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Talk About It: Love Yourself

THE INSPIRATIONAL INTRO

  I have started a thousand diets in my lifetime and almost none of them were started because I felt good about myself. Which is odd, because this means that during these diets any time I exercised or ate healthy I was doing it because I felt ashamed that I didn't fit into a mainstream ideal of "sexy". And when I had a bad week or felt like the diet wasn't going far enough fast enough I'd throw it all in and bury myself in ice cream and whiskey. I had this backwards, so backwards. The driving force behind the dieting was always a nagging feeling that I wasn't skinny enough or sexy enough. And so I came to associate healthy eating and exercise with punishment, something that I had to "put myself through" to get into those damn skinny jeans. The fact is, however, that healthy eating and exercising were good for my body. They didn't punish my body, they helped it, they made me healthier and gave me a better quality of life. And if I'd only just reversed my thinking, if I'd respected myself instead of reprimanding myself, the irony is that I wouldn't have needed the diets. Because I'd have realized that my body was important, that I was important, and I would have eaten healthy and exercised because these were good things that my body deserved.

  This isn't really an article about dieting. It's about reassessing how we treat ourselves. Whether that's in the health department or whether it's mentally, spiritually, financially, in relation to our careers or homes or relationships. We want the good stuff, we want the bodies and the relationships and the success. But why? What are our motives? It's great to want to be fit, but are we working for that because we feel like we're not good enough as we are? Or because we genuinely see that that is something good for our well-being? Does it matter? Yes. Think of someone you don't really like and think of someone you love. Who are you more likely to do something for?


WHAT WE CAN DO

  How we see ourselves informs our attitudes and infiltrates our whole lives. We are more inhibited when we don't respect ourselves, we think our opinions don't matter, or that we are aren't smart enough to have opinions. We think that our voices aren't worth hearing and so we are less likely to speak up about issues that are important to us.

  And I know, I know firsthand, that "loving ourselves" is way, way easier said than done. I didn't just wake up one day and go "I think I'll stop dieting and just start respecting myself". It is a constant battle to reshape a mentality that took thirty years for me to build, so I know that it's hard. But I'll be damned if I don't fight for it. I might not know your story, how you feel or why you feel the way you do, but I do know that you are not alone. That all of us, me included, have our days where we battle with self-doubt and insecurity and the nagging thought that in some ways we might not be enough. The person next to you on the bus battles with it, your boss battles with it, your best friend battles with it, people who seem to have it all battle with it. There's no quick fix or easy solution. There's no such thing. Because think about it, when you really love someone, whether it be your friends or your family or partner, whoever, it is an ongoing acceptance of who they are. You don't love them because they're perfect and because they have it all together, in fact a lot of the time they annoy you or disappoint you, but you give them second chances and you love them anyway. You give them the time of day. Because at the end of the day they are worth the effort. And so are you. Like any relationship, you just have to remind yourself of that and work at it.


>> Do more of what is good for you. Eat healthier (but don't freak out over eating a bit of cake). Drink more water. Exercise. Hang out with positive people. Work at cutting out bad habits. Learn how to budget. Get an extra hour's sleep. Meditate. You don't have to do it all at once. Even just one positive change is doing you good.

  Check out this video by Elle and Fitbit Alta. Model Iskra Lawrence, renowned for combating the unrealistic requirements of the modelling industry and the damaging effects of photo-shopping bodies, talks about exercise as something her body deserves, a tool that helps keep her healthy, not as something that makes her "skinny". You can read more about it here.



>> Spend time with yourself. Like any relationship you need to spend time with someone to get to know them better. I'm not saying you don't know yourself, but there is always opportunity to learn more about yourself. Spend time alone, sit and think, go on a retreat, do yoga, meditate, go for a walk, tune out from the rest of the world. We change, we grow, stay in-touch with that. If you care about someone you give them the time of day, you listen to them, you let them know you care. It's no different with ourselves. You might be busy, you might have ten thousand things to do and only ten hours to do them, but try to find ten minutes somewhere, more if you can.

>> Surround yourself with positive affirmations. The advertisers and marketers know what they're doing. They infiltrate our sub-conscious with images and messages. Do the same. Save a positive quote on the lock-screen of your phone or your computer desktop. Put up posters, make a playlist of songs that remind you that you can kick ass. You've got this (*insert fist-bump emoji here*).

  Here's a song to get you started. I don't care how badass or "too cool" you might be, go on and dance it out to this song. Just once. Bang out some moves right there in your room, or tap your foot if you're on the bus. Let go a little. The song makes a good point...



>> Give yourself a second chance (and a third. And fourth). Don't be so hard on yourself if you mess up. You're trying to be positive, you're trying to be healthy, and so you don't get it right all of the time. The idea is not to have everything all together. I don't know how we got it into our heads that we had to be perfect. That's not even something that's possible. No one is perfect. And in that moment when you feel like an idiot or like you don't have it together, remember that at times we all feel like idiots, none of us have it together. Let it go and move on. 

>> Surprise yourself. Do something outside of your comfort zone. Go to the movies by yourself, go travelling by yourself, join a cooking class or a drama class, start a conversation with a stranger, run a half-marathon, go for the promotion, speak up about an issue that is important to you. Little by little push your boundaries, see what you are capable of, one step at a time. You'll surprise yourself, and learn just how capable you are.


THE MOTIVATIONAL SIGN-OFF

  I know that just reading these points won't suddenly overhaul how you see yourself. I know that on my lowest days if I'd have read this article I might have rolled my eyes and determined that while these points were valid they really applied to everyone else but me. But I would have been wrong. Because love is not something we earn by virtue of being worthy of it, it is not a medal or reward given to us because we did something right. It certainly isn't something we receive once we reach a state of perfection, indeed there is no such thing. No matter how we try to better ourselves we don't reach some mythical place where we become a perfect version of our self. There's no end game here. We're all works in progress and always will be. So loving yourself and respecting yourself is not a goal you arrive at once you've "fixed" yourself and got everything right. It actually works in reverse. Loving and respecting yourself enables you to grow, to enhance the positive aspects of your life. If I had sat myself down and thought about my health and well-being, and out of respect for that then looked at the negative impacts all that unhealthy food was having on my body, I would have made healthier choices. The ability to love yourself does not depend on whether you make good decisions; on the contrary, your ability to make good decisions is greatly enhanced when you let yourself off the hook, give yourself a chance, and love yourself.



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