My neighbors and I were finishing up brunch at my house recently, when my friend filled a conversational lull with this comment: “You know what I love about myself…”
A gentle, yet, somewhat uncomfortable laughter rose from the table. (Who’s bold enough to talk like that?) Sensing a backlash, my friend offered that there were many things she loathed about herself, before redoubling: “But what I really love about myself is that I’m the kind of person who get things done.”
It was undeniably true. All of us nodded in admiration and acknowledgment of the fact that my friend can complete a screenplay, get the house painted, organize the garage, cook dinner and shuttle kids to and from softball and drama practices in a single day.
Clearing the table after the gathering, I wondered why we bristle when someone actually appreciates themselves? Being your own BFF is a rare thing. Meanwhile, self-criticism is socially acceptable.
Why Self-Love and Self-Appreciation Is Important and Why We Should Be Our Own BFF
Few of us take the time to appreciate even the quietest qualities of our goodness – whether it’s a warm-hearted habit of smiling at store clerks, dutifully putting the cap back on the toothpaste tube or filling up our spouse’s car with gas when the tank tips toward empty.
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Knowing all of that made me feel more than a twinge of regret that my friend qualified her self-appreciation in the face of our laughter. The truth is we can all name countless things we dislike about ourselves with nitpicky accuracy.
A woman at a nail salon once told me she hated her pinky toenail – thinking it was far too small. She’s not alone. For years, the Dove Self Esteem Project has researched global attitudes women hold about themselves. Sadly, only 4 percent of women globally consider themselves beautiful, according to Dove.
Nearly 60 percent of women have negative thoughts about themselves weekly; about 36 percent of men do as well, according to a survey from NBC’s Today Show.
Self-recrimination seems to be a psychological mainstay. But it doesn’t have to be. We can follow my friend’s lead and make a concerted effort to appreciate ourselves – often and regularly. Mindfulness, as it frequently is, can be a hearty ally in helping us.
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Becoming more aware of our best attributes is a multifaceted mindfulness practice. It begins with an intention to look upon yourself with the same kind of fondness you have for a dear friend or even your cat. That caring intention is a bit like a GPS for self-appreciation, guiding your attention to notice both the small and big things that are great about you.
With your intention set, here are three specific mindfulness-based practices to increase your self-appreciation and help you become your own BFF. Making a practice of self-appreciation will not only help you gain a new friend in yourself, it also will encourage you to become more authentic, confident and see the good in others, too.
3 Ways to Practice Self-Appreciation to Feel Self-Love
- Create An Appreciation Circle: Often self-appreciation develops by seeing yourself through someone else’s eyes. For many years, my family has had an every-so-often, dinnertime ritual called the appreciation circle. Here’s how it works: Each of us names three things we appreciate about each other. Sometimes we name baked-in qualities about each other. My husband loves my enthusiasm, for example. Other times we appreciate something one of us has done that day. I always appreciate it when my husband unloads the dishwasher.
- Write Down What You Love About Yourself: As corny as it sounds, making a list of what you love about yourself is a powerful way of cultivating self-appreciation. Set aside five minutes and write down everything you can think of that you love about yourself. Write as fast as you can without stopping to judge what pops into your mind. Read over your list and take in the good.
- Loving-kindness Practice: Loving-kindness is a dedicated mindfulness practice that softens the hardened soil of self-loathing and plants seeds of kindness and self-appreciation. Find a quiet place and take a few settling breaths in and out. Picture of an image of yourself doing something you love or see yourself as a child. Focus your attention on the image while sending yourself phrases of loving-kindness, silently saying to yourself: “May I be happy. May I be peaceful? May I be healthy. May I be safe.” You can also try this guided loving-kindness practice.
Embrace the moment by settling into stillness and allowing yourself to just be with our 14-Minute Guided Practice.
Written by eM Life Teacher Kelly Barron.