When we fall in love it is easy to think of positive ways to describe the subject of our affection. We can gush at length about their physical features, personality traits, and accomplishments. Almost as easily, we can find positive things to say about books, foods, or coffee shops. They don’t have to be perfect for us to speak well of them; we easily focus on the positive and often accept the flaws without comment.
Why, then, do we struggle to do the same with ourselves?
When I describe myself I could say that I’m of average height with frizzy brown hair, stretch marks, and a bootie that’s two pants sizes bigger than I want it to be. I could say that I’m stubborn, critical, bossy, and a perfectionist. All of these things are completely true. But none of them sound like I’m talking about someone I love.
Instead, what if I describe my hair as having volume or being fluffy, and my body as being curvy and cuddly? What if I say that I’m determined, persistent, and tenacious, good at solving problems and making things better, a leader, and careful in my work? All of these things are equally true, but will make you–and me–think so much better of me.
Therein lies the challenge.
If I am to fall in love with myself, I must take into consideration the way that I talk to others–and to myself–about me.
So my challenge to you is to write a list of things that describe you.
The good, the bad, the ugly. The words you tell yourself, the words that you hear others say. All of them.
Now go down that list, and for every word that doesn’t make you feel loved, draw a line through it and write a new word; something that describes the same trait or feature but that puts it in a positive light.
Yes, I can hear your argument now. “Some things are only negative. There’s no way to put a positive spin on that one; I’d be lying to myself.” I am going to be stubborn, bossy, and critical with you about that argument: I believe you can find a positive side to every thing on that list. Go back and try again. If it’s hard, find someone else who loves you and ask them to help. (If you have young children, ask them: little ones are wonderfully good at seeing the best and most magical parts of a person. It was my son who snuggled up to my squishy, stripey belly and said “Mommy, your tummy is so soft, it is great for cuddles.”)
Once you have your list, make sure you remember it. Tape it to your fridge. Put it on the wallpaper of your phone. Look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself the words. Lay in the dark and whisper them over and over. Tell others those words when you talk about yourself.
And one time, when you say them, you’ll realize that you believe them. Because when you fall in love with someone, it is easy to think of positive ways to describe them.
J Brighton is a teacher, counselor, sister, mother, and friend with big hair, a bigger attitude, and a weird and sarcastic sense of humor. Her go-to self-care is knitting, dancing, drinking tea, kneading bread, or getting her hands in the garden dirt. She lives in Alaska with her husband, three sons, and an indeterminate number of chickens. She reads a lot, talks more, overthinks most things, and sometimes writes about it at Mindful Serenity.
There’s still time today to sign up for the Be Your Own Valentine 3 mini-challenge.