Monday, September 5, 2011

Love yourself.

That’s a great hairstyle on you.”
“I HATE my hair; I wish I had long hair like yours.”

“You look great!”
“UGH…. I need to lose xx pounds.”

“Wow, you look really pretty today.”
“Seriously? You must be blind.”

Why is it that we can’t accept compliments?  I have the HARDEST time “believing” them.  Not sure why…pretty ridiculous actually. It shouldn’t be that hard to say “Thank you”.  I have learned while working with others that accepting compliments and positive messages about ourselves is difficult for sooooooo many of us. Instead of graciously accepting the compliment as the verbal gift it is, we hesitate to receive them or deflect or outright reject them.

WHY? Why do we find it so easy to disregard a compliment while taking every mean or critical thing said about us to heart?  We treat ourselves in a way we would never *dream* of treating another person... a stranger, much less a friend. The mental putdowns when we look in the mirror or shop for clothes or get on the scale do not do us any good. Really. Why not be kind and compassionate to ourselves? Simply put, we can’t give what we don’t have. It’s difficult to be genuinely nice to others when we are not nice to ourselves. And it’s difficult to be nice to ourselves when we don’t feel good about ourselves. If this sounds simple, harsh, complex, or like a lot of work, it is. Working on yourself and cultivating your own self-esteem is a lot of work. It’s a full-time job. We will never receive our final certificate of graduation and be told it’s time to stop working on our self-esteem. We will never arrive at a point in life when we make the announcement, “I have plenty of happiness and self-esteem. No more, thank you.” (and why would we ever want to get to that point anyway?)

Eventually, actions become habits, and habits become part of our personality, which builds character and turns us into the type of person we were always meant to be, filled with blissful happiness and purpose. Yes, we should be kind to others. Absolutely, we should not make assumptions about ANYONE we see. And if we do, we should keep our mouths shut. Compassion doesn't cost a thing. It is FREE.  But shouldn't this extend to our self-talk, too? Why is it ok for us to look in the mirror and say, "I'm so FAT! I hate the way I look!" or to look at the scale, stuck on a plateau, and say to ourselves, "I am SUCH a failure! I can't do anything right." Isn't compassion even *more* necessary when dealing with the person we are closest to: ourselves? There is a fine line between enabling and encouraging. If we look at ourselves and say "Oh, it's ok if I don't lose weight. I will do it next week, I am not THAT fat" and use that as an excuse to keep on eating junk and doing nothing to reach the goals we set regarding our weight and health, THAT is enabling. It is putting our heads in the sand so we can eat burgers and milkshakes and still pretend we are happy with ourselves and everything is okay. But if we look at our behavior and say, "Okay, I am proud of what I have done so far but I do need to work harder," that is encouraging. It is a tough thing to learn: loving ones' self without accepting and settling for the things we truly do want to change.

Receiving a compliment is kind of like receiving a hug. When we allow ourselves to absorb positive messages, we might have to change the way we think about ourselves (this is a GOOD thing btw). When we receive a compliment, the appropriate response is to accept the comment for the well-intentioned gesture it truly is with a simple “Thank you.” The compliment-giver may just be right-(no matter what you tell yourself).

We can change our bodies and our lives without beating ourselves up emotionally. It is time to push ourselves, without insulting ourselves.  Try to do better, without discounting the efforts we’ve made already. Look for change while loving the YOU that YOU are *right now.* GOAL: Give yourself some tender loving care this week. You deserve it and so do I.