Self-criticism used to be a part of my everyday existence. I constantly scrutinized and over analyzed every choice and every action I made. For more than three decades, I didn’t just dislike myself—I actively went out of my way to sabotage myself. But I didn’t realize at the time that my thoughts and actions came from a place of self-loathing. I spent that unhappy period of my life dating men that weren’t right for me, overspending, overeating, and working constantly to avoid my painful existence.
Somewhere deep inside, I knew this way of thinking was preventing me from reaching my full potential and that there was a gentler, kinder, and more compassionate way to live. I wondered what it would feel like to occupy that space–to go an entire day or even an hour without the inner critic beating me down. How would me loving myself and trusting my choices change the way I engage with the world and how the world responds to me? I was determined to find out, so I created my own Self-Love Experiment. Based on my findings, I came up with the 4 self-sabotaging habits that keep us from self-love and solutions on how to transform them:
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1. We think our problems and insecurities are real.
When we focus on our problems and insecurities, we forget to celebrate all the things that make us and our lives beautiful. Instead of believing all the negative thoughts that pass through your head or that they represent reality, recognize that what you dislike about yourself is often the very thing other people accept and like most about you. So what if you are carrying some extra weight, or you don’t like your freckles or crooked teeth. These features are a unique part of your makeup but they don’t define you as a person. Learn to appreciate the pieces of you that you dislike, without making them the only thing of importance about you, and you will feel more joy and peace.
2. We don’t think our dreams matter
You may have a dream tucked inside your heart, but you worry if it will ever come to fruition. Will you fail, will you have enough money to make the dream happen? These worries can prevent us from moving forward. But know that you and your dreams matter and are important. Following through on our dreams and going for what we want is important for living a balanced and full life. We all have hopes and dreams—go for what you want, not just what you think you can get. Many of us settle because we don’t believe that we or our desires matter. But you do matter, so show up for yourself and your dreams. Watch your life transform.
3. We wish things were different
Wishing things were different than they are is a self-sabotaging habit because when we refuse to accept what is, we stay locked in fear and lack. This is a little trick our ego plays on us to keep us from taking responsibility for ourselves. Instead of resisting what is, focus your attention on what is going well and where you want to go. By focusing on the good, you will attract more of it.
4. We believe our inner critic
Most of us have a running dialog of why we aren’t good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, rich enough, etc. We let our “inner critic” run the show. Instead of listening to it and letting it rule you, choose compassion and kindness. Be kind to yourself, say nice things to yourself, and compliment yourself. This radical act of self-love will transform your life.
Shannon Kaiser, named by MindBodyGreen as one of the top 100 Women to Watch in Wellness, is an inspirational author, speaker, travel writer, and life coach who left her successful career in advertising several years ago to follow her heart and be a writer. She is the bestselling author of Find Your Happy, an Inspirational Guide to Loving Life to Its Fullest, and a six-time contributing author to Chicken Soup for the Soul.
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