Love. It starts with you.
Tips for beginning to walk toward self-love and acceptance
Somewhere along my path of personal transformation, I’ve found a self-love and acceptance that brings me peace, joy and a centeredness that grounds me every day. I now love and accept myself exactly as I am — imperfections and all. For real. And that means I am more patient and kind to myself, more forgiving and gentle. And I’ve opened myself up to all kinds of other amazing love as a result.
The coolest part of this is that I’ve traveled here from almost the exact opposite end of the spectrum. From a place of almost unconscious, undetected struggle inside to ever be good enough, smart enough, beautiful enough, strong enough, sexy enough…
Yep, I came from a place that often allowed self-loathing to this amazing new place where I have a deep sense of self-respect, self-care and self-love. There’s a new, stronger and beautiful voice inside me that is able to counter and drown out (most of the time) my inner critic.
This was NOT an easy thing! It was not a one-time event. I can’t even tell you exactly when or how it happened for me. I just know that along the way of my external transformation to lose 200+ lbs, all the while working internally on recognizing, quieting and then changing my internal voice, I literally found myself. My beautiful, amazing, resilient and loving self!
I can also tell you without question that going from a place of self-loathing, striving for perfection, never feeling quite good enough — to this new place of self-love and acceptance — is one of the greatest gift of transformation. It is life changing in almost every way. And I notice and feel the difference every day.
Sometimes we’re cognizant and aware that our internal gremlins, our negative voices, are drowning out the positive and affirmative ones. But for many of us, we get so used to the gremlin voices that we don’t notice, they become our norm and thus affect our self-worth. Sometimes they keep us stuck and living small. I know because for most of my adult life — this is where I lived.
To anyone reading this who can relate, I can tell you without question, those are just gremlin voices inside of you. You are beautiful. You are enough, exactly as you are. And yes, you ARE lovable! But my telling you this isn’t the answer. You have to live into those answers for yourself. Like I did.
All too often, we are our own harshest critique. We would never think or say the things we think and say in our heads to ourselves, to our friends, our children or anyone we cared about. So why do we allow it for ourselves?
I am no expert, but based on personal experience, I know this…
Somewhere, somehow most of heard messages that we weren’t good enough, smart enough, strong enough, beautiful enough, thin enough…and we allowed them into our subconscious. After a time, we began to believe those voices and accept it as truth. And that kept us living stuck and small. We allowed (or are still allowing) those messages to keep us from a bigger and better life, from reaching our greatest potential. For some of us, it was/is this belief keeping us from what we really, really want and desire most. A lack of self-love and acceptance prevents us from creating the happiest, healthiest life we deserve. And often it keeps us from the deepest bonds of true love and connection. In a sad way, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
We didn’t start this way as kids. Most or all of us thought we were invincible, lovable and awesome. We didn’t know any different.
For many people struggling with long-term obesity and/or food addiction issues — our struggle with self-love and acceptance is at the core. It’s not about the weight as much as what’s going on in our heads. We use food (or insert drug of choice) to comfort, to cope, to hide, to… But it is this very belief that holds us back from amazing things and keeps us stuck.
So what is the key to unlocking self-love and acceptance that then opens up to even greater love and happiness in our lives?
How to begin the path to self-love and acceptance?
For me, self-love and acceptance was not a goal or a destination I was seeking but it happened along the way. It started as I became more aware of what I was thinking, feeling and how that was influencing my actions or behavior. Once I became aware of the gremlin voices and the impact it was really having, I was able to start to think about how to counter them. How to treat myself better, etc.
This came with the help of a counselor, and some real internal work. Books like Brene Brown’s, “The Gifts of Imperfection,” helped me better understand that most of us struggle with internal voices of shame, worthiness etc. at some point. It’s what you do when those gremlin voices pop up that really matters.
So here are some of my personal tips for how to cultivate self-love and acceptance. Remember, this is what worked for me and these tips might help you. I am not a psychologist or an expert, but I have personally traveled a long way on the self-love spectrum.
Tips for how to cultivate self-love and acceptance
- Become aware and mindful of what you think, feel and really want. Notice the messages, the “stories” you are telling yourself — when you do something well and when you struggle or fail. Take note of how those messages are serving you (or not). Are these gremlin voices from your past? Be honest. Would you say these things to a friend or loved one, struggling? Would they be true for a loved one? If not, you are probably holding yourself to an unrealistic standard and/or beating yourself up when you can’t/don’t live up.
- Practice self-care. When you begin to take care of your needs — health and happiness wise — the positives start to add up. Generally, you feel better and this means your mind works better. You are perhaps gentler on yourself. For me, it was a snowball affect. The more I took care of myself, the better I felt and the more I wanted to take care of myself. Self-care can often be a direct path to self-love.
- Practice positive self-talk. Note and counter those gremlin voices. When the gremlin voices pop up, take note of them and think about counter messages (affirmations) you can send yourself instead. Work with one or two of those gremlin tapes first and over time you will have some success, and it will likely snowball. I am living proof that you can stop those tapes and start new ones that serve you far better. It takes concentrated practice and time.
- Practice gratitude — with yourself first. Start with thinking about all the things about YOURSELF that you are truly grateful for. Make a list. Make a long list. Make a list and think about it every day. Soon the list of what you are grateful for about you, will be longer than the list of negatives. Really!
- Stop striving for perfection & begin to love and embrace your uniqueness & your imperfections. I broke through on this one thanks to Brene Brown and her amazing books: The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly and Rising Strong. In a blog on perfectionism, Brene writes: “Perfectionism is defeating and self-destructive simply because there is no such thing as perfect. Perfection is an unattainable goal. Additionally, perfectionism is more about perception – we want to be perceived as perfect. Again, this is unattainable – there is no way to control perception, regardless of how much time and energy we spend trying.”
So true. Right? And who do you know who is perfect, really? I think of it this way. Perfection is boring. It really isn’t “cool.” I LOVE my uniqueness and my imperfections because they make me, me. And I love me. Truth. Once you give up striving for perfection, and you accept your imperfections, you begin to live comfortably in your own skin. That is a cool, cool thing. Oh, and you are better able to forgive yourself when you screw up (and you will!) — which is even cooler.
The benefits of loving & accepting yourself first
Why does any of this matter? Because I believe — and it has certainly been true in my life — that when you don’t love and accept yourself, you make it hard for others to truly love you. You hide behind food or another addiction. You keep yourself stuck and small. You give up on your dreams and don’t put yourself out there. And in many ways you are attracting what you put out into the world. Plus, it is a lonely and hard place to be.
What I learned once I started loving myself and practicing self-love and acceptance was that then — and only then — did I attract all kinds of other powerful love into my life. Deep bonds of friendship, romantic love, etc. For me, it all started with me loving myself and thinking I deserved love and affection — of all kinds!
This blog has new meaning today
I started to write this blog in anticipation of the day of love – St. Valentine’s Day. I am a Valentine’s Day baby and LOVE this holiday. I love it because I view it as a reason/excuse to tell everyone I love that indeed I love them. I try to express this often to people in my life, and hope I live it. But I am not perfect, so I don’t always. Valentine’s Day (and I love to celebrate the whole month) is a day to celebrate love. All kinds of love — family love, friendship love, romantic love, pet love, and even self-love.
Today, I am especially touched by sibling love as my sister is in the hospital fighting recovery from a massive stroke on Monday. This week has been about getting reacquainted in a whole new way with my deep love for her; feeling helpless being miles and miles away as I write this; seeing the love of a family pulling together for one of their own; and being embraced by the outpouring of love and prayers from so many people in my life. All of this propels me forward to post this blog that I started pre-stroke.
I truly love all of you, my peeps. Thank you for being here as part of our In the Equation community. May you experience the full depth of self-love and attract all kinds of other amazing love in your lives!
And, Happy Valentine’s Day.