You thought your meeting with a colleague went well, but now, on your lunch break, you find yourself replaying the situation like a rabid fan of some cheesy cult movie, remote in hand, watching a favorite scene over and over, until you’ve memorized every line, every nuance, every facial expression of every character.
Why did you go and say that? Why didn’t you mention the other thing? And why on earth are you wearing this shirt? Your colleague probably thinks you’re inarticulate now, if not downright incompetent. And clearly without any kind of dress sense. Nothing like her– she’s always so good at expressing herself, never seems to strain under her job and has a killer dress sense to boot. You can be such an idiot sometimes. You’ve really blown it now.
It would be easy to love yourself if you were perfect, like your colleague. What’s not to love?
And yet deep, deep down, in a place you’ve hidden from yourself, you know that you’re worthy of love too — the best kind, the kind that comes from yourself. Because you’re smart enough to realize that without loving yourself first, you’ll never be able to truly love another human being. And you’re also smart enough to know that without self-love, life can be pretty damn grueling. It can be a bit of a nightmare, actually.
So what if you started acting like you loved yourself? What would that even look like?
Here are some things that have become second nature to those who love themselves.
1. They know that contortionists belong in the circus
Are you a relentless people pleaser? If you ever get the feeling you have to be everything to everybody at all times, you might just be one.
Helping those we love is a wonderful thing. But contorting yourself to pretzel-like shapes to keep everyone else happy at all times can actually be a sign that you don’t value your own life very much.
Ouch, right? I’ve had to face this fun fact about myself. I realized that I was spending all my spare time comforting my friends in their time of need or decorating their kids’ birthday parties, baking for this or that function, volunteering for everything — and wasn’t actually reaching any of the goals I had for myself.
Somewhere along the way I — me, the independent, world-traveling, feminist 30-something journalist — had bought into the idea that because I wasn’t married at the time and didn’t have kids, I was just sort of there to serve everyone. And you know what? Although exhausting, it was actually a lot easier keeping myself occupied with other people’s to-do lists than sorting out my own issues, facing my fears and actively pursuing my goals. It was kind of an excuse not to do those things.
This realization was a big turning point in my life. I still volunteer. I still make casseroles for my friends and support them when they’re grieving. But now I’m actively reaching my own goals in life. Before I take on something new, I check to see whether I don’t have enough on my plate already. And you know what? I like myself a whole lot better.
People won’t hand you an award for trying to please them. It can actually turn out to be quite the opposite. But when we love and respect ourselves? That’s when the magic happens.
2. They check themselves into rehab
I’ll tell you a secret: I’ve felt envious of friends who’ve told me they were headed to rehab. Pretty dark thought, huh?
It wasn’t that I wished for an addiction. I’m not completely deranged. But here’s the thing — sometimes we become so utterly exhausted that all we can do is wish someone would tell us to lie down in a comfy bed, then bring us warm soup and give us a foot rub while we enjoy someone else’s cooking for a change. We think of this kind of scenario as self-care when really, we should be caring for ourselves every day.
We do this by avoiding the things that cause us stress. Because a hundred little stressors add up to feeling like you want to book a one-way ticket to a wellness retreat in a desert no one else has ever heard of. Without cellphone reception.
So make a list of the little things that cause stress and imbalance in your life, knowing they add up to major exhaustion. It could be using the self-checkout, checking your phone on a Sunday night, always getting to work late or never taking a break once you get there.
Next, make a list of all the things that bring balance into your life: A morning swim, dinner at the table with your spouse, getting your work done in the week so you have your weekends free, feeling the soil under your fingers as you work in the garden.
Now adjust accordingly. Because some stressors — angry clients, traffic jams and horrendous customer service — will always be there. You don’t need to add to them so your stress pile becomes so humongous that all you want to do is book yourself into rehab.
3. They leave the grass for the cows
Why did I say that? He looked away when I said that — did he misinterpret what I was trying to say? What if he totally hates me now?
Ever find yourself ruminating over every minute detail of every human interaction, like a cow chewing the cud?
When we secretly don’t like ourselves very much, it’s hard to believe that anyone else could ever like us or accept us just the way we are. So we’re always looking for signs that they’ll leave us.
Next time you find yourself going down an overthinking spiral like this, take it as a sign. A big, fat STOP sign to halt right there and remind yourself that you’re loved and accepted.
Now say something nice to yourself. Something soothing. Calm.
Because you can’t lie to your own brain. Eventually your words will stick. And all that ruminating? You’ll leave that to the cows.
4. They put down the club before somebody gets hurt
I’m so bad at coordination. And math. And anything even remotely to do with technology.
The way we speak to ourselves sometimes — we really beat ourselves up.
If it feels like you’re carrying a giant baseball club with you at all times, just so you can beat yourself for some tiny imagined infraction, you’re not alone. A scary number of women report negative self-talk. They say they’d be ashamed to talk to their best friend the way they talk to themselves sometimes, in quiet moments, on in their mind, were no one can hear them.
But you know who is listening? You. And you are the one who will suffer.
I get it. My sobering realization came when I was flagellating myself in a Japanese restaurant for still not being able to use chopsticks. My husband looked at me and said: “you can’t learn how to use them because you’re so impatient with yourself.”
It was a sobering confrontation for someone who has been told since she was little by people in authority how wonderfully patient she was — with people, with animals, heck, even in lines. Teachers would call my parents to say how patient I was waiting in lines. And here I was, a grown-ass woman, sabotaging my own peace of mind every chance I could get.
I now try to speak to myself the way I would to a good friend. And it helps. Because hey, being on your own side is a lot better than being your own worst enemy.
Meet your BFF
Imagine having an ally. Imagine having someone by your side each and every day whose sole purpose it was to smooth things out along your way so you were always set up to succeed. Someone whose mission in life was to make your life a little easier, a little happier and a little more fulfilling.
Wouldn’t that be the best feeling? Wouldn’t you feel like you could conquer the world?
The wonderful news is, you are that person. You are your own best friend — the person who paves the way for your own success.
So why not start now? Decide right now to speak to speak kindly to yourself, to take care of yourself, not to beat yourself up or ruminate over what people think of you.
As of now, you’re setting yourself up for a happier, more fulfilling life every day. You’re setting yourself up to succeed in every area you can imagine. And that’s a powerful thing.