Wednesday, 20 January 2021

4 Ways To Love Yourself More in 2021


The start of a brand new year. 

For many of us, this is a time traditionally associated with goal setting and resolution making. Unfortunately,  these goals can often be self-shaming ones. 

We're taught by our capitalist society to think in terms of what we lack - of all the ways we could be better, try harder, achieve more.

As women brought up in a beauty-obsessed culture, the pressure is often even more intense with New Year Resolutions commonly focus around beauty ideals - usually including weight loss or dropping dress sizes.

As a blogger I'm more aware than most of the intentional ramping up of marketing from diet and fitness companies around this time of year - starting in November, the emails begin to roll in - offering me to compensate me very handsomely if I promote their diet or fitness programme in January. 

Do these companies actually care about the health, physical or mental, of women? Or are they just hoping to profit from the New Year self-loathing that most of us experience? I'll leave you to ponder that one for yourself.

After the turmoil of 2020 - there's really never been a more important time to head in to a brand new year with the intention of being kinder to yourself.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected all of our lives in very different ways, but no matter how much it's affected you personally - we are undoubtedly living through a collective trauma. Our lives as we knew them have changed dramatically and times are very uncertain. 

It's so important that we do whatever we can to nurture our mental health and treat ourselves with loving kindness. 

So instead of heading in to the New year focusing on what you lack in your life, or the ways you feel that you're not enough - wouldn't it make more sense to focus on trying to feel more comfortable with who you are right here in this moment?

Goals have their place in our lives of course and are very personal to each of us, but tomorrow is promised to nobody - all we truly have is right now, and so instead of focusing all of our energy on the person we might be in the future - i's vital that we spend some time appreciating ourselves in the present moment.

Here are 4 things I'd love you to try in 2021, to see if just maybe it helps you to see yourself through kinder eyes and treat yourself with gentleness in these difficult times.

1. Write It Down

It goes against most of our instincts to focus on the positive things about ourselves. 

We're conditioned in our society to focus more on the things that we're not good at than what we are, so we have to be very intentional if we want to focus more on the things we DO like about ourselves.

Focusing on what we like, or even love, about ourselves more often can help us to feel more inclined to treat ourselves with kindness and acceptance. Which can only be a good thing!

One way to do this, is to take the time each morning to look at yourself in the mirror. Take a moment and really look at your reflection, then try to pick out one thing you like about yourself. It doesn't have to be anything big - it can be as simple as the fact that your arms allow you to hug your children - but try to pick something new each morning.

Do this for at least 2 weeks, and over time you should find that you start to see yourself through kinder eyes.

Another way to focus on the positive is to keep a journal of self love - you can use this in a number of ways, but my favourites are:

*Write down every positive thought that you have about yourself - anything that you think you did well, or any bit of self-appreciation you feel - write it down.  
You can also do this with compliments and praise that you receive from other people, but try to be conscious of not becoming too reliant on acceptance from others in order to feel good about yourself.

*Write a list of every achievement you've had in your life - not just the big ones, but all of the little ones that you can remember too. Whether its certificates you got at school, travel goals you completed - anything and everything thats ever made you feel good about yourself - write it down. 

*Every evening before you go to sleep, write down one thing you did that day that you're proud of or pleased about - no matter how small it may seem. If you're struggling, then an easy go-to is "I got through this day". 

*Whenever you're feeling self-critical - take the time to read through your self-love journal, and remind yourself of all of those good things.

2. Live For The You That Exists Today

There are some very commonplace practises that we indulge in with the idea that they're motivating, but actually they can be quite toxic.

One of these is keeping clothes that no longer fit us comfortably, or at all! Sometimes we even buy "Goal outfits" that have never fit us to begin with - with the intention of "Getting in to them" one day.

But are those things really motivating, or are they actually demeaning?

The person you are today deserves to have clothes that fit well, and feel comfortable. 

Why not clear away space in your wardrobe for more of those? You could even sell the old clothes to raise some funds in order to treat yourself to something that makes you feel good in your current body.

Bodies change over time, it's natural - the one you're living in today deserves comfort and kindness.

If you really can't let go of the clothes that don't fit well, at least store them somewhere that you don't have to see them every day.

3. Be Intentional

"Intentional" is my focus word for 2021. I really think the key to slowing down and getting more enjoyment from life is learning how to be intentional.

There are so many ways that being intentional comes into play, but here are the ways I think it has the most positive effect:

*Eating Intentionally - I don't know about you, but when I'm on auto-pilot mode I tend not to think too much about what I'm putting into my body. I'm usually in a rush, it's usually an after thought and so I end up grabbing whatever is quick and easy. Or worse, I just don't eat at all then wonder why I'm feeling unwell in the evening.

For me, eating intentionally is carving out time in my day to ensure that I have the opportunity to stop what I'm doing and eat properly. It means listening to what my body is craving, rather than taking the most time-convenient option. 

When I do this - I find myself making much healthier food choices, and I also find that I feel better physically and mentally. I also often surprise myself with the food choices I make - since introducing intuitive eating in to my life more, I've found that I don't actually like sweet things as much as I thought I did. Who knew?!

*Joyful movement - Strict exercise regimes can often feel more like self-punishment than self-love, and that is not what we're looking for here. Instead of gruelling and draining exercise, why not take the time to find a kind of movement that makes you feel uplifted and energised? Something that you enjoy doing instead of something you dread.

This could be yoga, dancing in your kitchen, long walks out in nature - whatever it is for you, embrace what brings you joy. 

*Regular Play - This might seem odd on a list for adults, but you know what they say about all work and no play! So many of us are guilty of feeling that every waking moment has to be productive - that we need to be either earning money, self-improving, up-skilling or cleaning our homes - but what about fun? What about enjoyment?

You are not alive to pay bills and clean. You absolutely need to allow yourself time for fun and enjoyment in life. So whatever it is that makes you feel happy and light, try your best to make more time for that. If you're not sure what you like to do for fun, then try new things until you find something you like - have a go at painting, playing tennis, gardening - do something new and see if you can find something that you enjoy.

*No Brain Junk - As important as healthy eating is for your physical health, healthy consumption of media is just as vital. When we constantly allow ourselves to be exposed to news stories and the constant updates from friends online, we are overwhelming our minds with too much information and often too many negative feelings - from sadness and worry, to comparison and envy.
Try to limit the number of times you allow yourself to read the news each week, be sure not to scroll social media first thing in the morning to avoid starting your day off on a bad note and mute anybody who makes you feel negative on social media. Make space for yourself to exist without constant exposure to outside influences on your mood and thoughts.

*Say "No" More - if your instinct is that say no, then SAY NO. Use it as a complete sentence. You do not exist for the convenience of other people, honour your own time and space - be intentional with how much of it you give away.

4. Diversify Your Social Media Feed

I talk about this one a lot, but it is honestly SO important and the positive impact it can have is absolutely huge.

We are already constantly exposed to a very narrow range of body types and looks in the media - when we continue to expose ourselves to the same slim, white, able-bodied people over and over again on social media we are adding to this, sending the message to ourselves that this is how WE need to look in order to be beautiful/accepted/liked/successful.

Challenge yourself to diversify your social media feeds. Follow people who look different from you and different from the beauty norms in our culture.

My social media feeds used to be full of the slim, blonde, tanned white women in their 20s with pristine homes and perfect make up. At that time, my body image and self worth were very low.

Now my social media is filled with fat people, thin people, disabled people, non binary and transgender people, people of all skin tones, people from all class backgrounds, women with facial hair, men who wear make up as a daily practise - every time I scroll through it I am reminded that the world is a very diverse place and that beauty does not look just one way. I don't think it's any coincidence that my own self worth and body image have improved so dramatically now.

I hope you find these suggestions helpful. If you have any of your own, I'd love to hear about them.

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