Loving Ourselves Will Open the Door to Greater Happiness
“Tender self-compassion is the ability for us just to be with ourselves as we are — in all our messiness, in all our brokenness, in all our imperfection — and also to be open to the pain of life.” ~ Dr. Kristin Neff, co-founder of the non-profit Center for Mindful Self-Compassion
It’s already the end of another year. Have we been through a lot over the past few years, or what?! And guess what! If you’re reading this, you’re still here. Congratulations!
Do you give yourself the credit you deserve for having made it this far?
Or do you berate yourself for not having done all that you think you should have done by now?
If you are like many, the answer is “yes,” to the latter rather than the former. In fact, many believe they need to be tough on themselves in order to keep themselves in line and achieve their goals. However, the research findings found the opposite to be true.
Dr. Kristin Neff, Associate Professor in the Educational Psychology Dept. at the University of Texas at Austin and author of Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself and Fierce Self-Compassion: How Women Can Harness Kindness to Speak Up, Claim Their Power, and Thrive, has found over and over again in her research, that treating ourselves with compassion actually brings about, not only more resilience, but better performance toward our goals.
Not only that but treating ourselves with the same compassion we would offer to our best friend opens us up to experience the joy, vitality, and creativity we need to follow the path of living a passionate life. So, let’s revisit some tips from my blog from 2020, 9 Ways to Love Yourself First – So You Can Love Others, so that we can get back onto the passionate path for the new year ahead.
1. Treat yourself like you’re worthy right now, even if you don’t believe it.
This includes taking care of your body by eating a healthy diet and exercising. And begin to take action toward achieving your dreams. By following our dreams, we contribute to creating a beautiful world.
2. Do things throughout the day, every day, that cheer you or inspire you.
Here are some examples that work for me: listening to music that I enjoy, reading something inspiring, taking a nap, walking in nature, exercising, breathing slowly, and relaxing. Do what makes you feel more vital and alive. It doesn’t have to be something big. When you make this a daily priority, you are giving yourself the message that you deserve to be treated well.
3. Surround yourself with positive people who love themselves and who treat you with love and respect.
Humans best learn by observation. If we observe people who love themselves and who love and respect the people around them, we learn how to do the same. Reduce or eliminate the amount of toxins you ingest and the amount of time you spend with toxic people. By being around positive, loving people, we come to realize that we’re worthy of love and respect.
4. Turn off the negative, derogatory self-talk.
The voice in our head might come as the voices of our parents or other important people in our lives, or as our own voice, questioning our worthiness or telling us that we are “victims.” When the author of the book, Self-Talk for a Calmer You: Learn How to Use Positive Self-Talk to Control Anxiety and Live a Happier, More Relaxed Life, Beverly Flaxington, was interviewed on my radio show, she pointed out, “It’s our own minds, so often, that defeat us. We say things to ourselves and tear ourselves down. The self-talk that we use on ourselves absolutely drains us. Lack of confidence and low self-esteem are very typically an outgrowth of too much negative self-talk too often.”
To truly love ourselves, it’s important to become aware of this negative chatter and to know that this chatter is not the “truth.” Then, even if we can’t turn it off completely, it will lose its power over us, and, perhaps, the volume will soften.
5. Stop listening to the negativity of others.
Remember, a person’s tendency to put another down is caused by their own lack of self-love.
6. Forgive others and forgive yourself.
Use the ho’oponopono prayer to facilitate this practice. Simply imagine the person with whom you have difficulties and say:
I love you.
Please forgive me.
Remember to repeat the process for everyone, including yourself.
7. Make a list of your positive traits.
You might notice that you’re very good at finding things that you don’t like about yourself. Now, sit down and make a list of those qualities about yourself that you actually like. Spend some time every day expanding this list.
8. Treat yourself like you would your own best friend.
Would you be so hard on your best friend about the same things that you’re so hard on yourself about? Try this: Sit down across from an empty chair. Visualize yourself sitting in that chair. Envision that the you in that chair is your BFF (Best Friend Forever), sharing all of their perceived weaknesses. How would you respond to your BFF? Make it a regular practice to talk to yourself with the same compassion you show to your BFF whenever you start to put yourself down.
9. Have a sense of humor, even about your own mistakes.
If we can laugh at ourselves, then we can gain the more realistic perspective that we’re only human and that mistakes are events to learn from, rather than signs that we’re inept or that our character is severely flawed.
Keep this practice up for at least thirty days. Journal about the experience daily and then reflect upon the changes you’ve noticed.
Once we begin to have more compassion for ourselves, we will be better able to show compassion for others, which the Dalai Lama states “is the most important factor for our own happiness” in The Fourteenth Dalai Lama’s States of the Path — Vol. 1: Guidance for the Modern Practitioner, and will be the topic of my next blog.
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