10 Ways to Learn to Love Yourself More
We can so easily be our own worst critics, quicker to give ourselves a thumbs down than our frenemies are. Whatever imperfections we find now may either multiply with age (like wrinkles, bad knees and love handles) or begin to disappear in the face of unconditional love for ourselves. Since we are all going to get older -- with or without a fight -- we can either be miserable or we can learn in this moment how to ride it out with smiles on our faces. It often seems that people farther along in their life journeys have found true self-love, so we spoke with five inspirational older women who love themselves just as they are and listened to their tips for learning how to love yourself unconditionally.
Lynda, 67, Retired Homemaker
Full disclosure: Lynda, now a grandmother, is my mom, the women who taught me: “You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit.” I am lucky to have a mom that loves herself just the way she is, and she is such a shining example of how to accept and even adore oneself. Read on for her suggestions.
1. Learn to Laugh at Yourself
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Lynda doesn’t take life too seriously, knowing that circumstances are continually changing both in her inner and outer world. Instead of feeling guilty or judging herself, she can laugh at herself and find humor in life’s challenges. For instance, if she is in a yoga class trying to do a balancing pose, she loosens up, focuses and gives it her best effort. If she falls, she chuckles instead of projecting her own insecurity on people around her and worrying what the other students will think. The reality is that most people are too busy and focused on themselves to notice the little snafus you beat yourself up about. And if someone does give you some side-eye, brush it off and keep laughing.
2. Forgive Others to Forgive Yourself
This was a hard lesson for Lynda, but she learned that forgiving and accepting the people that hurt her in life allows her to forgive and accept herself. In order to be so forgiving, she puts herself in the other person’s shoes to understand that person’s perspective. This has allowed Lynda to not take it personally when someone is unkind or short tempered: In turn, she isn’t so hard on herself. Letting go of anger and resentment helps us extend that same tolerance and forgiveness to ourselves.
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Kathleen, 60, Retired Elementary-School Teacher
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Kathleen celebrated her 60th birthday with a yoga class on the beach with 25 of her closest friends. I know that because I was there teaching the class and have now been friends with Kathleen for about six years. I am continually amazed at her way of looking at things and the energy she has. She’s a busy lady with a full social life, constantly joining book clubs, bunko, and bible studies and always looking for a reason to get her friends together.
3. Invest in Friendships
“I have an abundance of wonderful, caring people in my life and try to stay connected to them,” says Kathleen, also a mother. “I love hosting a party and use any life events as an excuse to gather and celebrate!” She surrounds herself with people who not only like her, but who also love her for who she is, and that helps her love and accept herself.
4. Dive Into Your Senses
Another way Kathleen has learned to love herself is by fully engaging the world with her senses. To engage her sense of sight, she wakes to watch the sun rise and makes a point to watch the sun set each day. Kathleen travels the world, notices the smells of cinnamon in fall and barbecues in the summer and takes account of the flowers blooming in the spring. When she experiences the world of taste, she savors it so that eating is “somewhat of a religious experience,” she says. By diving into her senses, she realizes what an amazing experience it is to be a human being, and her gratitude for life fuels the pleasure she takes in being Kathleen.
Jan, 64, Jewelry Designer and Owner of a Yoga Studio
Jan is a tiny, vivacious woman that packs a punch with her dynamic smile, energy-infused eyes and lust for life. She has been a jewelry designer for more than 40 years and currently owns Harmony HB, a yoga studio in Huntington Beach, California, where you can take yoga and dance classes, get massages and shop for her handmade Jan Palmer Jewelry. Jan’s creative, passionate life reflects the ways that she has learned unconditional love for herself.
5. Find a Purpose
Find something you are passionate about, and give yourself fully to it, Jan suggests. In love with jewelry since she was a little girl, Jan took classes, studied with people she looked up to and made a successful career out of it. She also fell in love with yoga and did the same with that. The way she shares each of her passions with others transforms lives, infusing her with love and respect for herself.
6. Use Therapy as a Tool
Jan has spent most of her life learning about herself in therapy, not because there is something wrong with her but because when we start to learn about ourselves, we begin to appreciate the many layers and complexities of our psyches. A better understanding of ourselves, for example, can lead to mindfulness, allowing us to be kinder toward our imperfections. In Jan’s case, she has used therapy to learn how to create proper boundaries with others, how to design a life that is fulfilling and how to accept and love herself just the way she is.
Gayle, 72, Ski Instructor, Personal Assistant and Nanny
Gayle is one active, sexy, sweet and positive lady. Also a mother, she is incredibly adventurous and always has a beaming smile on her face. The importance that she places on physical health and well-being makes her an especially great example of how one should go about life while developing a fondness of oneself. Her commonsense suggestions are ones you can start on immediately.
7. Get Some Exercise Everyday
Gayle exercises everyday, and biking, swimming, skiing, hiking and yoga are some of her favorite activities. When she looks in the mirror each day, she is happy with what she sees and she knows the pleasure of keeping her body in ideal condition. New York Times best-selling author and founder of the company Blue Zones, Dan Beuttner searched the world to find the people who lived happy, healthy, long lives. He discovered that these people exercised up to an hour each day in some way that they enjoyed. You don’t have to kill yourself to burn calories every day -- just light to moderate exercise day in and day out.
8. Get a Good Night’s Sleep
When she gets enough sleep, Gayle notices a palpable difference in her mood: She feels more positive and loving toward herself and others. But how does she do it? By staying busy, she’s nice and tired when nighttime comes. She also tries to go to bed at the same time each night, a practice supported by research. According to Dr. Michael Breus, author of “The Sleep Doctors Diet Plan,” maintaining a pattern keeps your biological rhythms in check, which ensures a solid night’s sleep.
Rosa, 51, Associate Director of Finance
With a looming diagnosis, Rosa’s mother was very sick for most of her life, and Rosa felt she could lose her at any moment. When her mother finally did pass away, she became lost in a fog of grief and her own health began to decline -- until the day she got a call from her dad. He had found a letter in her mother’s purse written and sealed specifically for Rosa. It read: “Dearest Daughter, Always remember that I love you tremendously. Take care of yourself well. You are a very important person….” And Rosa has spent the rest of her life doing just that.
9. Spend Time With Yourself
Working full-time and caring for two daughters alongside her husband, Rosa knows how crazy life can get. Instead of pulling her hair out, she simply takes a time-out. Several times a year, she attends silent retreats where she can tune in to the voice of her higher power. The time she sets aside for self-care reinforces the way she values herself, and she returns with a heightened sense of courage, peace and optimism. Spending time alone (and enjoying it) is key to learning to value your own thoughts and opinions, giving them space to strengthen and grow -- eventually providing them with unconditional love. You think, therefore, you are, right?
10. Give Yourself Permission to Be Happy
When Rosa received that letter from her mother, she immediately felt as if she had a mission to fulfill. She has spent the rest of her life looking for the good in life -- in art, poetry, music, her friends, family, food, exercise and nature. Rosa recommends allowing yourself to make it your mission to find the positive in life. In fact, you have her permission to be happy, so go out there and start walking on the sunny side of the street because, according to Audrey Hepburn, “happy girls are the prettiest girls.”
What Do YOU Think?
Do you struggle to love yourself unconditionally? What ways have you found to increase your sense of self-esteem and self-worth? Tell us in the comments below.
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- Melanie Andersen