Unless you’re trying to raise a bully, you’ve probably told your children that you can’t lift yourself up by putting someone else down. So why do we, as women, have such a hard time taking that lesson to heart? We may be quick to praise or compliment others, but we don’t do the same thing for ourselves.
I saw this myself at dinner with my girlfriends not long ago. These beautiful women had no trouble finding fault with themselves. One hates her “crazy” skin. Another complained about her flapping upper arms and said her skin draped so much it looked like a curtain swag. She even threw away a blouse that showed too much arm in a photo.
As a health advocate, I see just how destructive self-criticism can be. To be healthy – physically and mentally – our internal dialogue and external persona need to match. When we undercut ourselves with constant criticism, we are bound to suffer in mind, body and spirit.
So what can we do to develop a more positive self image? For me, it took a lesson from my daughter who once said, “My mom doesn’t think she’s beautiful.” I finally admitted she was right, and that realization forced me to change my attitude. Here are some of the steps that helped me fall in love with myself.
1. Find your inner beauty
Easier said than done? Definitely. But if the old adage “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is true, what message are we sending ourselves when we fill our own heads with criticism? Instead of picking at everything you think is wrong with you, work to actively locate the beauty inside yourself and celebrate it.
2. Write it on the mirror
To help with my internal transformation, my daughter took my lipstick and wrote “I am beautiful” on my bathroom mirror where I had to see it every morning. We cleaned around the words for a year until I finally got it through my head. So take your brightest lipstick and write the words you need to see on your mirror or on a note on the refrigerator door or a sticky note in the middle of your steering wheel. Wherever you put your message, be sure you read it every day – and leave it there until you believe it.
3. Give yourself a break
We all do or say things we wish we could take back. Then we fall into the inner dialogue of thinking, “Why did I say that?” or, “Why didn’t I do better?” These thoughts are so automatic we don’t even realize how much we put ourselves down. Instead of letting mistakes loop in your head, give yourself permission to let them go and move on.
4. Pay attention
As women, we often find it easier to give compliments than to receive them. Don’t brush aside affirming words. Whether it’s a kind act or a thoughtful word, give yourself a moment to really think about what others appreciate or admire in you. Those things are real, and they deserve your personal attention. For me, compliments from other women are more meaningful than those from men. So don’t be stingy in paying compliments to others. I believe whatever you give out will come back to you ten-fold in personal satisfaction.
Even if you still don’t see your inner beauty, lock eyes with someone and give her a big smile. You’ll see her light up as your inner beauty shines through. Better yet, that light will reflect back onto you, and you’ll both feel better about yourselves.
As women, loving ourselves is not the norm – but it should be. Each of us needs to be happy in our own skin – no matter how wrinkled it may be. Our power and our beauty lie in our generous and loving hearts that bring light, joy and strength to others. So I encourage you to celebrate your own beauty and the beauty of the women around you. Only you have the power to change how other people perceive you. If you want to be respected, you first need to respect yourself. So take time to recognize the good in yourself and give thanks to yourself. You deserve it.
Michelle King Robson (pronounced robe-son) is one of the nation's leading women's health and wellness advocates. She is the Founder, Chairperson and CEO of EmpowHER, one of the fastest-growing and largest social health companies dedicated exclusively to women's health and wellness. In 2011 EmpowHER reached more than 60 million women onsite and through syndication expects to reach more than 250 million in 2012.