Lucy (not her real name) came into my office telling me that she really just didn’t like herself and she never had. No matter what she did, she couldn’t find any sort of compassion or fondness for who she was. She worked really hard all through school, she was an excellent employee, she was the best party hostess and the best friend, but no matter what she did, she still felt that she wasn’t good enough. She had an overwhelming sense of total worthlessness. Every time she reached a specific goal, lost a certain amount of weight, fit into a certain size, made a certain amount of money, she would ask herself, “can I like myself now?” And the answer was always the same, “no, you’re still not good enough, you’re totally unworthy.” In her book Radical Acceptance, Tara Brach refers to this as the Trance of Unworthiness— the belief that you don’t belong in the world, that you are not good enough to exist.
We have a road map that we create that tells us how to be, feel, and live our lives, and there are ways to reroute that map. The following are things that you can do to help you like yourself more and reroute those behaviors that perpetuate self disdain.
1. Give up the belief that you need to change in order to like yourself. The trick is to accept who you are at this very moment. Telling yourself that you can like yourself when you are different or better will never work because there will always be more work to do. This doesn’t mean that you cannot have goals, but isn’t it easier to meet those goals and you will be happier when you do when you start off by feeling good about yourself. You are perfect, whole and complete right now at this very moment. Take a breath, be still and just for 30 seconds be with the essence of who you are. You can accept that person without changing. Meeting goals and evolving is what we naturally do as humans, that won’t change if you self-accept. In fact, you might find that you are more efficient because you are not bogged down by thoughts of worthlessness.
2. Take care of yourself. Make simple changes to help you to be more healthy. Floss your teeth, take your vitamins, groom your nails. Do things that help you to feel valued by yourself. Show yourself that you are worthy.
3. Put yourself first. When someone asks you to do something, rather than instantly saying yes, tell them that you’ll give them an answer in 24 hours. That way you can think about whether or not this infringes on your boundaries. It helps you to understand whether or not you are sacrificing your own needs for someone else. So often people who don’t like themselves try to be indispensable for others. In the process though, they completely lose themselves. Keep yourself whole by being there for you first.
4. Forgive yourself. You have made mistakes. Of course you have. You are human. We all make mistakes. But being able to say, “okay, I messed up, but I can’t go back, I can’t stay in the past, I can only go forward…” is the way to move on with your life.
5. Let yourself do the things that you want to do. Think about what it is that makes you tick, the things that make you feel alive! Is it knitting? Is it martial arts? Is it cooking? Is it painting? Writing? Gardening? Whatever it is, even if it’s just something that you do as a hobby, allow yourself to follow your passion. When you do, you will find more joy in being you.
6.Let go of wanting. It’s okay to have desires. But when what you want equates to whether or not you are happy, you will never feel satisfied with who you are. When who you are is equal to what you have, you will never like yourself because you can always want and always have more. When you are grateful for what you do have, you can truly find peace. Try making a gratitude list. This is like counting your blessings. Just write down everything that you are grateful for and read it over and over. Feel it. Believe it. When you focus on that rather than what you don’t have, you will find a lightness like never before.
7. Let yourself be totally silly. See what it’s like to let down your guard. Try to let go of what other people are thinking. If you can’t, go into a room by yourself and just do the dumbest dance that you can possibly do, just to let off some steam and find some playfulness within. This is a way to enjoy your own company and just like being with yourself a bit more.
8. Don’t judge other people. Take a day to think of one nice thing about each person you come into contact with. You will feel lighter in your body. Letting go of judgment of others is one of the best ways to stop judging yourself.
9. Spend some time just being. Sit and try to follow your breath. Don’t force yourself to take deep breaths. Just close your eyes, put your hand on your heart and feel the way your breath. Do this for 1-5 minutes. You will find that your mind and body begin to relax. Your thoughts of having to do, do, do will fade and you will just be with you. This is another way to just accept who you are in this very moment.
10. Get help for self-destructive behavior. If you’re dealing with binge eating, bulimia, cutting, alcoholism, compulsive or unsafe sex, anorexia, or whatever behaviors you’re doing that make you feel bad about yourself – get help! Seek therapy or a 12-step group, or a support group, or all three. When you like yourself, you try not to destroy yourself.