99 tips for a better world: smile at yourself in the mirror (3 of 99)
This relatively new column is about the small things we can do every day to make the world a better place. Last week I talked about developing your own personal diversity strategy. The week before I talked about Fairtrade coffee.
At first I didn’t think today’s topic fit so neatly into my “99 tips for a better world” gimmick. I mulled it over while I was out for a walk and decided I was wrong. Today’s tip might be one of the most important ways we can all make the world a better place.
Last week, my colleague Laura sent me this article by Peter Bregman at Lifehacker: The Right Way to Speak to Yourself. It’s a great article, and as Laura put it when she sent it to me, it’s ‘right up your alley’.
It is right up my alley. I go on about ‘negative self talk’ a lot. I regularly remind my friends and family to be nice to themselves inside their own heads. It matters a lot.
There was a section in Bregman’s article that touched on one of the areas that thwarts our efforts to be kind to ourselves:
At first, it might feel awkward. But feelings follow actions—once you get the hang of it, you’ll gain more confidence in yourself. You’ll start to take more pleasure in yourself. And if you’re not there already, you might just fall in love with yourself.
At that point, what you find won’t look like arrogance. Arrogance is thinking you’re better than everyone else, which is often a protective mechanism born from insecurity when you don’t feel good about yourself. When you love yourself, you won’t need to feel better than anyone else, you’ll simply feel good about yourself.
I wholeheartedly agree with this. Often, people think they’re going to turn evil if they don’t keep a check on their ego. But it seems to me that genuine, healthy self-love has nothing to do with ego.
I think self-love is like a muscle you need to exercise. I find I can usually pick when someone has been in a habit of being harsh to themselves and decides to stop. They swing far in the other direction, sing their own praises and act almost diva-like in claiming their awesomeness. They are right to sing their own praises, but it can sound a bit clumsy.
Over time, it gets easier to be kind to yourself. It doesn’t feel conflicted when you tell one of your colleagues, ‘I’m really good at that, do you need my help?’ Just the same as is doesn’t feel shameful when you say, ‘I really struggle with that. Can you help me?’
My favourite reminder of self-love (as opposed to unchecked ego) is when I get into the lift at work after a long day. Even on a terrible day when I feel I haven’t been very good at my job – especially on a terrible day when I feel I haven’t been very good at my job – I look in the mirror, smile at myself and tell myself that I’m doing OK. Then I laugh because I’m smiling and talking to myself.
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