The Practice of Self Appreciation
It’s easier to find gratitude for others
We are now deeply embedded in the season of giving thanks and it’s time to talk about the practice of self-appreciation. As we know, the holidays can be a joyous and magical time of year. Something happens when the air starts to get colder, and you see Christmas lights going up. A softening of the world seems to appear, it’s almost as if a magic of sorts spreads out and things start to hit you on a deeper emotional level.
When November hits, we are trained to start thinking about thankfulness. What are we thankful for in our lives? This whole month I’ve talked about how to find more things in your life that you can be grateful for. As well as the benefits of recognizing those things and fully embracing the practice of being thankful.
Yet if I were to ask you what are some things about YOURSELF that you are thankful for, would you struggle to find an answer? I know I did. When I thought about the question I came to the full realization that I may be grateful for so many things in my life but, due to my ingrained feelings of low self-worth, I don’t feel like I’m ALLOWED to be grateful for myself.
I could write you a seemingly endless list of all the things and people in my life that I’m grateful for, and yet stare at a blank page with a pen in hand, when you ask me to direct that appreciation to myself. Why is that? Honest answer: It’s easier to appreciate, find value, and see the good in other people than it is to see it ourselves.
A time of thanksgiving
Holidays can be a time of extreme emotion. It’s common to expect joy, contentment, love, and many more positive emotions. What often can catch us by surprise is when those feelings become overshadowed by anxiety, depression, sadness, loss, or being overwhelmed.
Sometimes these feelings can be fleeting or explained away by SAD (seasonal affective disorder). You know where the seasons change and suddenly you are hit with a round of the “sads” or depression. One of the best weapons against these feelings is training yourself a new skill, one that focuses on cultivating an attitude of gratitude.
Psychological research has shown that practicing gratitude is strongly and consistently connected to finding greater happiness in your life. Things such as:
- Building positive emotions. (this is paramount in combating the SAD that can sneak up on us all)
- Creating good experiences. (the more of these we have in our lives, the easier it is to let go of/stop obsessing over the bad experiences in life)
- Equipped us to deal with adversity. (No one on this planet has a life without strife, pain, or speedbumps. Learning to deal with them with gratitude can determine how much adversity can bring you down)
- Builds strong, healthy, and positive relationships. (Hard truth here, if you surround yourself with negative ungrateful people that will be the toolset you use to maneuver through life. If you have a healthy and positive group of people in your life, then when you do hit the speed bumps of life those relationships can pick you back up!)
How does that translate into self-appreciation?
I was skimming Instagram today and I saw a post from a girl that I adore. She was showing some before and after pictures, as today is her 25th birthday. She looks BEAUTIFUL! So full of life and happiness. Yet most of her post was about how she felt sad because she isn’t closer to having a family and thought she would have hit her goal weight by now.
It hit me that we can be so grateful for everything we have in our lives and still ignore the most important and impactful thing on our journeys. OURSELVES! We become so obsessed with what we haven’t achieved or where we are in our lives compared to others that we don’t stop to be thankful for what we HAVE ACHIEVED! These things need so desperately to be recognized and celebrated.
Taking my friend’s story, if she were to practice self-appreciation, what kind of impact would that have had on how she viewed her birthday? She would have built positive emotions towards what she has achieved already in your life and been able to create a good experience from the day instead of looking at it as a failure to reach a deadline. She would have been equipped to deal with the adversity of not meeting some of those goals in a positive way. Perhaps a way that inspired her to even more greatness in the future. Most importantly, by practicing self-appreciation she would have built a strong, healthy, and positive relationship with herself, ensuring that even if those feelings arose she would be able to process them and leave them where they belong…in the trash!
Why is it so challenging to practice self-appreciation?
Here comes the challenging part of all of this. Remember when I said it’s easier to be grateful for other people, places, and things? I wasn’t lying. Trying to find things about yourself to be grateful for can be just as challenging as cultivating a love for yourself.
The reason for this is because you have to look at yourself in a way that strips away the negative walls you’ve built up around you. If you’ve suffered from low self-esteem, self-worth, and body image toxicity then you know the wall I’m talking about. The one that you built up to tell yourself that you are ugly, fat, unworthy, or whatever it is you see in the mirror. The words you’ve told yourself so many times so that when someone else says them to you they don’t hurt as much.
Stripping away those words/walls is not easy. It’s scary and often it hurts. So when it comes to looking at yourself honestly and finding something to be grateful for, it takes a little bit of internal house cleaning and letting go of hard ingrained cognitive patterns.
Hold on to hope though, going through the process is so worth the outcome!. It may hurt while you’re doing it, and I will recommend doing it piece by piece. Yet when you come through the other side, just like with loving yourself, the world will be such a happier and amazing place for you.
Ways to practice self-appreciation
Here are some easy ways to begin the practice of being grateful for YOU! Start with simple things. Simple self-care things sometimes help. You should have started a self-care routine by now but if you haven’t then NOW IS THE TIME!!!! Reward yourself just for being you. Buy yourself some flowers, or get that coffee you’ve been telling yourself you can’t have because of the calories. Schedule a pedicure or a long soak in the bathtub! Taking the time to appreciate your body and be grateful for all that it does for you is the first step.
I hate my feet! Yet when I go and get a pedicure, the act of taking care of my feet lets me appreciate that they do a lot for me. They carry around my body, they still function despite the fact that I’ve abused them! Something as simple as a pedicure can remind me that my body is something I can still be grateful for.
What do you like about yourself? No Judgements!
When it becomes normal to celebrate your body, then the next steps will be easier. These steps include writing down things about yourself that you like. That you appreciate as just your own. It doesn’t matter if these are qualities that bother other people about you. I can tend to be a bit outspoken, but by not being afraid to speak my mind I find that the relationships within myself and with others have an underlying honesty to them. I accept them for who they are and they accept me for the same. This creates a value within me that I treasure and have become so grateful for!
Be grateful for your presence. Find value and appreciation in what you bring to a group. Enjoy the experience of being fully present! Stop worrying about if you are wanted. Appreciate that you are worthy of adding to the joy of any experience!
Give yourself permission
The most important way to practice self-appreciation is by giving yourself permission. Permission to exist, to take up space, and to shine. To just be you! If you want to put Christmas decorations up before thanksgiving DO IT! If ordering Chinese take out and just watching movies with your family or friends makes you happier than stressing out over a big thanksgiving meal THEN DO SO! Appreciate the amazing little quirks that make up who you are. Give yourself permission to be exactly who you are and to fall in love with that person.
The Bottom Line
There are so many benefits of living a life full of gratitude. It may be easier to find outside sources of gratitude, but you are important too. Finding a way to practice self-appreciation is another strong weapon to add to our arsenal of self-worth!
This year has been one heck of a year, yet you can come out with a solid sense of love and appreciation for yourself. Let’s build up those positive experiences, thoughts, and relationships so when the speedbumps and roadblocks of life come along, they no longer stop us completely in our tracks.
My challenge to you, when you read this is to think about one thing that you are grateful about yourself. Not what you can do for others, but what something that is truly just you and you alone. Take that one thing and celebrate it, and then expand upon it. As always my friends, until next time remember you are not alone!
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