When we begin to cultivate an appreciation for ourselves we can uncover our brilliance, our light and our strengths. In the face of difficulties instead of succumbing to dark thoughts, self-flagellation, guilt and shame we can use our strength to uncover joy, awareness and skilful action.
Here are ways to drop our daily life struggles and the constant desire to improve and instead, embrace yourself for who you are, for the challenges you face and the experiences you have.
Here are some ways you can begin to cultivate an appreciation for ourselves:
- Be your own friend: during difficult times if you can imagine a part of you sitting and being there for yourself, if you can imagine that you were your own best friend sitting beside you, watching, and being witness to the challenges of the moment, you will be able to begin a practice of accepting yourself, your emotions and in turn others. Many times when I am having a tug of war with my toddler or in a difficult place with work I imagine sitting by myself, being there, being a witness to my struggle. This powerful yet simple practice brings me to the present moment, allows me to be witness to my struggle and in turn my toddlers. I begin to see myself and others more compassionately as a result my challenges feel less scary or overwhelming.
- See yourself through the eyes of someone who loves you: Out of frustration, when I behave harshly with my toddler, of want to shut out the world because I am feeling overwhelmed, I channel the love my father would shine on me in this situation. Sometimes, I think about what my husband would say. Seeing yourself and your struggles through the eyes of someone who loves you immediately allows you shift your focus. You become kinder to yourself and also to those around you. You start to appreciate the work you are doing and the path you have chosen to live. This powerful practice helps you see yourself as being both empowered but also vulnerable, a wonderful combination.
- Give yourself a mental hug, a pat on the back or the caressing of a loved one: When I am on the treadmill running the last 10 minutes, when I feel like giving up on an especially hard project I’ve taken up, I visualize that I am giving myself a hug. When I feel that I cannot run that three more minutes on the treadmill, I imagine giving myself a foot massage and this love that I shower on myself and the gentle support I give to myself helps me go that extra mile or complete (with utter gentleness) the project Ive been dreading to get to. Remember to be there for yourself, when it seems dreadful or fearful to go that extra mile, coax yourself with utter gentleness to be brave.
- Acknowledge your goodness: Seeing the good in ourselves especially, looking at what “good” qualities inhabit within us can be a challenging task, more so when we find ourselves falling short of what we think we should have done instead. To begin with, become aware of one of your lovely qualities manifest during the day and acknowledge its presence and sink into the joy of inhabiting in that quality. As you read this, think about your goodness and sink into its beauty. You may find that you are resilient, perseverant, gentle, caring. Discover your goodness and sink into its beauty.
- Practice gratitude towards yourself: Every night, begin to cultivate a practice of thinking about one thing you are grateful for yourself and also answer why that thing about you makes you feel gratitude. It could be that today you woke up early and got a lot done before the kids woke, you may be grateful for that because it shows that you are committed to your work and also want to make sure you have single-minded time with children. Write this down and let the why (commitment to work and children) sink in, and enjoy and appreciate yourself for this. With a daily practice of gratitude towards yourself you will uncover a reservoir of strength that you posses-a treasure trove for difficult times.
Cultivating an appreciation for ourselves allows for freedom in our thoughts and actions. Moreover, an appreciation for ourselves only leads to appreciation for the other wonderful people in our lives. Begin small and begin today.
I will leave you with this wonderful video by Kristen Neff on three components to Self-Compassion: