“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
We all get bombarded by images and stories of success, beauty, prosperity, fame, and happiness. No wonder we are often our own worst critics. We want to fit in, be perfect and find our way to achieve these values in our own life. So often we forget that it starts with being caring, compassionate, loving and kind to ourselves. It is not only okay but absolutely necessary that we stop criticizing, blaming and judging ourselves and start accepting, caring, appreciating, respecting and loving ourselves for who we are. The natural side effect is that by treating ourselves nicer, others will treat us nicer too. Also we will apply these new thoughts to others. Still we don’t have to agree with everything, but we can accept that everyone is doing their best and that it is not our business to judge, criticize, blame or talk about others in a negative way.
Here are a few guidelines, inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh:
- Start to pay attention to your thoughts and emotions, acknowledge, identify and respect them. Your emotions and thoughts are indicators and can provide you with understanding and guidance once you allow them and listen. Usually we suppress negative thoughts and emotions as it feels uncomfortable and painful to deal with, yet become conscious and aware of your thoughts and emotions allows you to understand your own patterns and conditioning better. Once we understand ourselves better we can find techniques to help us transform into a more conscious and aware person, being able to deliberately choose each moment how we live, react, and feel.
- Start to identify what kind of thought came up for you. Was it a positive or negative one? If negative, was the thought of a past memories, or anxiety about events in the future? Self-criticism or judgements?
- Now see if you can feel the emotions that matches the thoughts and notice where you feel them and what they are. You can even go further and explore if the thoughts and emotions have any kind of shapes, colors, smells, tastes, etc. Allow yourself to image what they look like while you observe.
- While you are in this process, appreciate your courage to look deeper within yourself and become more aware. Once we don’t identify with our thoughts and emotions anymore and become conscious of them, we are free to deliberately choose our perceptions. Become aware of your breath and mindful of staying in the present moment while you are going to the next step.
- Not only are you acknowledging your negative thoughts or emotions but you show compassion and appreciation toward yourself for having them as they came up to protect you. Your way of giving self-care, love and commission to yourself is to close your eyes and go back to the image or sensation of the thoughts/emotions and care for them as if they were you little child, running towards you crying. Hold it in your arms, comforting it, giving it all your love and compassion, reassuring it that you are gonna be there with it until it feels better. Continue to hold it close to your heart until the emotions/thoughts reside.