I think part of the reason that health and health promoting behaviors have taken on a negative context in many of our minds is because of an approach that was popular beginning in the 80s to push past our limits in pursuit of “something better”. We adopted this inner voice that was angry and condescending: “pain is weakness leaving the body”, “just do it”, “no pain, no gain”. We picked up this posture that we had to fight against ourselves to make changes because our defaults were bad. The world told us that we were not ok as we were and that if we weren’t pursuing a stronger, smaller, better, faster version of ourselves, what were we even doing?

The conversation is FINALLY starting to shift – and rightfully so. Research shows that self-love can lead to higher self-esteem, more motivation, stronger determination, increased self-awareness, less anxiety, and better sleep – all essential to successful health behavior change. So, how can you cultivate more self-love? These are some things that continue to help me (and I say continue because self-love is definitely an on-going practice).

  1. Separate your self-worth from external things. What the heck does that mean? Often we equate our worth with our appearance, our achievements, or our talents. The truth is, though, that our worth as people is fixed. It does not increase or decrease with body size/shape, steps forward or backward in our careers, or abilities gained or lost. It is static, no matter what. Understanding that is foundational to loving yourself.
  2. Shut down negative self-talk. I’ve told y’all this is a hill I will die on, and I mean it. Your inner dialog with yourself matters SO much. When you switch Negative Nancy off, and instead approach yourself with compassion and curiosity, and dare I say it, positivity, it makes it much easier to build a better relationship with yourself.
  3. Listen to yourself. Listening to your internal cues and honoring what you need is a great way to build trust with yourself. If you’re feeling exhausted, get curious about why that is and try to give yourself what you need, instead of being annoyed that you’re tired and trying to push yourself through.
  4. Practice gratitude. Take a minute or two each day to acknowledge the things you have and the things you can do. Focus on the things that are abundant rather than lacking.
  5. Cultivate your strengths. Take time to get to know what you’re good at, and position yourself to be able to do those things on a regular basis. While it’s good to work on weaknesses too, putting yourself in a place where you are constantly having to work ONLY with your weaknesses can be incredibly demoralizing. Make sure you spending time cultivating your strengths, and using them often.

I had a conversation with a client last week where she said, “I’m at a good place right now. I feel like I appreciate myself exactly as I am right now. I still have this goal I want to meet, but I’m also ok in the space that I’m currently in.” I asked her how that felt. “It feels easy” she said. And that’s the trick to change – reaching the place with yourself where you separate loving yourself from meeting your goal.

So, here are three questions for you to consider: What if I just loved myself for who I am right now? How would things change? If I’m feeling resistant to loving myself as I currently am, where is that resistance coming from?

I invite you to sit with those questions this week and think about your responses. What insights do they give you? What could you apply from those insights right now to move to a more loving place?

If you’re curious about more self-love content, I’ll have more on my Instagram all throughout the month. Looking forward to a great February and I hope it’s full of more self-love!