Over the past few years, self-care and self-love have been buzzwords in our society. Almost everywhere you look, you see something on self-care and loving yourself.
This is not surprising as self-esteem and self-worth are common topics that come up in therapy. Our past experiences, particularly our early life experiences, impact how we think and feel about ourselves and the world around us. Oftentimes, if we have negative experiences, or we think negatively about our experiences, this will lead to lower self-esteem or increase self-doubt. These are social-emotional skills that are not traditionally taught in school (although there is more of a focus on this these days).
Having a low self-esteem or not considering yourself worthy of things impacts us in many ways. It can contribute to depression, anxiety, interpersonal issues, occupational issues, among other things. At the core of a healthy self-esteem is appreciating who we are and loving ourselves despite our imperfections. Although most people are aware of this, the common question in some form is, “How do I go about finding self-love/having a healthy self-esteem?”
I read this quote posted by Tiny Buddha that really resonated with my beliefs on self-love: “Self-love is a constant choice. It’s not a magical feeling that appears to you one day. It’s a commitment to your boundaries, your well-being, your mental and emotional health, and your body.”
I love this because it is a reminder that we have commit to ourselves. Self-love is not something that just shows up out of nowhere and stays. It is an active process. It is intentional. If we actively uphold our boundaries and take care of our overall well-being, self-love and a healthy self-esteem will follow.
So where do you start? Here are some tips to help kickstart your self-esteem/self-love journey:
- Identify your strengths and positive traits/characteristics. This is an activity that is a struggle for many people. For some, it is because it feels weird or silly for them. For others, they feel like they cannot see these things within themselves. Everyone has strengths and positive things about them. If this is hard for you, start with asking loved ones what they see as your strengths and positive traits. (Disclaimer: this is a good place to start, but not to stay. You don’t want to get stuck in the trap of always needing reassurance from others.) You can also become more mindful in your day-to-day life of all that you do and what you do successfully, no matter how small it seems. Make a list and refer to it often.
- Keep a gratitude journal. This is another hot topic these days. There is a reason for this. Neuroscience studies have shown that the brain actually changes when we are grateful. (See: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/prefrontal-nudity/201211/the-grateful-brain) Writing down what you are grateful for daily is ideal, but if that is too much, try just a few days a week. Meet yourself where you are to get started.
- Use positive affirmations or mantras. These can be helpful daily reminders to keep up with your self-love journal. Identify positive affirmations or mantras that work for you. Write them out on post-its and place them where you know you will see them each day. Or set a reminder on your phone with the affirmation. Some suggestions of positive affirmations are: “I am enough,” “Let go and let be,” or “Take one day at a time.”
- Be kind to yourself. We talk to ourselves a lot throughout the day. We have a running dialogue going on in our heads at all times. If we are constantly criticizing ourselves or name-calling, it is no wonder we have a hard time feeling good about ourselves. Try to be kinder to yourself when things don’t go exactly as planned or a mistake is made. As the Buddha once said, “What you think, you become.”
- Do what you enjoy! When we do things we enjoy, we feel good about ourselves. So why not make time each week to do the things we love?
-Laura Massaro, LCSW-C