How to Create More Self-love and Happiness in Your LifeMay 07, 2018
Self-love is an important part of living well and being happy. Which is partially why this month I’m focusing on fostering more self-love. I'm not talking about becoming more self-centered but being mindful of the thoughts I choose, practicing good self-care, and acceptance.
I’ve noticed this past year that, like many people, I'm hyper-critical of myself and this negatively affects my experience in the world as well as my judgments of others. It's the subconscious negative self-talk that steals joy in both my life and relationships. So, it’s something I started to work on about a year ago.
It really began in my experience losing 40 lbs. I remember noticing for the first-time thoughts I would have that made me want to self-sabotage. For example, I’d walk by a mirror, glance at my thighs and arms and say to myself, “Ugh, I’m so unattractive, who would ever love someone with massive thighs and arms like mine.” Instantly, feeling unattractive, I’d want to be comforted by food, so I’d eat something unhealthy that would make me feel better.
The crazy part is I'd NEVER fathom saying that to another human being. Yet, for SO many years I was consistently talking to myself that way without even realizing it. Once, I became aware of those painful thoughts I instantly wanted to stop. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize this bad habit would require a lot of effort and practice to change.
It felt like each time I tried to think a positive thought or compliment myself, I’d quickly follow it with a highly critical statement. It was very challenging to accept myself the way I was. I believed, once I lost weight THEN I'd be able to love myself fully.
Although, we may be tempted to believe that, it’s definitely NOT true. We don’t become happy once we lose weight, earn more money, or marry our soul mate. It has to start from within.
I did notice, last year, when I started practicing more loving thoughts, I was actually able to lose weight more easily. Although managing my default thinking was exhausting at first it became more natural with time.
Now, looking back, I remember the desire to self-sabotage by overeating or over-drinking usually followed indulging in a lot of negative self-talk. I noticed most of my cravings followed these negative thoughts about myself and I discovered I had been thinking those thoughts for so long, they had become beliefs.
Now - after a year of practicing, I’ve learned how to talk to myself. I talk to myself in a positive way that serves me and creates a desire to be healthy and to do good things for my mind and body. I’ve also noticed that I have quite a bit of work still to do in this category in order to keep moving towards feeling happy with my life and motivated to work towards my goals.
I came across a great article by PsychologyToday.com on why it’s so important to love yourself. They mentioned that you can only love a person as much as you love yourself. This really struck an emotional nerve in me because one of my life desires is to be known for being a big lover of the people in my life. This means forgiving, loving without expectations, and trusting. That is a tall order and there's no way I can authentically treat other people that way without first learning on myself.
I’m not saying that I don’t love people but I struggle to love the way I want to. It was a great reminder that it starts with loving myself. So this month I’m working towards the below actions to practice self-love.
- Awareness: I’m starting each day by taking 12-15 min to become aware of the thoughts I’m having about myself and writing them all down. Most of them are pretty critical, judgmental, and unsatisfied with my life. There are a lot of “should” statements. So just noticing them helps me shift into awareness so I’m not letting them control me.
- Decide: Then I decide how I want to feel today. I look at my day at a glance, by observing what responsibilities I have, workload, and self-care that I can look forward to. It allows me to choose what feeling I want to fuel the actions required to get these things done. Most days I choose gratitude, motivated, bliss, or enthusiasm.
- Foster: Once I choose the feeling I want to dominate, it’s helpful to create the thoughts that I need to think about and come back to. They have to be believable though or my brain will reject them as false. “I’m so excited for what I get to do today, it’s going to be fun” or “I have a few things I don’t want to do, that’s ok, today is still going to be awesome”. This way the temptation to be hyper-judgmental isn’t easy to choose because I don’t have anything better on hand. It’s honestly like “food prepping” my day, I’m preparing healthier options so crappy, not nutritional thoughts aren’t easier.
- Grace: Of course, it’s not easy to just stay in this mindset of thinking these positive feeling thoughts as your day goes on. So I grant myself grace. Keeping in mind that I’m unlearning a bad habit and replacing it with a much healthier habit. This takes repetition and time, so I can expect to forget, fail and get frustrated. When I get frustrated I just gently remind myself I’m learning and making progress. Extending unconditional grace will help me stay consistent with this process.
The benefits I’ve seen so far are that my experience in life is a lot more enjoyable, I attract healthier people, and live more intentionally. These are all things that I want to continue to foster and develop. I acknowledge that no human ever reaches a place of “arrival” in self-love so practicing these steps allows me to continue to work on it.
If this resonated with you or you are in the struggle right now, I'd love to hear what your experience has been like. Please leave comments below.
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