As small children, many of us had parents, teachers, or other adults tell us that we’re special and that we should feel good about ourselves. Those of us who grew up watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood heard on a daily basis that we make each day a special day by just being ourselves. “There’s only one person in the world like you, and people can like you exactly as you are,” he’d remind us at the end of every episode. And that may have worked for a while, but then we grew up into middle schoolers and teens, and many of us lost that confidence and belief in ourselves. Now, as adults, a lot of us struggle with this. In case you need a quick refresher, here’s how to practice some self-love, self-care, and feel good about yourself, starting today.
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At some point, you started doubting yourself, but it’s time to learn how to trust yourself again. “Believe in your inner resources, no matter what, and you’ll grow from the experience,” Dr. Barton Goldsmith writes at Psychology Today. “I believe that the answers usually lie within and you are probably smart enough to figure out what you need to do. Give yourself a little time and have patience.”
Make Positive Lists About Yourself
Yes, this sounds cheesy, but hear us out. If you’re someone who likes to make lists — whether they’re pros and cons, shopping lists or to-do lists — try making one of all of your positive attributes. “Rereading and rewriting your list from time to time will help you feel good about yourself,” Helen Nieves, a licensed mental health counselor writes at Psych Central. “Make a list of your strengths, the things you admire about yourself, your achievements and accomplishments. Focus on the positive things. If negative thoughts about yourself creep up, reread your positive affirming list.”
Don’t Get Caught Up in Negative Thoughts
When it comes to our thought patterns, it can be very easy to spiral. You start by thinking about one negative thing and before you know it, you’ve imagined a whole scenario where your life is in shambles. Try not to do that. “Your thinking will never be 100 percent positive,” Goldsmith writes. “You must learn to dismiss the negative thoughts and stay open to other ideas that will help you move in a positive direction. Start recognizing negative thoughts and use your mind to quell them.”
Of course this is easier said than done especially during quarantine when our interaction with our family, friends, and co-workers is limited to Slack discussions and spotty Zoom chats. The revolving stream of bad news doesn’t help either. Take the time to decompress, don’t obsess over the news, and set up social distancing dates with friends if it’s safe. By taking small steps to eschew the negative forces and influences in our life, we can shed the negativity, layer by layer.
Come Up With Positive Affirmations
Again, this may sound a little too Stuart Smalley for you, but it can actually be really helpful to have a personal affirmation or two in your mental arsenal for the next time you’re feeling a little down. If you’re not familiar with affirmations, they are positive statements you make about yourself to make you feel good. “Some statements may include ‘Many people like me,’ ‘I take good care of myself by eating right and doing things I enjoy,’ ‘I am smart and beautiful,’ ‘I am a good person,’” Nieves writes. “Keep your list in a handy place and reread it over and over again. By rereading them and rewriting them over and over again will gradually become true to you.”
In addition to positive affirmations, consider starting a gratitude journal and start slowly. Make a list of things you’re thankful for, like your health, having food on the table, shelter, a loving family, supportive friends. You’ll see it puts things into perspective when you get down to the positive minutia.
Acknowledge That Disappointment Is a Part of Life
No matter how successful we may be, we all know the feeling of being disappointed. But instead of trying to ignore that feeling and pushing it away, Goldsmith suggests using it to remind yourself that disappointment is a completely normal — and necessary — part of life. “Even the most successful people have to deal with disappointment, but they’ve learned how to use it to get to the next level of life,” he writes. “The trick is to process your feelings, then take some kind of action.”
Ask Someone Else
Sometimes it is hard to look in the mirror and love yourself. Tons of people will tell you that they don’t like the sound of their own voice. And writers are often their own biggest critics. While we shouldn’t need validation from society or anyone else, it never hurts to get it, if you can. Find the best friend who loves your laugh or jokes about your boobs being better than theirs. Tell them you’re having a rough time. Just like you take time to lift up your loved ones, never be too embarrassed to expect the same in return. Send the flirty or sexy snapchat to your partner or the random guy you often flirt with all the time. Wear your favorite outfit and use the most outrageous filter you can find. They’ll love it and they’ll tell you so. It will take time to believe their compliments. But, the more you let them try, the easier it will be to hear them and eventually know they’re true.
We all carry some shame and regret about our past mistakes with us, but in order to truly move on we have to learn how to forgive ourselves for our transgressions, be they big or small. Think of past mistakes as learning experiences you can learn from, stop dwelling on it, and allow yourself to move away from it. We are always our harshest critics, so be kinder to yourself along your healing process.