In her 2010 book The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown writes, “To become fully human means learning to turn my gratitude for being alive into some concrete common good. It means growing gentler toward human weakness. It means practicing forgiveness of my and everyone else’s hourly failures to live up to divine standards.” The book, written as a series of practices that provide insight into the gifts that come from doing things imperfectly, offers it’s readers a new way of interacting with themselves. Perhaps learning to be kind, gentler, and forgiving, to actually treat yourself like you like yourself amid the perfect standards of the day, is actually the way to be more fully human.
In a world full of competition and pursuing excellence, it is easy to feel like one isn’t enough, doesn’t measure up, and at the end of the day really doesn’t matter. These thoughts and practices of our day quickly take a toll on our well being, moving from passing thoughts to sticky reminders of why we shouldn’t like ourselves. In 2018, it seems the chase for the newer model this and the more expensive that keeps us striving and we often allow our negative thoughts to serve as motivation. And though this sort of criticism and shame may work to help us with short-term change, we often soon become fed up and therefore give up before we’ve even given ourselves a fair shot.
Taking this into mind alongside our desire to avoid arrogance and presumptuousness, finding a balanced middle path where we can accept, and even like, ourselves while still allowing for the reality of the work to be done can be challenging at best. To admit and find peace in the truth that we can affectionately care for ourselves, not be selfish, and still be in process, well that all seems much harder to put into practice than the beauty of our opening quote. So how do we do it? How do we genuinely learn to like ourselves in a healthy way?
There is no easy answer, no quick change that allows us to live this way, but rather a series of small choices that help us to live life liking ourselves rather than beating ourselves up. Here are few practical and tangible ways we can separate from the burdens of life and live in ways that celebrate the men and women we are.
- Come up with a mantra to live by. We all have negative thoughts about ourselves swirling about our minds, waiting to appear in both the good and bad. We must be intentional to fight these sticky thoughts and putting new thoughts in is a surprisingly easy place to start. A mantra of mine I stole from a colleague. It has appeared throughout my blog and points me back to my values and worth. This saying, “show up as the woman you want to be,” encourages and motivates me onward rather than keeping me stuck in self-defeating thoughts. I encourage you to come up with a quick sound bite that you can hold onto that points you back towards liking yourself.
- Write personal daily affirmations. Try starting your day with writing present-tense “I” statements about character traits or qualities in yourself that you are proud of or simply like. Make the words into art or collect images that represent those parts of you. Whatever you do, keep them positive and keep them current.
- Do something that supports your values every single day. One of the quickest ways to self-defeat is acting outside our values. When we act differently than what our values suggest, we become duplicitous. This is extremely difficult for us to manage and often results in a negative downward loop of actions confirming negative thoughts and feelings about ourselves. However, by acting on our values, even amid the judgmental thoughts and feelings, we can learn to like ourselves more and more, trusting the feelings and thoughts will eventually catch up. (If you aren’t sure where to begin, try identifying some of the values that guide your life. Google “Value Card Sort” for an array of different and free online resources to help get you started!)
- Be kind to yourself. I end many therapy sessions reminding folks to be kind to themselves because I know from my own experience, that the minute you leave you are more determined than ever to change and get things right. And then we don’t because we are humans and perfection is impossible. We must be able to practice kindness and grace in our mistakes, failures, and growth rather than condemning and punishing ourselves. Change takes courage and bravery, acknowledge that in yourself through kindness and mercy.
- Start a gratitude practice. It’s tricky for us to hold onto the anger and the burdens of our day when we take time to focus our heads and hearts on the things we are grateful for. Maybe it’s jotting down three unique things every night that you were thankful for that day or doing a more formal practice like The 5-Minute Journal — whatever the practice, try sticking to it for at least a month, jumping right back in if you forget a day or two.
Working on more closely living our values, solving our own problems, getting in the grit, and taking responsibility are all wonderful practices in life. Practices I encourage you to continue. The striving in our lives towards the beauty of perfection is rarely the issue. However, the ways in which we do so, cutting ourselves down and our self-worth often taking the hit, lead to the opposite outcomes. And these outcomes create hopelessness, helplessness, and discontent rather than spurring us onward.
As I close, I invite you to reflect on the relationship you have with yourself. How would you describe the relationship and how is life within that relationship? Take notice if it is one of kindness and compassion, mercy and grace, that allows you to honestly say you like yourself. And if it is, well done and keep up the hard and fruitful work. If it is not and you would like that to change, consider one or two of the practices above that you would be willing to incorporate starting today.
Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC
For more information on living a life of liking yourself, contact me today.