“Stop criticizing yourself for everything you aren’t and start appreciating yourself for everything you are.” ~Unknown
Are you your own best friend, your own worst critic, or somewhere in between? Do you tend to focus on what you see as your flaws, mistakes, and imperfections, comparing yourself to others you think are better than you? Sometimes, do you even wish you were someone else?
It’s easy to get trapped in that way of thinking, especially in today’s consumer culture. From magazine ads to TV commercials, we are trained to compare ourselves to others and are subtly told we are not enough—not attractive enough, smart enough, popular enough, etc.
While I try to practice mindfulness and not fall into this trap, living in this culture, I am not immune to that way of thinking. I was reminded of this just the other day, when I met a young couple who came to stay in a suite my husband and I rent out in our house.
Having been doing housework and, not realizing the time, I opened the door with no make-up, in faded jeans, an old tee shirt, and sneakers. On the other side of the doorway, the young woman stood with perfectly applied make-up, perfectly styled hair, a cute dress, and heels, looking like she had just left a fashion magazine shoot.
Meanwhile, the young man stared at me with a blank expression, which I took to mean he did not like me. I felt intimidated and inferior.
A few days later, my husband saw the couple and had a short conversation with them. In it, he later told me, they actually raved about me!
They said they were deeply impressed with a calm, “Zen” quality they sensed I had and instantly felt comfortable and relaxed around me. Considering what I had thought of the encounter, I was astonished to hear that. This taught me an important lesson.
While we might worry about what we see as one of our flaws, others might not even notice it and instead be dazzled by one of our virtues.
If others can see us in this positive light, so can we. But how?
After studying several personal growth books, articles, and online classes, I gathered some key points about self-appreciation and wove them into a powerful practice. It helped me tremendously and I share it here in hopes it will do the same for you.
Through it, you might experience for the first time in your whole life a real sense of self-appreciation and self-love. It’s something you can do any time you feel self-doubt or self-judgement or inferiority. It can help you relax into the knowingness that you are a unique, wonderful being.
Embracing Yourself Practice
Sadly, we often overlook the miracle that’s closest to us. It’s available to us from the moment we’re born to the moment we die. It’s ourselves.
This practice is designed to help you connect with your own miraculous nature and appreciate how wonderful you really are.
1. Centering yourself
To get the most from this experience, feel free to turn off distractions like the TV, the ringer on your phone, and any kind of message alerts. Put your mental to-do list aside, just for now. It will still be there after this experience.
Create some quiet, uninterrupted time to step back and nourish yourself. Give yourself permission to pause and receive the gift of this time. Make yourself comfortable, either sitting or laying down, preferably laying down.
Gather your thoughts and energy from all the different directions they’ve been going. Bring them in and let them rest for these few moments, while you turn your attention to being here now.
Take one slow, calming breath and release it. Take another deep breath and release it.
2. Appreciating your body
When you’re ready, rest your hands over your heart. Can you feel your heart beating?
Breathing in, feel your lungs expand with air. Breathing out, feel your lungs relax. Again, feel them expanding in and relaxing out.
Leave your hands over your heart or wrap them around your torso in a hug. Breathing in, feel your lungs expand. Breathing out, feel your lungs relax.
Breathing normally, think about the amazing processes happening in your body right now, this very moment—the blood being circulated, the oxygen being exchanged, the cells absorbing nutrients, the nerves and neurons allowing you to hear the sounds around you.
Feel the sensation of sitting or lying down where you are.
Reflect on how a thought sends an impulse from your brain to your spinal cord, to your nerves, to your muscles, allowing you to move. Feel appreciation for your body for allowing you to experience life in this way.
3. Appreciating your essence
Now, reflect on your uniqueness. Of the billions of people on this planet, there is only one you.
Think about the spark of life that animates your body, your essence that makes you, you. You might think of it as your personality or your spirit.
Can you sense it? Do you feel or see anything related to it? Feel awe and appreciation for it.
Think of the special qualities that make you a unique individual.
Think of one quality you are grateful for about yourself. Maybe that quality is the fact that you are trying your best or something else. Whatever quality comes to mind, appreciate that about yourself.
Feel grateful for another thing about yourself, maybe your intelligence or something else. Then feel grateful for another thing about yourself, maybe your kind heart or something else.
Reflect on this idea: Life has good reason for expressing itself through you.
4. Sending yourself love
Feel the warmth of your hands on your heart or your torso. Feel appreciation for the unique individual you are.
Think to yourself or say out loud, “I love myself.” Pause.
Think or say again, “I love myself.” Pause.
Think or say again, “I love myself.” Notice how that feels. Let that love sink in.
Add anything else positive you’d like to say to yourself. What do you need to hear right now?
Appreciate yourself for doing this practice. Rest your mind, taking a few more deep breaths. Look out and around you from this place of connection with yourself.
Feel free to do this practice as often as you like, maybe a few times a week before getting up in the morning or before going to sleep at night—any time you’d like to feel a greater appreciation for yourself, any time you’d like to remind yourself that you are a miracle…because you are!