Imagine a 10-year old version of yourself, running up to the present-you and showing you a painting they made. It’s not perfect, and it’s definitely not The Starry Night, but it shows potential. The lines aren’t symmetrical, the painting is out of place, and the blending needs further work. You are now to tell this kid – younger you – how they will never be able to paint. You are to ignore the potential they showcase, the conceptual beauty, and fixate on the petty mistakes, pulling the painting apart piece by piece and with that, any further chance to improve as well.
Can you do it?
No? Well, you’ve been doing it almost all your life to yourself! But you can’t – not to that little kid. Because you have compassion for that child. You have empathy, warmth, kindness, love and above all, acceptance. You see the mistakes, but also the potential to move on from those. So, you appreciate instead, you show love and acceptance.
This is precisely what self-love and self-acceptance for mental health mean.
It is crucial to mental health and growth. Because, just like in the scenario, it can form the foundation of stable mental health and without a negatively biased view of oneself, approach life hurdles with grit, perseverance and motivation instead of falling in the self-fulfilling trap of low self-esteem because of struggling mental health.
What Self-Love and Self-Acceptance Are Not.
Self-love isn’t always flowers and sweet-smelling baths. It isn’t always kissing your stretch marks and giving yourself facial masks. Of course, it is a part of it. But you need to realize that self-love and self-acceptance, for the sake of your mental health, can get ugly too sometimes.
It can make you extremely guilty to ignore your friends when want to vent to you for the same situation for the 10th time. It can be extremely demotivating when you feel like you are making progress with your depression but that single whiff of that smell can make you crash on your knees again.
It is extremely devastating when, despite feeling like the worst person to exist, you have to keep those thoughts aside and make yourself focus on your good qualities. It sure isn’t pretty, and neither is it easy.
But the pay-off? You get stable mental health. You know you. You know your standards, your worth, what you deserve. And you won’t settle with anything less. You will conquer whatever comes in your path, persevering and forging onwards, inspiring others along the way.
And that journey starts with self-love and self-acceptance – for mental health!
Cultivating Self-Love and Self-Acceptance
So, how does one improve self-acceptance and self-love? There are certain steps, ranging from little things like talking to yourself in the mirror, to journeying on a path of self-discovery. All of these steps are important and valid, and you need to monitor yourself and see what works for you!
1. Discover Yourself!
This doesn’t mean you have to define In my personal opinion, I believe humans possess as much depth as the galaxies – so limiting yourself by imposing a definition would be a disservice to yourself.
You can, however, take out time to get to know yourself. There must be multiple things you haven’t tried in your life because you might be scared or unsure. Here’s your chance to find yourself in the process! Try baking your favorite cake, or a sport, or yoga at your home. You could also meditate or journal, and reflect on yourself, your values and thoughts to gauge what you like and what you don’t!
2. No Negative Self-Talk!
Start by tallying how many times you bring yourself down by an offhanded negative comment to yourself. You will be surprised to see those tally marks!
Try slowly to eliminate all sorts of negative self-talk from your life. Indulge in self-acceptance by acknowledging your short-comings, and accepting that everyone has certain flaws in themselves.
You can them figure out which flaw – which is in your control – to work on, and become the best version of yourself!
3. Say No to the Green Envy!
It is normal to compare yourself with others and face different sorts of envy.
Instead of suppressing these feelings, learn to acknowledge them. This will be the first step in countering them. The next step comes with self-acceptance: Accept that everyone has different starting lines, different circumstances, different situations and of course, different strengths! You also might not walk the path other people do.
The best way to move forward is to compete with your yesterday’s self!
4. Accept the Compliments!
As hard as this task seems to be – accept those compliments! Yas, you are a kween!
You only see yourself in the mirror. You don’t know how your smile lights up someone’s day. Or how your humor makes someone laugh out loud! Or how your kindness touches someone’s heart. There are so many aspects of you that only other people experience, and you don’t.
So when they give you a compliment, believe it, and accept it!
5. Give Yourself Permission to Fall!
Do you think a baby would be up and running from the first breath he takes? I assure you, if a baby is doing that, you should probably run for your life because that isn’t a human baby.
Your life is a journey, in the same way. You will try out new things, and you will fail at them. It doesn’t make you a failure, neither does it mean you will never be able to progress.
Just like toddlers learn to walk at different ages, with different paces, allow yourself to take similar baby steps in ventures of life without your own judgment. There will be many others judging you for no reason anyway!
Apart from these habits that should cultivate self-love and self-acceptance within you, you should sprinkle a little bit of self-love throughout the day:
- Try to repeat positive words of encouragement to yourself
- Understand and acknowledge your feelings
- Make time for yourself every day
- Do not let people take advantage of your kindness
- Look after your health: eat, shower, clean, sleep, repeat!
- Have a company that supports you and encourages you
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
- Challenge yourself to step outside of your comfort zone
- Set realistic expectations from yourself
- Acknowledge your progress – however small it is.
Understanding that self-love and self-acceptance are the keys to a healthy mental foundation, which will enable you to reach for the stars and the moon, is the first step in your journey. If you are already here reading this, it means you are aware that it’s time to make a change! Good luck with your journey, share with us your thoughts in the comments below.