We have all heard it before, "love yourself", "love the skin you're in", "because you're worth it", but in reality do any of these things actually sink in and change the way you perceive yourself?
Well, speaking from my own experience... no, it never changed a thing. It didn't matter how many people told me I was beautiful, smart or that I had a beautiful body, if I didn't actively choose and train myself to believe this about myself, it never made the slightest difference to the opinion I held of myself.
So in this blog I would like to share with you all 5 of my favourite ways to overcome moments when i'm finding it hard to love myself... my whole self, body, mind & soul.
You're probably thinking "what do you mean train myself to love myself?", well to answer that you have to understand the level and depth in which insecurities, negative body image and low self-esteem stem from.
Feelings, opinions and perceptions we make of ourselves is a collection of experiences, memories and potentially traumas absorbed over a lifetime that have slowly shaped what we call a 'belief system'. This belief system is comprised of subconscious thoughts and emotions that are entangled with things from the past and it is through this belief system that we manage to bring them into the present by affirming that that is how we see ourselves. Sound all a little complicated? Let me simplify it by giving an example...
.... A young vulnerable girl in school grew up in a happy family, she was shown a lot of love and attention from her parents, she was well looked after and always told she was beautiful, she was very happy growing up. But when she went to high school she was a little bigger than the other girls, the girls at school would leave her out, call her names and make fun of her weight, this was extremely traumatic for her as she couldn't understand why if she really was beautiful, like she had always been told, why would she be treated this way? So she started to believe what the girls said about her. It began to manifest in her like a virus until she became so unhappy in herself that she began to destroy herself. She started picking apart her body in the mirror, shaming what she saw. She started to eat less and exercise excessively, she was feeding and building a destructive belief system that thrived on negativity and hurt.
This is how it starts, and years down the track she might forget about the girls at school and what they said, she might not even remember their names or the way they made her feel, but the belief system she created all those years ago would still be alive and strong and if left unchecked would begin to negatively effect many areas in her life today.
To stop this process we must understand that we need to heal, we must confront the past, forgive, let go and start again creating healthy & positive thoughts and feelings about ourselves.
So without anymore delay let's get straight into how you can break the bonds of the past, whatever they may be, and start loving yourself again today!
1 - Release your attachments to the past
Have you ever been hurt? Abused? Teased? Been through something traumatic where you felt completely out of control? Maybe you have never experienced any of these things but there is something in you that has never felt complete, and so for that you punish yourself, think you are not good enough the way you are, you believe everything will be perfect if you could just lose that weight. Well, stop right there! You couldn't be more wrong.
The first step to happiness and self-love is realizing that it is not a destination. It is not something that can be achieved in the future it is something only accessible to you right now, because essentially life is only a series of moments happening right now! So before becoming completely present, I want you to go back to a time that triggers a painful memory, I want you to look at that person (or even at yourself if you feel guilt for something you did) and instead of casting blame, try and show understanding and forgiveness to that person. Be compassionate and look through what they did and see the issues that lie within in themselves in order for them to act in a way that may cast pain onto somebody else. This is not judgement, this is understanding, understanding why someone may act a certain way without blaming them for being that way.
Forgiveness is not saying that whatever happened to you was okay, its understanding that holding onto that memory serves you no purpose here in the present other than to strengthen a false sense of self and to keep the ego and your suffering in place.
Do this process for as many painful memories as you can and when you are done, proceed to my next step.....
2 - Accept your body, let go of guilt and be present
As once said by the wise and enlightened Eckhart Tolle, "Forgive yourself for not being at peace. The moment you accept your non-peace, your non-peace becomes transmuted into peace. Anything you accept fully will get you there, will take you into peace. This is the miracle of surrender."
One of the first steps to moving forward is accepting where you are right now and understanding that being there is OK! You cannot move forward and make progress if you are still beating yourself up for eating that cupcake yesterday, or for not working out over the weekend. The only way to love yourself is to accept that you are human, you're going to slip up, but instead of becoming overwhelmed by guilt, understand that every second you are alive you are free to make a new decision for your life. You can change the course of your life right now, this second, just by deciding whole heartedly, that from this point forward, that's what you really want.
So stop judging yourself, you are not a bad person for letting yourself go, you are not ugly because you don't have ripped abs, you have so much to give to this world if only you let yourself see it!
3 - Be kind to yourself - and to others for that matter
Ever heard of the saying, change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change? Well, it could not be more true or more powerful when over coming negative body image.
The way you see other people is often an outer reflection of how you see yourself. So if you are constantly in a state of judgement, comparison, separation from people around you, you are very likely to be just as critical of yourself. This only feeds self hate, unhappiness and loneliness. If in your mind, or even out loud you can begin to compliment someone else, with out jealousy or anger, you will slowly be destroying the ego within you allowing space for more positive and uplifting thoughts. You'll be surprised how much letting go of bitterness and looking at others in a new light will effect the way you feel about yourself.
4 - Forget the diet hype and have PATIENCE
Did you know that 95% of people that start a diet, not only gain back the weight they originally lost but often gain more than they originally lost? Trust me, i'm speaking from first hand experience here and it's true! It's a destructive road that can lead to obsessive relationships with food, the potential to form eating disorders, and an increased chance of getting caught up in the cycle of deprivation and overindulgence - also known as binge eating. This creates a slippery slope to physical and mental health issues that include depression, irritability, anxiety, digestive problems and metabolic syndrome.
If you are overweight, out of shape, want to take up running or cycling, want to build more lean muscle mass or simply wish to feel good in that little black dress you bought – know that progress takes time. So please, before trying out the next fad diet that promises to help you lose 10kg in 2 weeks, think long term and choose the old school method of eating a healthy balanced diet and participating in regular exercise.
In other words... Never start a diet or exercise routine that you can't sustain for the rest of your life. Make it a lifestyle and you'll have it forever!
5 - Listen to your body - it does not lie
Probably one of the hardest of all my tips so far, it takes time and practice to become so in-tune with your body that you know what it really needs, but with some trial and error you will get there, all you have to do is pause and think when that craving hits!
Don't allow guilt and regret to creep back into your life after working so hard to let it go, identify your triggers that cause you to turn to food, and overcome comfort eating once and for all!
Craving sugars & caffiene
Sometimes when we are lacking in energy and feel like our body is dragging we begin to crave sugars, simple carbohydrates and caffiene to pick us back up. This is usually due to low blood sugar levels and will be noticed first with, "oh I really need a coffee i'm so tired," "i'm craving chocolate" or "I really need something sweet!", but don't fall victim to eating unhealthy food because of a false craving. Instead make a meal with complex carbohydrates, what I mean by that is carbohydrates that are low GI and are slowly released into your system, keeping your blood sugar levels stable and providing prolonged energy over a longer period of time. These carbohydrates can be found in foods like brown rice, sweet potato & natural plain oats for just a few examples. You will find your sugar cravings subside and you are left feeling satisfied, nourished & on your way to better health.
Get to know yourself
Before waiting for a craving to hit, try and look at your previous patterns and ask yourself the following questions:
Do I eat more when i'm feeling stressed?
Do I eat when i'm not hungry or when i'm already full?
Do I eat to feel better (to calm and soothe myself when i'm sad, mad, bored, anxious, etc.)?
Do I reward myself with food?
Do I regularly eat until i've stuffed myself?
Does food make me feel safe? Do I feel like food is a friend?
Do I feel powerless or out of control around food?
Once answered, use this information to identify whenever these triggers may be influencing you to eat unnecessarily.
Trading in comfort eating for mindful eating
For others like me this is a big one! Understanding the difference between hungry and bored, or hungry and stressed is extremely important if you trying to be fit, healthy and happy. Emotional eating is turning to food for comfort, stress relief, or as a reward rather than to satisfy hunger.
Don't feel powerless when it comes to comfort eating, although it seems to take control of you in reality just a little mindfulness will help you overcome it.
Mindful eating is a practice that develops your awareness of eating habits and allows you to pause between your triggers and your actions. You can then change the emotional habits that have sabotaged your diet in the past.
So to be mindful of feeling hungry is to ask yourself a few questions before diving into the pantry for a snack.
First and foremost - "Do I actually FEEL hungry?" If the answer is no, walk away and go find something to distract you and keep your mind occupied with something you enjoy.
If the answer is yes ask yourself - "Am I dehydrated?". Alot of the time when we are craving food, our body is actually telling us it is dehydrated and would really love some water, that is why sometimes when we eat we never feel satisfied and continue to eat because what we really needed all along was some water. So before snacking drink a large glass of water wait a few minutes and see how you feel. "Am I still hungry?" If the answer is no, walk away and take another cup of water with you and get hydrated! ;) If the answer is yes - get creative and make a healthy meal that you will ENJOY! A healthy meal will leave you feeling light, nourished, satisfied and healthy, but most importantly you will feel accomplished for taking all the necessary steps to overcome the frustrating habit of emotional eating!
At the end of the day, the truth is we often look for ourselves in all the wrong places. Asking everyone else, except ourselves, questions which we, and only we could answer. We go through life wasting time and energy in attempts to impress people whos opinion makes no difference to our lives, and all the while compressing characteristics of ourselves that have the potential to bring so much, into someone else's world.
So instead of leaving your true self buried behind layers fear, judgement, low self-esteem, and anger, have the courage to reach deep, love who you are, and walk out confidently in the outfit of your own skin. After all you are what you believe yourself to be!