Love Your Self

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Post written by Karen Cripps.

Imagine a world in which you are just lovely to yourself.

Imagine if the inner critic transformed into a supportive friend.

Imagine if you were to be as kind to yourself as you are to other people.

Imagine if you congratulated yourself on what you have achieved, rather than berate yourself for what you haven’t achieved.

After seven years of fighting to recover from a chronic illness (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), for which there is a poor prognosis and no conventional cure, I didn’t congratulate myself for staying the course on an extremely bumpy recovery road; for determinedly trying treatment after treatment until I found what worked; for overcoming the biggest challenge of my life. Oh no, I look at why it has taken me so long – if I’d wanted it badly enough surely I would have made it happen quicker.

A few months ago a doctor said to me: ‘I’ve never met a CFS patient like you before…I am sure your attitude is a big part of why you have improved so much.’ A few days later another doctor made a similar observation. Why can’t I see this in myself? I would see it in someone else – if you presented my story to me as someone else’s story, I would be full of admiration.

What if I was as kind to myself as I am to my best friend?

When my best friend shares her weight loss for the week with me, I don’t say ‘yeah that’s great but you’ve still got half a stone to lose haven’t you?’ No, I shower her with words of encouragement; I celebrate her achievement as I know losing weight is hard work. But when I look at myself in the mirror, I don’t say ‘you know what, you look pretty good: well done for taking care of yourself, eating well and exercising.’ Oh no, I say ‘that muffin top is looking a bit too muffiny today,’ or find some other imperfection to criticise.

Why can’t I be kinder to myself? I would then walk away from the mirror feeling fabulous and waltz through my day; instead I leave the mirror feeling like a failure – not the way to go off into the world and feel good about life.

Imagine how we would feel about ourselves, about our lives, if we were just a bit damn nicer to ourselves; and imagine how much more we could achieve.

If you have a coaching session, you wouldn’t be very impressed if the coach spent an hour telling you how terrible you are at life, or honing in on your weaknesses or mistakes. And that support you’re dishing out to friends and partners and other people in your life – what if *drum roll* you started dishing out some of it to yourself too.

If I take a moment to reflect on my recovery journey and see it how others see it, I realise what a big thing I have achieved. And when I see it this way, do you know how it makes me feel? It makes me feel like I can take on the world. And that is a feeling I can harness to work through the next challenge (hopefully an easier one!)

So how about if we have a go at silencing the annoying inner critic?

Be your own best friend, mentor or coach

If you can hear the inner critic voices mounting an attack, take a moment, close your eyes and imagine what your best friend or partner (or whoever makes you feel amazing about you and life) would say to you. Imagine they are there with you. Now make that voice the louder one!

Give the inner critic a place to go

Writing a journal is another great way of unleashing the inner critic. Just let it all out, all those crazy thoughts that are running round your head. Write until there doesn’t seem to be any more coming. Don’t censor (this is for your eyes only) just write. And then counteract the craziness with some love, with some words of encouragement. Be that compassionate friend or coach to yourself.

Affirmations

Affirmations are also a way of drowning out the loud voice of that annoying inner critic. How about if when I looked in the mirror instead of focusing on the muffin top, I said out loud to myself ‘I love and accept myself just the way I am.’ You know, like I do with other people.

This isn’t about seeing ourselves as perfect or being arrogant, this is just about being kind to ourselves, supporting ourselves. If we have a team at work to manage, we don’t think oh I know, I’ll criticise them constantly that will motivate them. If we are a parent we don’t encourage a child by telling them everything they have done wrong. So why on earth do we think this is a good way to go with ourselves?

So yes, be bold, and imagine that you are now on the side of you. I know, crazy.

Karen Cripps writes at The Reinvention Tour about reinventing herself into something new and sparkly and amazing. After coming through the other side of a chronic illness, she has re-emerged with a new zest for life – but oh what to do with that zest?

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