How to Love Yourself

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I came across this fantastic article in Harpers Bazaar and wanted to share it with you. http://www.harpersbazaar.co.uk/

We have one brain, located in one body, so are prone to believe we have one ‘real’ self. This is problematic because we don’t tend to feel and act in a singular way. It is more accurate and beneficial to think in terms of fluid, flexible and interconnected selves. Here’s why…

1. You are not one but many selves.
Think about how many different roles you inhabit in your life… I’m sure you’re familiar with reverting to your grumpy adolescent self when you’re with your parents, only to become more easy-going and relaxed when you’re back with your friends; but which is the ‘real’ you? The answer is neither and both. Each facet is part of the architecture of your personality, so look at the whole landscape of yourself and recognise how wonderfully varied and interesting you are.

2. Your self is changeable not fixed
You are the collection of all your experiences, memories, sensations and beliefs. Over time you will change as you experience different things, which is why people are often haunted by their teenage years – a peak time of identity formation. Recognise that you have moved past these periods of your life and accept the changes that occur as your life progresses.

3. Your self exists in relation to others
Comparing yourself to others is natural, but beware the common error of comparing your internal, private self to other people’s external, public selves. A perfect example of this is Facebook: people only post the shiny versions of themselves and comparing this to the messy, complex uncertainty of your inner experience will be at the peril of your self-esteem. Don’t try to show only your shiny side – it will just alienate others. Remember: we all struggle.

4. You are the stories you tell yourself
Experiences cause us pain, but only partly due to what happens; the rest is created by the stories we weave. The difference between an optimist and a pessimist is not what happens in their lives but how they interpret their experiences. Be creative in your story-telling and don’t get stuck in a single narrative.

5. Memory is not always to be trusted as a way of defining ourselves
We like to think of ourselves as coherent and so tend to recall memories that fit the person we think we are. If you’re feeling shy, you’re likely to recall a ream of embarrassing social occasions and forget all the exciting social encounters that disprove your awkward narrative. Beware of selective attention; it will always result in a biased picture.

6. Congruence between actual self and ideal self is difficult but important
The degree of alignment between who we are and who we would like to be is a central concern to most of us. Write a list of adjectives describing who you are and another describing who you want to be – ideally there will be significant overlap.

7. Culture has a lot to do with how you feel about yourself
Susan Cain in her brilliant book, Quiet, demonstrates how the industrial revolution has shaped the way we value ourselves. She argues that with the advent of machines, society stopped valuing qualities such as integrity, discipline and honour and began to prize qualities of magnetism, fascination and forcefulness. Just because our culture doesn’t always appear to value certain aspects of your personality does not mean that they aren’t wonderful qualities.

However you feel about yourself today, try to celebrate that which is extraordinary and ordinary in yourself in equal measure. Recognise your amazing ability to be different things to different people and acknowledge your infinite flexibility and sensitivity. Be fair to yourself and recognise your achievements as well as your failures. And, most importantly, be proud to be you. All of you. You are remarkable.

Alice Haddon is a qualified Counselling Psychologist. To learn more about her or to seek help about therapy, go to alicehaddon.com
Follow Alice on Twitter: @alicehaddon

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