“Wrap your arms around yourself. Now squeeze,” the yoga instructor said. “When was the last time you hugged yourself? And actually meant it?” she asked.
I was doing yoga at Sundance Resort in Utah as part of a retreat last week. The room was full of women I didn’t know, but who seemed to radiate goodness, striving, and accomplishment. Surely they were lovable. But as I hugged myself, as directed, I noticed how un-heartfelt it was. Although I do love and appreciate my body, I realized I don’t unconditionally love who I am as a whole.
I hug my daughter and my husband many times a day, and boy do I mean it! But me? It was almost revolting to think I should love myself that same way.
It was just a 30-second episode, this hugging exercise. In so few seconds, a chain of (inspired) thoughts insued. “What if I did love myself? You know what, why shouldn’t I? I genuinely love others who are full of weakness and mistakes, so why can’t I extend that same love to myself?” It was an uplifting, rejuevenating few seconds to hug myself and give myself grace before we moved on to the next yoga practice.
This was one of several experiences I’ve had lately that have made me ponder the importance of self-love and positive self-talk. Whenever I’ve heard this topic before, it always seemed so unnecessary to me. Now, I’m realizing it’s a key to success in our personal life and relationships, and vital if we want to make a contribution to the world.
It’s two weeks into the year. Have you struggled to keep your goals? The best answer doesn’t begin with beating yourself up until you hop back onto your diet or exercise routine. In fact, that will never work. The answer is in changing your thoughts.
What do you believe, deep down?
At the first of the year, I was talking with an amazing lady who I’ve been calling weekly as her health coach. She told me she’s chosen a word to live by for this year, and the word is believe. In addition to increasing her faith and spirituality, she said something that inspired me, “I want to strengthen my belief that I am worthy of radical self-care.”
Radical self-care. Why does it take such gumption to say that we’re worthy of that? Maybe because, like I do, you think of the great suffering in the world—the millions of people who live in poverty, who have no love, who are alone or depressed. THEY need care, but me? I’m fine! I can just care for others and not waste any time on me. The less love I take up, the more there is for others…..right?
That’s just not how it works. Since when does becoming poor allow us to help the poor? When does becoming sick allow us to help the sick? We can’t care for others if we don’t take care of ourselves. Maybe we can get by, but we would do such a better job if we had a full pitcher to pour from before we attempted to fill their cups. Ironically, as we love ourselves, the more love there is to give away, too. Families become stronger and friendships abound.
Self-love is not self-indulging. It is not going on a shopping spree, eating chocolate, and wasting time on a screen. Rather, that is temporary pleasure that will not increase the respect you have for yourself. Similarly, self-love is not self-justification. It’s taking responsibility for your life and choices and being happy about them.
Here are three ways loving yourself can change your life.
1. You’ll have the proper foundational thinking to keep your health goals.
As a man thinketh, so is he. If we can change our thoughts, we can literally change anything we want to about ourselves! As we think the right thoughts (thoughts of truth that God would tell us), we’ll do the right behaviors to achieve our ideal weight and health. We’ll feel liberated.
|I’m overweight and ugly.||Drowning sorrows in comfort food.|
|I don’t deserve to eat high-quality nutritious food.||Eating cheap, processed food.|
|I don’t have very good self-control.||Sleeping in, not exercising, not moderating portions or limiting unhealthy food.|
|My genetics are against me, I’ll always be this way.||Eating whatever is delicious to you, regardless of health consequences.|
|I am weak, I just love sugar.||Eating lots of sugar (or whatever your weakness is).|
|My body is amazing!||Getting the sleep, exercise, and nutrition your amazing body needs.|
|I respect my body.||Exercising self-control when less-healthy foods are around.|
|I am worthy of the most nutritious foods.||Prioritizing time and money to eat nutritiously.|
|I know I can be strong, even when it’s hard.||Keeping commitments you make with yourself.|
|My body is way too valuable to poison. It’s holy and divine.||Saying “no” to socially-acceptable poisons like sugar, fried foods, processed meats, caffeine, alcohol.|
2. You’ll be a blessing to others.
When my husband is in a grumpy mood, it is really hard on me. I have a hard time being happy until he’s happy. (He’s much better at being cheerful when I’m not–he’s had more practice I guess.) You know how it is to be around someone who is down on themselves and beats themselves up. It makes you feel down! On the contrary, interacting with someone who is confident and happy is a joy to be with. They light up their environment and make you feel of worth, too.
When you’re emotionally or physically sick, you’re out of commission, and depend on the strength of others. In contrast, when you have good emotional and physical health, you can give.
3. You’ll live with no regrets. You’ll try new things and find greater happiness.
My husband lately has asked me, “What would happen if you never thought a negative thought about yourself again?” As I’ve pondered the answer, one thing I realize is that I would try new things! I wouldn’t think, “I’m not creative enough to do that,” or “I’m not good enough to be paid for my services,” or “I shouldn’t even try because I know I would fail.” What would you do if you knew you could not fail? I’d become a ballroom dancer, start a non-profit, have 8 kids, do cross-country ski trips, be a philanthropist, travel internationally on the regular, and run a healthy food blog, to name a few.
How can I love myself better?
- Journal. This is one of the best ways to connect with your subconscious.
- Meditate. Brooke Snow’s podcast is a great place to start for free, and I’ve heard her courses are amazing.
- Challenge yourself to do something new or hard. Be patient and kind to yourself if you slip up, and keep trying.
- Make a list of your accomplishments.
- Make a list of what you’ve learned in your life.
- Serve others in new ways. It can only make you feel good about yourself.
- Say outloud to yourself every day, “My body is amazing.” List the things it does for you.
- Disconnect your performance with your relationship to yourself. Next time you fail at something (like keeping your house clean or staying on top of laundry, for example) tell yourself, “This is no reason to stop my loving myself. I’m still a good person and worthy of love. I’ll try again.”
What has helped you love yourself? What have been the benefits? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
One key relationship we have is with ourselves. It may seem odd to think of having a relationship with ourselves, but we do. Some people can’t get along with themselves. They criticize and belittle themselves all day long until they begin to hate themselves. May I suggest that you reduce the rush and take a little extra time to get to know yourself better. Walk in nature, watch a sunrise, enjoy God’s creations, ponder the truths of the restored gospel, and find out what they mean for you personally. Learn to see yourself as Heavenly Father sees you—as His precious daughter or son with divine potential.” ~Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Photo credit: my father, Mike Goimarac