“It’s up to each of us to get very still and say, ‘This is who I am.’ No one else defines your life. Only you do.”  Oprah Winfrey

There’s an exercise I do in one of my workshops to help women with their feelings of self-worth and confidence.

I begin by passing around a hand mirror and asking the participants to look at their reflections. I then ask them to create a portrait of what they saw when they looked in the mirror. They can use words and pictures to create their masterpiece and when they’re finished each person is asked to share their portrait with the group.

I’ve always been interested in how most participants identify their flaws. The pimple on their chin, the bags under their eyes, the wrinkles on their neck, their unruly hair. It’s not often that they highlight their positive qualities. When most people look at their reflections (if they’re brave enough to do so), they see their many flaws; reminders of past wounds, hurt feelings and mistakes they’ve made. It’s easy for most of us to focus on our faults and dwell on our insecurities instead of seeing our positive attributes, qualities and characteristics.

It’s February and everywhere you look there are reminders of Valentine’s Day and love. Before you go giving your love away to someone else, I’m going to suggest that you first give love to the person you’re with the most…YOU!

Treating yourself better with more care and love is important to your overall happiness, confidence and feelings of self-worth. You won’t be so tempted to compare yourself with others or care about what others think of you. You’ll feel stronger and more confident. If you learn to love yourself, you’ll have so much more to give the world around you.

Before you buy someone else a box of chocolates or a lovely card, here are five tips to help show yourself a little more love.

1.       Learn to enjoy your own company

Most of our days are spent preoccupied with family, friends, responsibilities and worrying about life’s challenges, and we lose focus of ourselves. We feel selfish to even consider spending a bit of time on our own.

When working with women to help them rediscover themselves, I ask them to take a calendar and add all of the things they do in a month. Grocery shopping, driving kids to events and practices, appointments, work, cooking, cleaning, helping others and anything else they spend their time on.

As we review what they’ve recorded, I ask them where they are on the calendar. Most face a stark realization that they’ve not included themselves very much, if at all. Most are invisible in their own lives. I remember one woman with tears streaming down her face saying, “I have forgotten me”.

It’s important to add time for yourself – to be with yourself. Being on your own helps you to learn more about who you are, to consider your dreams, the purpose and plan for your life. Spending time with yourself helps you to understand what’s going on inside and gives you the chance to leave the outside of your life for a few moments.

2.       Be careful how you talk to yourself

Negative self-talk is destructive.

When we are constantly telling ourselves that we’re not good enough, perfect enough or “as good as”; it’s harder to love ourselves. Constantly reminding yourself of how you don’t measure up and of all the mistakes you’ve made, causes self-hate instead of self-love. This kind of self talk affects your outlook on life and can have a negative impact on your health.

Change what you say when you talk to yourself. Be more positive and kind. While no one is perfect, you don’t need to dwell on your weaknesses. Consider the things that you’ve learned from your experiences. Look for your good qualities and think about the things you do well. You’ll find when your self-talk is more positive, you won’t dwell so much on what other people have to say, raising your confidence and happiness levels.

3.       Keep a journal

Writing down your experiences, feelings, ideas and day to day thoughts, is a powerful exercise in helping you to love yourself more. Writing in a journal is another way to spend some quality time with yourself and gives you a chance to reflect on the good that you do. I love to go back and look at my journal entries. It gives me a chance to learn from my experiences, to see the things I’ve accomplished, areas that I’d like to change and goals that I’d like to set

Writing in a journal can be therapy for the times in life when things are hectic, you’re stressed or feeling anxious and can help you gain a clearer perspective on things..

Get a notebook – it doesn’t need to be fancy - or create a journal folder on your computer. Begin by sharing with yourself the events of the day and how you felt about them. Don’t worry about your grammar, spelling, sentence structure, or if things sound “right”. It only needs to be for your eyes. Just put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and begin.

 4.       List your accomplishments

Take a few moments and think about the good you’ve done, the things you have learned and recognition you’ve received.

Perhaps getting out of bed and putting one foot in front of the other during a difficult time in your life. is an achievement. In this fast-paced, competitive, Instagram perfect world – it’s easy to feel you don’t measure up or contribute anything of value or worth to anyone. Consider the times you’ve shown up when someone was in need, planned and organized a family event, prepared a great meal, organized a room or drawer or toy bin in your home, created a budget, stretched your budget, remained calm in a difficult situation, volunteered your skills, shared a  random act of kindness to brighten someone’s day, followed through with a goal or commitment, stuck with something you’ve been tempted to quit, forgiven others or yourself. These and many other accomplishments are worthy of your recognition.

After you’ve finished your list, revisit it often. It will remind you of your great qualities and show you that there’s so much to love about yourself.

5.       Define your own life.

“It’s up to each of us to get very still and say, ‘This is who I am.’ No one else defines your life. Only you do.”  Oprah Winfrey

Oprah was once standing trial in Texas for allegedly defaming the beef industry. Going into the trial she believed that she’d done nothing wrong and would be able to prove it while standing up for what she believed. During the trial, the prosecuting attorney was trying to paint a picture of Oprah as a manipulative, malicious liar who had conspired against the beef industry. He flailed his arms, pointed his fingers and spoke very loudly at Oprah. She said of the experience, “The louder he yelled, the calmer I became. I got very still inside and said to myself, “That is not who I am.” Oprah realized that whether you’re on trial or going through a trial - difficulty, pain, illness, heartache - the trial stands outside of you, flailing, ranting and raging, trying to tell you who you are.  No one else gets to define your life – only you..

You get to see and say who you really are, what you can accomplish and the person you will be.

These steps are just the beginning to loving yourself. If you follow them, you can take control of your own life. Don’t wait for someone else to “let” you be happy, to see who you really are. Don’t wait any longer. Give yourself the gift of loving you.

#loveshouldnthurt #loveyourself #lovetheoneyourwith