Learning to Love Yourself
“You, yourself, just as much as anyone in the entire universe deserves your love and affection.”- Buddha
I want to talk about two things that play directly into loving yourself: self-esteem and self-compassion.
So what is Self-Esteem? Self-Esteem is an overall view of your self-worth or personal value. Various things can affect your self-esteem: genetics, experience, personal thoughts, illness, media messages, culture or religion, and your status in society.
Why is it important to have a positive self-esteem? Low self-esteem causes you to be depressed, less motivated, fear failure, and have difficultly accepting feedback.
On the other hand, too high of self-esteem causes you to have an inflated sense of self, makes you unmotivated, and destroys relationships. The goal, then, is to find the happy balance in between these. Here are some things that will help you reach this medium:
You need to recognize is perfection is not attainable. Unfortunately, we are all human. We all make mistakes. Even in the things we consider ourselves to excel at. However, this doesn’t mean we can’t strive to become better. We may never reach perfection, but this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue reaching goals and improving ourselves. Once we make our goals attainable and accept we are not perfect, we will more likely to achieve these goals. “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”- John Steinbeck.
Stop comparing other people’s strengths to your weaknesses. Everyone is born with different aptitudes and talents. This doesn’t mean you can never learn to do similar things, but don’t expect it to be as easy for you as it was for them. This doesn’t mean you are any less than that person, it just means you have different strengths. Instead of looking at it like a competition, look at it as an opportunity to learn a new skill or develop a new talent. You don’t need to be Mozart to play the piano well.
Understand you can only control people’s opinions of you to a certain extent. Yes, you can control how you act and speak, but after that, it’s entirely up to that person to make an opinion. If you’ve been respectful, kind, and sincere there is nothing else you can do.
Do not form an opinion of yourself based on a single quality. If you focus on one flaw or one strength, your self-image is going to be flawed. Just as one carrot does not make a salad, one fault or strength does not a person complete. Everyone, yourself included, is made up of individual strengths and weaknesses and they differ from person to person. Don’t limit yourself. “It’s not what you are that is holding you back. It’s what you think you are not.”-Anonymous
A better way to look at your weaknesses or imperfections is to look at them as a problem that has a solution. Instead of saying, “I’m a horrible friend” you can say “When my friends ask to hang out and I don’t want to go, I make up an excuse”. This way, you’ve broken down and identified what you are doing that “makes you a horrible friend” and you are able to come up with solutions to this problem. Another thing to watch out for is the words “never” or “always”. Sometimes, you do better than other times. It’s good to give yourself credit for when you’ve improved even just a little bit.
“Self-Compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to other.” -Christopher Germer. According to Forget Self-Esteem by Heidi Halvorson PhD, there are some problems associated with Self-Esteem. According to the article, self-esteem is based on the belief that you are “perfectly awesome” and because you believe you must be “perfectly awesome” you are afraid to make mistakes. When you do make mistakes you become devastated and, as a defense, refocus your attention on things you do well and stroke your ego. Not admitting your mistakes and learning from them, however, is not a recipe for success.
Instead, it is argued that self-compassion is the key for unlocking success. Self-compassion involves looking at your mistakes and shortcomings with kindness and understanding. This does not mean giving yourself a break or cutting yourself slack. It means seeing mistakes for what they are and instead of beating yourself up for them, learning from them. In studies, it was shown that those who practice self-compassion are more likely to see their weaknesses as changeable. Therefore, they were able to make the requisite adjustments.
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Showing yourself compassion and building your self-esteem in a positive way by recognizing both your faults and strengths will help you love yourself more. Loving yourself will increase motivation, increase success, and increase happiness. So why not try it?
“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” -Lucille Ball
Here are some other articles and videos about Self-Esteem and Self-Compassion:
See Yourself as a Whole Rather than in Parts
Self-esteem check: Too low or just right?
5 Ways to Train Your Brain and Boost Your Self-Esteem
Never Good Enough. How to feel better about who you are.