10 Tips for Loving Yourself Better
In case you haven’t been in a store lately, Valentine’s Day decorations went up in mid-January: this is the season for expressing love. While you seek the perfect gift for your partner or your mother, give some thought to loving yourself—a skill many addiction experts see as essential to recovery. Here’s our Top Ten list of hints for practicing healthy self-love.
APPRECIATE YOUR GOOD QUALITIES
If you’ve been controlled by addiction for a long time, it’s easy to see yourself as utterly worthless. Don’t believe it! You still have your talents, your intelligence and your inherent human worth. Make a list of your positive attributes (if you struggle, ask support partners and family to list what they like about you) and what you can do with these qualities.
LEARN TO ACCEPT COMPLIMENTS
The proper response to “You did such a good job” is not, “Anyone could have done better.” It’s not, “I got this and that about it wrong.” It’s not, “I was just lucky.” It’s “Thank you.” And if you really want to love yourself as well as be polite to the other party, repeat “I did a great job and I’m so happy others appreciate it” inside your own head—multiple times if you have negative self-talk to overwrite.
MAKE TIME TO DO THINGS YOU ENJOY DOING
You aren’t more important than others—but you aren’t less important, either. Would you snap, “How can you take a break when there are unmet needs in this world?” at a loved one who spent the evening on a hobby or a Saturday at a spa? Then don’t hang the “selfish” label on yourself for doing things just because you want to do them. Besides, it’ll make you more effective at helping others, by providing insurance against burnout.
LEARN TO ENJOY YOUR OWN COMPANY
It’s great to spend time with friends—but if all your preferred activities are social, you may be afraid of being alone with yourself. Schedule regular times for solitude—in your favorite peaceful background setting—and, even if it hurts at first, listen to the deep parts of your consciousness. They have priceless things to teach you.
GET YOUR FAIR SHARE OF REST
There’s nothing superior about going full throttle every waking minute: even cars are now being made to save their energy by cutting the main engine when stopped at red lights. Learn to sit back for fifteen minutes during a workday, take all your vacation time and get a full sleep every night.
This doesn’t mean you have to give up chocolate and cheeseburgers forever, but you shouldn’t try to live on them, especially on an eat-on-the-run basis. (Eating healthy applies as much to how you eat as what you eat: gulping food or multitasking meals with work does your metabolism little good.) Nor does the bulk of your diet have to be flavorless: salads and whole grains can be delicious, without that bloated-and-sluggish aftereffect. Incidentally, if you’ve lost an unhealthy amount of weight due to addiction, the best way to gain it back is not to load up on empty-calorie junk foods (which, besides being unhealthy in themselves, generate fat-cell-centered pounds that “stick” less effectively than weight concentrated in muscles), but to include lots of nuts and oils in your diet, with extra-large servings of whole grains, proteins and starchy produce.
BE WILLING TO ASK FOR AND ACCEPT HELP
“Delegation aversion” that says, “If I don’t do it, it won’t get done right,” is often a cover for the fear you might not really be needed at all. In any case, you’re doing yourself no favors by overloading yourself to the point of burnout. Loving yourself means respecting your personal limits.
NURTURE YOUR SOUL
This may mean conversational prayer, mindful meditation, inspirational reading or sitting outdoors and appreciating the natural world. In any form, it means giving yourself a precious gift that could never be bought in a store.
WRITE A LOVE LETTER TO YOURSELF
Take a good-quality pen and some fancy stationery, and fill a few pages telling yourself how much you appreciate You, Your best qualities and the progress You’ve made. Express confidence You will be able to remain sober and build an ever-brightening future.
ELIMINATE NEGATIVITY FROM YOUR LIFE
No self-criticism. No pessimism about the future. No dwelling on the unfairness of life. No feeding yourself a media diet of political arguments, social criticism and overall bad news. Choose input that cultivates an eye for beauty, a sense of ongoing hope, and lasting confidence in your wonderful, lovable self.