Too often, we forget to love ourselves because we are too focused on other people, on our goals, and everything else we care about the most. But did you know that self-love is the root foundation of all the relationships we build with other people? If we don’t have it, we really don’t have the love to give at all.
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Competition fuels Self-Criticism
Do you always feel the need to outperform others? There’s nothing wrong in competition. Being competitive is a trait that is critical to survival. But too much sense of competition makes us more self-critical. According to Kristin Neff, associate professor of Human Development and Culture at the University of Texas and pioneer of research on self-compassion, when our self-worth depends on our need to outscore others, we tend to become more anxious and insecure. So when challenges come and we fail, we become much more miserable. Self-criticism therefore hinders us from being successful and being loved – two of our ultimate dreams. Instead of self-criticism and competition, a growing body of research suggests self-compassion as the ultimate key to happiness and success.
What Self-Love Really Means
Self-love doesn’t mean being egocentric or narcissist. It’s not about always being the ‘number one’, the best, the centre of attention. Self-love is about being ‘connected’ to the real you. It’s about accepting who you are and being proud of it! It’s about appreciating your existence and finding your purpose in life. It’s about accepting the fact that, just like others, your abilities also have limitations or boundaries. In short, self-love is all about self-respect. When you love yourself, everything you do becomes meaningful and special. It’s because you do them not to please others, but to be happy within. It’s sad because a lot of people tend to demand love from others yet do not seem to show any care of affection to their own selves. The saying that you cannot give something you don’t have is very true. Self-love is the prerequisite to loving others.
How Does Self-Love Benefit You?
Self-compassion brings profound changes to your life. It gives you a deep sense of happiness, fulfilment and satisfaction. It makes you appreciate things around you and become genuinely happy for other people’s success. When you have self-love, you stop being bitter with others and wishing you were them. Research shows that negative emotions caused by being highly self-critical leads to the elevation of the stress hormones that pull down our immune system. On the other hand, the good feelings brought by self-compassion reduce your stress and make you less anxious. As a result, you perform better, you become healthier, you look younger, and you become happier! When you have self-compassion, you are able to deal with difficulties in a much more positive way and take failures as learning opportunities. Yes, it helps you embrace challenges. It strengthens your faith and gives you the motivation to pursue your goals, without fearing to fail or to commit mistakes. This is how self-compassion drives you towards success. Without you knowing it, you are performing much better so reaching your goals becomes effortless.
How do you Develop Self-Love?
It may take time to develop self-compassion but the following tips can surely help you:
1. Be your own best friend. Best friends don’t say bad things to each other. Best friends help each other during tough times. Best friends understand each other. And most of all, best friends love each other. On a sheet of paper, write down all the good things you see about your ‘best friend’. Your goal is to cheer him or her up!
2. Develop a self-love mantra. This really helps especially during stressful events. For instance, when you are confronted with a difficult situation, you can say “challenges are part of life. But they are not here to destroy my self-love but to make me a better person”. This is not an affirmation, but a reminder that will keep you on track amidst life’s uncertainties.
3. Meditate. Meditation is a technique that is highly effective in developing self-compassion. Why? It’s because this practise teaches you how to become more aware of yourself. Through contemplation and relaxation, you let go of the self-critical thoughts and other negative emotions that are hindering you from loving yourself.
4. Treat yourself. Best friends hang out! Don’t forget to take a time off and treat yourself! It might be a visit to the spa, a lunch at a good restaurant, or a trip to the movie house – loosen up!
Relax and love your body.
Best wishes, Steve
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