Margot Brews, Head Health Risk Management Strategy at Momentum Health Solutions
As Buddha once said, “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection”. He has been credited with wide-ranging advice about self-love however, a quick Google search about loving yourself yields countless results from various sources. That’s because self-love affects so much of how we view and approach life, as well as loving other people. Yet, we often find it harder to love ourselves in the same way that we love other people.
Why is that? So many of us place value on the “critical-parent” thoughts we entertain, in our minds and put unrealistic pressure on ourselves to be perfect. This obsession makes it hard to accept that we are human and make mistakes – and contributes to a lack of confidence and self-worth that filters into other relationships and parts of our lives. It is a vicious cycle.
But how can we change this toxic relationship with ourselves so that we can appreciate and love ourselves more?
There are a few steps each of us can take:
- A better relationship with yourself starts with the acceptance of fallibility and training your thought patterns for positive change: Once you can accept that you are only human and that you will get it wrong from time to time, as everyone does, it will be easier to forgive yourself and move on when you do. An important part of the ability to accept your own fallibility is to be aware of and proactively guide your thought patterns. Human beings apply cognitive lenses and filters to the world around us – such as optimistic versus pessimistic thinking. If you become aware of your thought patterns and cognitive biases, you will be able to stretch and change them over time. Thought patterns and cognitive filters are like a muscle: they be trained to become developed. Finding and working with an honest, trusted companion or coach will make the process easier because they will be able to provide feedback, as well as identify and overcome blind spots that will help you build your emotional intelligence (EQ).
- You are more than your thoughts – listen to what your body is telling you: Many of us tend to think that our thoughts define us and get stuck in a cycle of listening to our thoughts. That is, of course, a misapplication: thoughts alone do not make a person, because your thoughts can also be harmful and self-destructive. That is where gut instinct and intuition come in – the ability to understand or know something without conscious reasoning. Your body tells you what you need, from sleep to what to eat or when to exercise, so you should listen more closely to what it is saying. Also continue to remind yourself that your body ‘knows’ what is best for you and train yourself to listen and act on what it is saying.
- Self-care is an act of self-love – learn to put yourself first: Life is fast-paced and busy, whether you are chasing work deadlines, shuttling children to school or other activities, cooking dinner, or finding a spare moment to socialise with friends or family. Getting caught up in the daily grind makes it easy to put others’ needs first and forget about your own. This is an area of self-sabotage for many people – but neglecting and failing to take care of yourself means you won’t be able to look after anyone else properly. Self-care needs to be a priority, and you should consciously do the activities that you know restore your equilibrium. This looks different for everyone but could include taking a walk, a relaxing bath, reading a book, meditating, playing a sport, cooking a favourite meal, or spending quality time with a loved one. It’s also important to unravel why you prioritise other things over self-care; a trusted companion or coach can again help with the process, as well as helping you realise that change doesn’t need to be difficult or life-altering. It is about a series of small choices in the moment, which add up to a substantial change in how you feel about and take care of yourself and others.
There is another popular saying that you should love yourself first, because that’s who you will be spending the rest of your life with. It is also true that it is a long journey for many. The good news is that a few slight changes every day can help us all learn to love ourselves – and each other – more. And more love can only ever be a good thing.