It’s Important to Develop Self-Love

Kids and self-esteem issues
Kids and Self-Esteem Issues

Do you ever have what I refer to as “hot pants” moments — moments when you are overcome with self-judgment?

I call them this because one of my most vivid memories of self-criticism came when I was 13 years old and hot pants — three-inch-long shorts that barely cover the butt — were all the rage. I was chubby, but that didn’t stop me from squeezing into my very own pair of bright pink hot pants.

On the day of my hot pants debut, I overhead one of my friends saying to another, “Can you believe Marci wore hot pants today — with those thighs?” I was crushed. When I got home, I took off those tiny shorts and stuffed them in the back of my closet where I’d never have to see them again. But I couldn’t get rid of the self-judgment that easily.

For a while, every time I looked into the mirror, I heard “Can you believe how fat you are?” Later, when I was 19 and didn’t have a boyfriend, that voice asked, “Can you believe what a loser you are?” And years after that, when I gave a talk and thought someone in the audience looked bored, the voice was still there: “Can you believe what a lousy speaker you are?”

If you’re like everyone else I’ve ever met, you have the equivalent of a “hot pants” story in your life and your own version of self-judgments that have put a lid on your experience of love and happiness.

Decades after this hot pants incident, I started studying self-esteem and later taught courses on how to raise self-esteem. Certainly having high self-esteem is great, but there’s a big difference between self-esteem and self-love.

Self-esteem is conditional — it’s based on “loving myself, because…”  I’ll love myself if I’m good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, do a good enough job, and so on. The limitations of this are clear. What happens when I don’t live up to the exacting standards that I hold? Then I plunge into self-judgment, close my heart, and feel unworthy of love.

On the other hand, self-love is unconditional — it means being able to love yourself no matter what — whether or not you look good in hot pants or do a fabulous job at work.

Here are two practices that can help you develop greater self-love. They’re especially useful when you’re having a rough time or being particularly judgmental with yourself:

1. Practice self-care: Most people aren’t in the habit of taking good care of themselves and honoring their own needs, which is fundamental to self-love. To reverse this, three times a day, stop what you’re doing and ask yourself, What’s the most loving thing I can do for myself right now? And then follow through on the answer.

2. Practice self-compassion: Developing self-love requires that you treat yourself kindly — as kindly as you would your neighbor or your friend. If you’re stuck in self-criticism, try thinking of yourself as a completely separate person. Ask yourself, what would you say or do if you saw a friend hurting the way that you’re hurting? Give yourself all the benefits of having a good friend — from the inside out.

So, the next time you have a “hot pants” moment, give yourself an internal hug and remember that you’re worthy of love — no matter what.

Marci Shimoff is a celebrated transformational leader and #1 New York Times best-selling author. To learn
more of her powerful techniques for establishing deep and authentic happiness and well-being, visit www.HappyForNoReason.com

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