“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” – Buddha
There’s a sad truth I’ve noticed over and over again, and that’s that us girls are often our own worst enemy. We can sometimes be our harshest critic and spend much of our lives never feeling like we’re enough so we go on this never-ending quest to better ourselves or maybe even try to be someone we’re not. We still haven’t got to grips with the fact that being our own best friend is actually the most productive road to take in life. Now I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to want more or be ambitious, but have you ever stopped to think about how your inner critic could be ruining your health?
I used to feel very intimidated by women who ‘loved themselves’ and often made the assumption that self-assurance and confidence equalled arrogance. Little did I realise that I could have had some of that fabulous confidence for myself had I learnt how to practice the art of loving myself and being grateful for my body.
For a long time, I didn’t love the person I was very much at all and had become very stuck in life, at work and in my relationship, and therefore very depressed. This stuck place not only had a huge detrimental effect on my physical health but also on what I believed to be true for me. And that core belief was that happiness and confidence were reserved for other people and that it was my fault that I was in my situation. For a long time, there was a very heavy sense of permanence to life for me and I some very loud negative internal voices.
As women, I think we’re often unaware of our own power and potential, and sometimes when we do begin to feel its full force, we are terrified of it. But it’s our fears that keep us most stuck in life, not just in terms of career or deciding what to do next, but in how we feel about our bodies and the ways we are able to stay connected to who we really are.
The problem with the hectic world we live in, especially in a city like London, is that we’re all so busy going from one place to the next we don’t get time to stop and recalibrate, and we have become used to feeling hyper-active and stressed, so feeling tense is now a normal state. When we slow down to try a yoga class or do some meditation, we are terrified of that stillness because it means we finally have to listen to what’s really going on in our body and many of us aren’t always going to like what comes up.
Prolonged periods of stress can wreak havoc not only on our bodies and our overall health, but also on our emotional well-being. When we are stressed, we’re not breathing fully and deeply, we don’t feel connected, and we make bad decisions, or are sometimes unable to make any decisions at all. That was me for years, stuck in a place of complete indecision, unable to figure out where to go next, but in a lot of emotional and physical pain. I was bored of partying and drinking outside of work but I continued to do it because it blocked out what I didn’t want to hear, which was that I needed to make some drastic changes and fast. What I didn’t realise though, was that I needed to listen to my body and my heart more than I needed to listen to my tired and overworked brain.
Our infinite wisdom actually comes from all of the beauty we possess from the neck down. Our intestines are our second brain, they are a processing organ. Ever heard the phrase, listen to your gut? This is the place in your body that you nourish each day, so if you’re shut off from it, no wonder you feel so stressed and experience digestive issues. And then there’s our heart. Our poor little heart often gets left out of the equation in life, but it’s the most precious and vital organ in the body, so why do we ignore it so much?
Self-love is the practice of learning to love your body and the whole of YOU, just as you are and becoming very connected to your heart and what it needs. As without doing this first, the brain will remain overloaded and guide you in the wrong direction. Getting back in our bodies and listening to our hearts is essential to us being able to tap back into what makes us feel good, turn down the volume on our fears and bullshit, and be able to move forward in life with clarity and assurance.
Self-love isn’t always so poetic; sometimes it’s a nice big triple back flip kick in the ass. You’ve got to call yourself on your own nonsense; on the incredibly efficient way you can be self-destructive. ? Steve Maraboli
Here are some of the ways you can begin to cultivate a daily self-love practice:
Practice Being Grateful for Your Body
Take a few minutes in front of the mirror each morning and practice gratitude for your body. Notice the beautiful things about yourself. If you can’t think of anything at first, stand there each morning until you think of at least one and I promise that eventually the list of things you love and appreciate about yourself, and those around you, will magically grow. Gratitude is a powerful practice and has been scientifically proven to increase our brain’s dopamine production – the hormone that makes us feel all warm and fuzzy.
Be Kind to Yourself
Taking care of your body, treating yourself to a massage, exercising regularly and becoming mindful of what you eat will not only boost your self-confidence, but it’s also the practice of self-care. I recommend beginning a yoga and meditation practice to anyone who has been feeling burnt out. Yoga cultivates unprecedented body-awareness, and finding that stillness whilst breathing into areas of the body that are aching or tired helps you begin to learn to treat your body just as you would a dear friend.
Celebrate Your Individuality
Life is way too short to worry about everything being perfect. It’s all out of our control, and that includes the way we look and come across to others. Stressing out about how to be someone you’re not, at work and anywhere else in life, is exhausting and it’s only a matter of time before your body will hate you for doing that by showing up all kinds of nasty symptoms. Get really curious about the unique qualities that make you beautiful and spend your energy on you, not what someone else wants you to be.
Let Go of Judgement
Sometimes when we are being hard on ourselves and in our deepest moments of insecurity, we can be extremely judgemental of others. It’s a bizarre way of making ourselves feel better, but as we all know it is deeply unkind. Catch yourself the next time you notice you or those around you judging the way other people look or behave, and refrain from joining in with critical gossip if you find yourself surrounded by it or work in a highly competitive environment. Practicing kindness and acceptance towards others is the first step to becoming more mindful about our own thoughts and actions.
Begin to Notice Your Internal Critic
Watch how you talk to yourself. How many times a day do you tell yourself something negative? Would you say these things to your best friend? Start to learn to turn down the volume on your inner critic, swap your negative statements for positive ones, and begin to become your own best friend.