you love!
See also 5 Ways to Infuse Your Self-Talk with Self-Love
5. Give yourself a loving touch
We often show others we love them through touch. We give our friends and family members hugs, kiss them on the cheek, hold hands with our significant other, and give back rubs or neck massages when we’re feeling especially generous. This physical gesture of love can be extended to yourself too!
The next time you’re feeling upset, sad, or worried, soothe yourself with a loving touch. Try any of the following, or go with whatever works best for you:
• Place one or both hands over your heart and rest them there for a few deep breaths.
• Give yourself a hug by placing your hands on your shoulders.
• Use one hand to gently hold the other.
• Stroke one arm with your opposite hand for a few minutes.
• Place a hand on each cheek and gently cradle your face.
• Wrap your hands around your belly and give a gentle squeeze.
• Run your nails lightly down your neck and/or over your shoulders.
You may feel a little silly or self-conscious at first, but these are excellent ways to show yourself a little bit of love.
6. Repeat self-love mantras
To carry your sense of self-love with you all day, wherever you go, try coming up with a mantra—words, phrases, or short sentences that help keep you focused on the things that matter to you. They’re similar to affirmations, except affirmations are about boosting self-love through self-acceptance. Mantras generally come from a doing perspective—they are focused on what you’re capable of—while affirmations come from more of a being perspective.
When coming up with your mantra, follow these simple guidelines: Your mantra can be anything from one word to several sentences, but generally the shorter the better. Your mantra should remind you of something you’ve accomplished or something you are good at. It should also make you feel good about yourself. For example, if you’re proud of your success in beating a drug addiction or healing from a major injury, you might choose a mantra like, I have overcome obstacles before. I will overcome obstacles again—or even just Overcome.
Keep this mantra a secret tool for your use only, a special thing that you share only with yourself. Bring it out whenever you’re struggling with fear, anxiety, anger, restlessness, or any other difficult situation or emotion, and allow it to remind you of where you’ve come from, where you’ve been, and where you’re going.
See also 5 Ways To Practice Compassion—and Get Better at It
Excerpted from My Pocket Positivity by Courtney Ackerman Copyright © 2018 Adams Media, a division of Simon and Schuster. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Courtney E. Ackerman is a researcher and author of 5-Minute Bliss and My Pocket Positivity. She has a master’s degree in positive organizational psychology and evaluation from Claremont Graduate University in California. When she’s not working, she’s usually spending time with her dogs, reading books, visiting a nearby winery, or playing video games with her husband.
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Yoga Helped Me Face My Fears About Marriage Once and For All
I went to Mexico to rejuvenate, detox, and practice yoga with my boyfriend. Turns out, it would also be where I faced my fears about marriage.
It was a humid sunrise on a quiet, sandy beach in Tulum, Mexico. Despite our previous late-night mezcal tasting beneath the jungle leaves, my longtime boyfriend, Anush, had dragged me out of our tiny thatched-roof cabana at first light.
I adjusted my Beyoncé t-shirt and gray cotton shorts I’d worn to bed as I scanned the horizon. When I turned back to Anush, he was kneeling in the sand, holding a typed love letter and a tourmaline engagement ring.
“Will you marry me?” He asked.
I was so incredulous, I couldn’t speak. Feelings of doubt and darkness coursed through me, even though I’d always imagined a future with him: He was the one person who made me feel seen and cared for and uplifted. Still, I was reluctant to commit.
My parents went through a dramatic and corrosive divorce when I was 13, but the fallout had lasted long after. Most of the great pain in my life has come from marriage—and its ending. Marriage is the thing that has made me most likely to run, and least likely to trust
See also This Guided Meditation Will Inspire You to Live From Your Heart
As I stared at the man I love, these past traumas lit my body from head to toe with alarm bells. How could I marry anyone? But, as I looked at him, I calmed myself down. I silently told myself something I had learned in my yoga and mindfulness practice: Be here now. With that mantra, I slowly came back to the moment. With that mantra, I reminded myself where I was, who I was with—and most importantly, who I am now.
He waited patiently. I started to cry. Finally, I said, “Yes! Yes. Yes. Of course, yes.” He put the ring on my finger, and he held me while I cried. In that moment of “yes,” my world expanded.
We drank champagne and ate fruit in front of the ocean while the Tulum sun rose, pink and hot on our skin. I could hardly believe my good fortune—engaged in Tulum at sunrise. In that moment, instead of fear, I chose gratitude.
I saw a beachfront yoga class almost immediately after—Tulum, thankfully is crawling with them—and I asked my fiance(!), if he’d like to take it together. I was still shaking from the metamorphic decision I had made: unwavering commitment in the face of fear. I hoped familiar asana would steady me. Internally, I repeated my mantra as we walked into a large triangular wood pavilion, perched on a hidden natural cliff in the jungle, overlooking the beach as if it had been there forever.
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Our yoga teacher, a young woman from Mexico City with a sing-song voice, instructed us to let go of our fears, to open our hearts, to experience the beauty of the moment we were in.
I was exactly where I needed to be. I still had my dark corners—I may always—but I could learn to live with them and still claim the life I wanted and deserve. I could live in the present and not in the past. I could be here now, soaking in the jungle, the ocean, in a magnificent place where afterward we would eat fresh coconut and bike carefree down the beach road and hike up Mayan ruins and speak a little Spanish and accept a glorious chocolate mole cake that said “Felicidades.”
As I looked over at the joyful, patient man doing yoga next to me, the waves crashed out ahead. I took his hand for just an instant, and he smiled. And then we raised our arms together, side-by-side, to salute the sun.
See also 7 Simple Ways to Call in More Joy—and Feel Less Stressed
About our author
Gina Tomaine is a yoga teacher and magazine editor in Philadelphia. Her work has been published in Prevention, Women’s Health, Runner’s World, and other publications. Learn more at gina-tomaine.com.
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