You know the old saying, "You can't love someone else until you love yourself"? True, but I think if you're waiting to love yourself before you find your partner, you'll be waiting a long time -- maybe forever -- because learning self-compassion is just so freaking hard. We all tell ourselves in some way, probably every day, that we are lacking, or sometimes even just bad: Our bellies are squishy and fat, our legs look like tree trunks, we have no self-control over food. Then there is the ensuing depression, anxiety and anger that goes along with it. Lord knows, it's my final frontier and one element of spiritual awakening that I'm afraid I will never master. But I'm determined to try -- not find it perfectly, but to find a little (or a lot) every day. Here's how we can start. It may be radical, but it's worth a try, huh?
1. Take that mirror off your closet door.
You're thinking, "But I need it! How will I know how I look before I walk out the door?" Completely valid -- walking out in mismatched plaid and wild hair is not going to help anyone. But I want it out while you're in your birthday suit -- naked as a jaybird, or nothing on but your skivvies. That's when I think we scrutinize ourselves the most: Look at this on my thighs. How is it possible that my stomach is so big -- I look pregnant (and indeed am not). That's the stuff I'm talking about -- the critical voice, that bitch of a judge that screams at you and can't find a bit of redeeming qualities. So knock her down by not giving her a chance to talk in the first place. Oh, but take the mirror back out after getting dressed to make sure you don't have a rip in your pants right up your backside.
2. Get the scale out too.
"But how will I know if I'm on track without it?" What is that track, BTW? It's cliché to say, "it's just a number," but it is. There are plenty of ways to know if you're at a weight you feel comfortable with -- your clothes will tell you, your stamina, your friends (real ones). The scale fluctuates on a daily basis and will only drive you mad. Ditch it and see if you silence that voice a bit.
3. Stop grabbing your flab.
You know what I'm talking about. Remember that ad asking, "Can you pinch an inch?" (And if you're too young to remember that commercial, you probably don't have any body issues anyway. Yet.) Grabbing your belly, thighs and arms is a guaranteed way to ruin your day. Skin and bones ain't pretty -- we're all supposed to have a little meat. Quit trying to see how much.
4. Quit talking about it.
We all do it. "OMG -- I've gained so much weight!" "Why did I eat like a pig?" It may be a bond between girls, but we're just reinforcing the self-loathing among ourselves. Quit it, sisters.
5. Quit wearing sweatpants and size XXL shirts to cover yourself up. You're only reminding yourself of how much you hate your body, and it just makes you look bigger than you actually are. You don't have to go skin tight -- just nicely fitted.
6. DO look at yourself in the mirror while you're working out.
You may be mad at yourself on the way in, but why you are workin' it, sweatin'it, you'll see a strong body; a body that you can be proud of because it's healthy and so are you. Don't wait until you're finished and all soaking wet with sweat -- you'll then just scrutinize how bad your hair looks.
7. Quit Sabotaging Yourself.
I comfort myself with food -- it's one of my addictions. It's nighttime snacking that gets me, and I know better than to sit in the family room, by myself, watching anything on Netflix, but I love to do it. Since it would be pretty hard to chain the refrigerator closed, I've had to get creative. My newest prevention method is bleaching my teeth. It's pretty hard to eat when I have sticky trays with nasty bleach covering my canines. Or I can watch TV upstairs -- I'm notoriously lazy, so the chance of me walking downstairs is slim. Find different ways to limit the chances of self-sabotage and suffering the critical voice the next day. Take steps to figure out what your triggers are, what time of day they happen and then be creative with some preventative measures.
8. Would you want your kids to treat themselves this way?
This one is huge in my book. Would you ever want your kids to tell themselves they are bad, lazy or ugly? It would break your heart and yet, that's exactly what you're doing to yourself. Picture them feeling that way, and you'll snap out of it pretty quickly. Mistakes are how we learn, and we teach our children that so they can see the benefit when they happen, instead of thinking they're bad. So, how can we tell them that if we don't believe it ourselves?
9. Mistakes -- just shake 'em off.
We all make them -- it's one of the curses (and blessings) of being human. So cut yourself some slack. I mean it. So you ate right through your bleaching trays -- not your proudest moment, but it happens. It's a great time to look at it and figure out why you did it. What was going on when you decided to say "white teeth be damned"? And then move on and start anew.
10. Catch yourself in the act of yelling at yourself. Okay, you make the mistake and can't shake it off, so instead, you start banging yourself in the head saying "Stupid, Stupid!" -- or worse. Stop, take a breath and say to yourself, "Self -- chill the F out." You made a boo boo. I promise it will pass. Catch yourself beating yourself up and think about something else. Remind yourself how good you feel while working out and how magnificently strong your body is. It's practice, but it becomes easier (I hope anyway). Remember, every moment you tell yourself you're bad is one moment you've missed feeling the joy of being alive. Maybe I'll even try it myself.