One dark, drizzly morning as I walked to the gym, I was thinking about my work out and what I would do that day when my phone beeped. It was a message from my boyfriend. He was just about to go to sleep (stupid time difference). He wished me a good day, but also wrote something about self-love that stuck with me:
“You are infinite, never hesitate to rewrite the stories in your head that say otherwise.”
This got me thinking about the things I say about myself. I decided to make a mental note of all the words, descriptions, and thoughts that arose throughout the day in regards to myself.
“Ugh” – as I first caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, “I’m so stupid” “My stomach looks so fat right now” “I can’t do this” “My hair looks so ugly” “I wish I had her butt” “I’m so shit at that” “I probably wouldn’t be very good”
That was just a small selection of the things I said about myself in 1 day. In the past, I have said very negative things about myself. I would continually criticise myself to the point where I developed low self-esteem and unhealthy eating practices.
Detrimental effects of not engaging in self-love.
Using negative self-talk can create an array of psychological problems. These negative thoughts reinforce themselves, eventually becoming ingrained and change our brain chemistry (Elite Daily, Stress Course). Negative self-talk and lack of self-love can affect the way we interact with both the world and ourselves (Elite Daily). Low self-esteem and increased stress are both prevalent outcomes of negative self-talk and can have detrimental impacts on our wellbeing (Elite Daily, Stress Course). Researchers found that individuals with low self-esteem are more likely to externalise their emotions leading to increased violence (both physically and verbally). Low self-esteem also creates feelings of helplessness in times of stress which can, in turn, create poorer outcomes in stressful situations (Elite Daily).
As you can imagine, this then becomes a vicious circle and a self-fulfilling prophecy. We think negatively about ourselves, then don’t cope well in a stressful situation and reinforce the negative thought. For example, a study in 2015 found that adolescents of normal weight who thought of themselves as being overweight engaged in unhealthy eating behaviours and had greater odds of becoming obese later in life.
The benefits of positive self-talk.
People who engaged in positive self-talk and believed in themselves were found to have better physical and psychological health compared to those who spoke negatively about themselves (Stress Course). Positive thoughts and intentions bring about a positive reality, whilst negative thoughts can bring about the opposite (Power of Positivity).
In an amazing study, 2,000 people in Tokyo were told to focus positive intentions and thoughts towards water samples inside an electromagnetically shielded room located in California. There was a control set of water samples located elsewhere. 100 judges then rated the ice crystals from the experimental and control samples based on aesthetic appeal. The results showed that the water samples that had been thought of positively were rated as more aesthetically appealing than the control water samples. This suggests that the consciousness of a person can directly alter the structure of water.
Humans are made up of around 60% water so think what your negative thoughts are doing to the makeup and structure of your own body.
Easy steps to self-love and acceptance.
Catch your negative self-talk: When you notice you’re thinking negatively about yourself try to change the negative thoughts into something more positive. Instead of thinking “I’m so stupid I couldn’t do it,” change that thought to “I didn’t manage it this time, but I will achieve it if I keep working at it.”
Don’t bully yourself into feeling guilty: I think this one is really important. There are so many days where life throws a curveball and you don’t get round to doing everything that you wanted to do. That’s fine. Don’t feel guilty if “you should have gone to the gym and written a 4-page paper but you ended up hanging out with a friend instead.” Life happens.
Surround yourself with positive people: It’s much easier to think more positively about yourself if those you surround yourself with are positive and supportive. A great group of friends who build you up can help you see how talented and unique you are.
Accept your imperfections and flaws: I’ve seen a lot of people (myself included) think they have to be perfect. Isn’t there something satisfyingly perfect about being imperfect? Those flaws and quirks are what makes you, you. If someone doesn’t like your laugh, your hobbies, or your clothing choices, that’s their problem. Embrace who you are!
Focus on what you CAN do not what you can’t: No one is good at everything. I’m good at running, cooking, I’d like to think I’m a loyal friend, and I get good grades at school. There are, however, many things that I’m not so good at. Instead of focusing on what we can’t do, appreciate and be grateful for what we can do. If you want to be good at something, work at it. We all have our own talents and abilities and that is what makes us all unique. We need people to be good at different things, it makes life exciting. I can guarantee there is someone out there wishing they were as good at something as you are.
Stop comparing yourself to others: I am awful at this, it is something I really need to work on. Comparing yourself to others will only lead you to think negatively about yourself. This ties in with the previous tip, but you are your own person with your own needs. I often compare what I eat and how much I eat to other people, but now I try to remember that we all have different metabolisms, we all work out differently, and we are all different people. The only person you can compare yourself to is you. Once we step away from thinking about how we should look like or be doing the same as others, we will start to see ourselves in a much more positive light.