If you’ve read my first book, ‘Thoughts Become Things’; you’ve been coached by me or been a delegate on one of my many training sessions or webinars over the last 12 years, you’ll likely know that I had a tough upbringing.
My parents are, without doubt, the most negative people I’ve ever met. As a result, the initial programming and the conditioning I received through their parenting was less than desirable and something I continue to work on unravelling daily.
(Incidentally, I know from experience that that statement is highly-charged for some and can provoke a strong negative reaction. I’ve even had people become very aggressive because they see it as a betrayal of the ‘scared’ parent/child bond. However, just because someone is a parent does not necessarily mean they are equipped to be good at it, and just because someone has a strong opinion about what’s right and wrong from their perspective, it doesn’t change the facts.)
Growing up in such a negative environment (which I recognise was extreme), I would often hear my mum criticise people who seemingly ‘loved themselves’. She’d say things like, ‘She’d eat herself if she was chocolate’, ‘Who does he think he is?’, ‘She loves herself that one’ all coupled with a look of utter disdain.
Sadly, when a child repeatedly sees/hears that kind of message, they learn that self-love is neither desirable nor safe. But, unfortunately, it’s a message that many of us get taught, even if we were raised in a happy, healthy household.
Recently, I was on holiday, and I saw a lady in her 50s, looking very glamourous and utterly gorgeous, walking down the beach. She had an unmistakable air of ‘loving’ herself, and it struck a chord with me. Of course, I could imagine exactly what my mum would say, but I thought, ‘Wow, that lady has it right. How much better would our lives be if we loved ourselves as much as she appears to and we could all walk down a beach in a swimsuit oozing such confidence, calmness and happiness’.
My point here is, many of us are brought up believing that people who ‘love’ themselves are bad, conceited or vain, that we shouldn’t over-promote ourselves; after all, ‘no one likes a show off’. But what if we started to love ourselves? To look at ourselves in the mirror with compassion? What if we stopped keeping clothes, shoes, plates/dishes(!) for best, took some time to do things that make us happy and give to ourselves the love we are so ready to give to others?
We don’t have to start big either. Here are some of my favourite activities that I know work well and can make a significant positive difference to our nervous system:
- Look yourself in the eyes when you brush your teeth in the morning (I know some people find that very hard to do), and instead of pulling yourself apart and criticising your appearance, give yourself a big grin.
- Each day walk for 15 minutes. You’ll burn off the adrenaline and cortisol produced when you’re stressed and hack your happy biochemicals, dopamine, serotonin and endorphins. You don’t need to do 10,000 steps – just 15-minutes is clinically proven to give massive benefits.
- Take a warm bath.
- Read a chapter from a favourite book.
- Meditate for 10 minutes.
- Do some yoga.
- Write in a journal.
- Practise gratitude – think of 3 things that you’re grateful for and why.
- Use jealously as a springboard! If you find that you’re jealous of someone, instead of criticising them, use it to push you into action. We get jealous of people who have things that we want but haven’t yet got.
The key to making this work? Consistency; by doing just one small thing daily, showing up for yourself as you would for others, you begin to positively reprogramme yourself and re-wire your nervous system.
That lovely lady on the beach had a wonderful natural glow about her. She looked like she was living her best life and wasn’t ashamed to show it. Isn’t that something we all deserve?