The path to self-love was fraught with second guessing.
“Learning to love yourself, It is the greatest love of all” – Whitney Houston, Greatest Love of All
Learning to love yourself as the imperfect being you are sometimes ain’t easy to do, but do it we must for the sake of healthy personal relationships and our ability to make smart, healthy choices.
After all, if you can’t love and respect yourself, how can you expect others to do it?
And I’m not talking about vanity or narcissism, I’m talking about the kind of self-love that spurs you to make healthy life choices and treat yourself with loving kindness. Experts say developing a healthy level of self-esteem will help us to be less sensitive and more able to accept constructive criticism, express ideas in a calm way, be less dependent and more likely to have our needs met.
We’ll also inevitably be much healthier, happier humans, thus improving and strengthening our personal relationships. Maybe it’s a hard life lesson that comes in your 30s – at least, it was for me.
The minute I truly learned to be comfortable in my own skin and accept and enjoy my singleton status, I met my husband soon after.
Coincidence? I don’t think so. But it was a hard-fought lesson; instead of looking for someone to fill a void – a self-love deficit, if you will, as I had done in the past – I made the conscious decision to really work on developing my inner happiness and self-love on my solo journey.
A clinical psychologist, who wishes to remain anonymous, says our level of self-love is inevitably shaped by childhood upbringing and experiences, as well as personality traits.
“Life can be difficult for someone who has low self-esteem, for example: someone who doesn’t like him/her self, judges him/herself harshly and expects bad things to happen often. Expectations of negativity can be self-fulfilling, so if you anticipate that there will be lots of criticism and stuff-ups in your life, then these things will often happen. You’ll question your own judgement and will consequently make poor decisions that lead to negative outcomes,” she says.
“Conversely, if you have a healthy level of self-esteem, you’ll be able to face the challenges and difficulties that life throws at you in a positive way. You’ll have more faith in your own choices and decisions. You’ll be able to assertively stand up for your rights without being aggressive and without allowing yourself to be taken advantage of or pushed around. You’ll feel comfortable with who you are and like yourself, so you’ll be less susceptible to depression and anxiety.”
But how do we foster such self-love and inner confidence if it’s lacking? Here are some handy expert pointers:
- Be kind to yourself. If something goes wrong, don’t beat yourself up. Ask yourself what you could have done differently and determine to do better next time.
- Avoid people who pull you down – those who are critical and negative towards you. Seek out people whose company you enjoy and in whose presence you feel good about yourself.
- Give yourself positive messages, don’t self-criticise. If you find yourself thinking negative thoughts about yourself, such as: “I’m always messing up, I’ve failed again”, challenge this and change your thinking to something more positive like: “I’ve made a mistake, but what can I learn from this? How can I do better in this situation next time?”
- Learn to see difficulties as problems to be solved rather than catastrophes. Develop your problem-solving skills and you’ll have more confidence in yourself and your ability to cope with difficult situations, thereby developing your self-esteem as a result.
Of course, if this all seems too difficult to achieve on your own, seek help from a professional relationship counsellor or psychologist.
Images, in order, via www.thetruthaboutbeauty.co.uk; www.freespiritgirl.com and pixabay.com.
In need of a some new books to help change your perception on life? Who doesn’t! Sometimes we all require a little extra guidance, and the best way to get some is to sit back and relax with a self-help book.
Choosing just one book to start can feel a little daunting at first, but we have hand-picked some of our favourites for you below.
The Kindness Pact, Domonique Bertolucci
8 promises to make you feel good about who you are and the life you live. A great book if you’re unsure of where to start and need to reflect on your own actions.
Six Pillars of Self Esteem, Nathaniel Branden
If your self esteem needs a reality check, then this straightforward book is the best one for you. It clearly explains how anyone can master great self confidence at any age.
10% Happier, Dan Harris
Who else is a victim of their thoughts, even at the best of times? Take control of your life and make your thoughts work with you, rather than against you. A delightful little read on how to make the most of your life.
Stop Procrastinating and Get Things Done, Adrian Tannock
As women, we often have more than we bargained for on our daily schedule. If you’re always leaving everything to the eleventh hour, this will will change your views on almost everything.
The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook, Martha Davis
Finding it hard to practice what you preach? This interactive workbook will help to realise your goals and make the most of what you read, without making it feel like a waste of time.
What are some of your best self-help books?
Image via Womens Health Mag, Buzzfeed
“You can do anything if you put your mind to it.” How many times have you heard that in your life? It’s usually from older relatives, who you don’t want to admit have life experience and may actually be onto something, but if you’re looking to motivate yourself to achieve a particular goal, you should listen to their wise words.
Whether it’s getting back into the gym, renovating your house or changing your career, motivation can often be hard to gather, especially when you’re tired, busy or comfortable. But we should always be challenging ourselves to go above and beyond, so here are our top tips to get motivated!
Write it down
Write down what it is you want to achieve so that you have a clear goal in mind. Once you’ve written that down, add in smaller steps that can build up to your goal, for example, if you’re looking to lose five kilograms, your steps would start with things like easing yourself off naughty food and going doing some form of exercise three times per week for one month. When you break down a bigger task into smaller ones, it makes it more manageable and you’re more likely to try and complete the steps.
Write down why you want to achieve your goal as well. You could accompany this with pictures that you find inspiring. This may help you when you’re a bit lost and feel like giving up. Knowing why you want to do something and having this written down reminds you of the end result and how you’ll feel, which is the most important part.
Get a planner
Planning your day is a key part of achieving your goal. Putting a small amount of time, even ten minutes into working towards your goal makes you focus on it more and can make you want to work harder. Planning your day also gives you better time management which will give you more free time to work towards what you’re after and also have some me-time.
Leave some time to enjoy yourself. What you are motivating yourself for should be your passion, but you still need time to relax and recuperate. Letting go and having fun will help you to unwind, which will make you available to work harder to achieve your goals.
Make healthy decisions
No matter what your goal is, you should always be treating your body with respect and fuelling it efficiently for you to function. Eating healthy, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly will make you feel great, improve your energy and get you in the great mood that you need to get working.
Invest in the right tools
Make your environment supportive of your goal. By investing in the right tools, such as a computer or a gym membership, you are empowering yourself to go ahead. A great environment will have you itching to use your great tools, which will in turn, achieve great results. Not having efficient tools can kill your motivational drive.
Image via motivateplay.com
Women generally aren’t comfortable talking about self-pleasure. Yes, I’m talking about masturbation, but it’s so much more than that. It involves being in control and exploring our own physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual and sexual needs. Many women don’t prioritise or give themselves permission to experience it.
Men have this naturally inbuilt and more importantly, self-pleasure is approved and encouraged by society. They participate and watch a range of sports and leisure activities, create private spaces for themselves like “man caves” and are given permission to sexually explore their own bodies and be sexual beings.
Despite women sharing this need most will need to teach themselves. Society has taken a strong position about women experiencing self-pleasure. Our mothers and the generations before them weren’t taught and many never experienced it. Their entire lives were based on the premise that they were born to serve and satisfy others.
Modern women need to learn about self-pleasure and pass this knowledge down to the next generation. We need to encourage them to fully explore themselves and open themselves up to life’s possibilities. Hopefully generations to come will be educated and empowered, encouraging self-pleasure to be approved by society, regardless of gender.
So, to start with, many women neglect self-pleasure by simply not allowing themselves alone or quiet time. This should be an essential part of each day. Concentrate on your breathing and heartbeat, allow thoughts to flow through your mind like clouds being swept away by the wind. Allowing yourself this time steadies, calms and rejuvenates the body, mind and spirit.
Women should also create a space as their our own private sanctuary. When we need alone time we need to give ourselves permission to go there and breathe in the peace and stillness. The experience should be similar to taking a nice, long, uninterrupted bath with no technology or other distractions.
Another element of self -pleasure is doing simple things for yourself. Women are instinctive nurturers and often this takes preference over caring for themselves. To achieve it, it can be as simple as taking time to read or going out into the garden with a cuppa and literally taking time to smell the roses.
Then there’s the element of physical self-pleasure. This includes touch and masturbation. We need to learn about how our bodies and brains work and offer ourselves permission to explore our sexual thoughts, fantasies, wants and desires. We should know what body parts react to what types of touch, what we like and what turns us on. Most importantly, women need to ignore society’s condemnation concerning their sexual and erotic self and lead a charge into a new and improved way of thinking.
This change of mindset is urgently required. Currently, many male partners feel responsible for their ladies sexual pleasure. In reality, they aren’t. Women should know how to bring themselves to orgasm, be fully in control of their sexuality and remove sexual pressure from their partners.
This shift will empower women and take sexual pressure off men to “perform”. Sex should be about experience, not performance. Women should be responsible for their own sexual gratification and self-pleasure will help them achieve this. This will level the equilibrium that women aren’t responsible for their sexual satisfaction and that men’s sexual experience be based on performance.
Image via gfx.aftonbladet-cdn.se
How much time do you spend thinking about yourself during sex? And I don’t mean in the positive way. Do you have sex in certain positions because it’s more flattering, or sometimes find yourself seeing how your body looks through the eyes of your partner? Ever worried about how your belly looks while you’re getting busy? You might be engaging in habitual body monitoring.
Confidence is like oxygen, it affects us without us even knowing, and when we’re running low on it, our brains don’t work too well. Frankly, it’s a fact of life that we will be judged upon our appearance, but when we start judging ourselves about how we look it can have dire consequences. Excessive self-monitoring not only attacks your confidence, but affects your ability to think critically and can devastate your sex drive.
A way you can tell if you’re body monitoring, is to be aware of your thoughts: do you often see yourself through the eyes of someone else, or change your posture/clothes etc. in case you’re being looked at? Do you spend a lot of time concerned about a specific area of your body such as your thighs, belly or breasts – thinking how they could be better and ways to improve them?
These thoughts can significantly inhibit your ability to become sexually aroused and enjoy physical pleasure; after all, confidence and good sex are inextricably linked, so if you want to have better sex, you need to work on your state of mind first.
Body monitoring has serious consequences beyond the bedroom, with links to depression, anxiety and eating disorders. If you feel it’s affecting your life, look into it and talk to someone. There are some habits you can develop to help you ditch the criticism:
- Recognise when you’re seeing yourself as someone else would see you or focusing on your body in parts to be critiqued
- Re-evaluate your perception, consider your positive attributes and achievements rather than your appearance
- Resist the urge to critically evaluate others from their appearance (this reinforces self-monitoring)
Studies have shown anxiety about your physical appearance influences your ability to become aroused both physically and mentally. Which is understandable: it’s hard to have fun doing the horizontal hula if you’re too busy worrying about your wobbly bits. Our sexual desire is hugely impacted by our perception of ourselves and how we think others see us. So if we’re spending all our time worrying about how we look, we’re never going to get the perks of satisfying hanky-panky.
Sex reduces stress, it builds intimacy, bombards you with feel-good chemicals and it’s meant to be fun! It can cure headaches, reduce depression, lower blood pressure and improve sleep. It’s a good thing, and it’s made to be enjoyed, and you deserve to enjoy it. Not because you spent a fortune on lacy lingerie that pushes you up and holds you in at right places, but because it’s a lovely thing and you’re a physical being and you deserve to feel awesome. So if you want better sex, it’s starts with your brain.
Kate Jones blogs about writing and pop culture at Calvicle Capitalism.
Have you ever monitored your daily bitching?
I recently tried a bitch-free month where I was forbidden to speak or write in negative terms about anyone. Oh, how virtuous and high horsey of you, I hear you groan. Perhaps my motivations began being slightly high horsey, but what I discovered about the power behind trash talk was bigger than I thought.
Let me say, it was an extremely challenging mission and took colossal amounts of will and determination to curb my relentless enthusiasm for negative natter. Initially I thought that eliminating my trash talk about other people would be as simple as just stopping the behaviour, but then it dawned on me that some relationships I had with certain people were based on trash talk. It didn’t seem like bitching and if we stretched the truth we could certainly say we were just ‘bouncing ideas about other people off each other’.
Yet the truth of it was, it was negative and served no one, especially not us. It was a petty waste of time born from some shameful attempt at trying to make us feel better about ourselves by judging other people.
Beyond the obvious sentiments that bitching is no good for anyone, and that women will never gain equality until we stop talking about each other behind each other’s backs; I discovered much more.
After attempting to stop engaging in any negative speak about people, I began to censor all of my communication. “Does this sound negative?”…“could that be construed as bitching?” It wasn’t just people I had to stop talking about, I realised it was everything: events, work situations, family matters and even my depressing view of current politics. Analysing the tone and content of my texts, emails and phone calls was a very sobering exercise. Even when I was not speaking negative about anyone, a hint of complaint, blame and judgment was lurking and wanting to nuzzle into conversations. This was huge.
The ‘aha’ moment came to me when after just a few days of not speaking negatively about things; my attitude began to change about my life in current time. My world became a nicer place.
I am not one who believes that we should only have positive thoughts. An ability to judge the world around us is a survival skill that no one should abandon. However, there comes a point when our addiction to negativity could potentially be the cause of us not getting what we truly want.
“If we fall into the habit of bitching and whinging, we start to believe our own spin, this then shapes our brain so we then process all of the input into our brain through a negative bitching lens,” says psychologist Jodi Nilsson.
So, it’s by no means some mystical energetic realm that by positive thoughts bring positive outcomes, but something more simplistic. We do create our own reality via our own thoughts.
If you find yourself judging, bitching or complaining, just stop for a while and see what happens.
Do you think society bitches and complains too much?
Deanna Coleman is the founder of eco news and sustainable food website Cook My Way.