Speak to yourself with kindness to find self-love

When was the last time you learned a new language? Perhaps it was when you were in school or perhaps more recently with a language-learning app on your phone. Remember what it was like trying to wrap your head around new vocabulary and new rules of grammar? For some, that may have been quite challenging. But I suspect the reward was great.

The same can be true when we retrain our brains to speak with love and kindness to ourselves about ourselves. Some studies show that our brains are hardwired to focus on the negative more than the positive. Some studies show that we are 70 percent more likely to engage in negative thinking than positive thinking. Consider how that affects us, our outlook, our worldview and our views of ourselves. What would happen if instead, we retrained our brains to be more positive not just about the world around us but about ourselves. What happens if instead of focusing on what we perceive as negative qualities about ourselves, we focused on the positive qualities? What happens in instead of engaging in negative self-talk we replaced that with positive self-talk and positive self-affirmations?

Oh, I suspect some people might wonder that if we constantly are propping ourselves up with positive self-affirmations and positive self-talk we may get big heads, lose our humility or become narcissistic. Likely more than not what really will happen is that we will notice a boost in our self-esteem, in our self-confidence and in our self-worth. The likelihood of becoming narcissistic is, in fact, quite slim.

If we think of speaking to ourselves lovingly as akin to learning a new language, just as we would with a different language, we must practice on a daily basis. We cannot undo years of negative self-talk with only occasional practice. We must commit to practicing positive self-talk, positive self-affirmations every day. That is how change happens. That is how we retrain our brains to focus on the good about ourselves rather than constantly dwelling on the negative and engaging in negative self-talk and self-flagellation.

If we start speaking to ourselves with loving kindness, the chances that we will start feeling better about ourselves is very high. We cannot shame ourselves into self-love. We cannot negative self-talk ourselves into self-acceptance. We cannot think negatively about ourselves and come to love ourselves for the perfectly imperfect beings that we are. We come to self-love (which is not selfish) by practicing positive self-affirmations, by speaking kindly to ourselves and by being gentle with ourselves.

But, how do we undo years, if not decades, of damaging negative self-talk? We do this by saying either aloud or quietly to ourselves things that are kind. We offer ourselves compliments. We focus on those qualities about ourselves that we like. We practice self-validation. Perhaps some of the qualities you like about yourself are your compassion for others, your loyalty and dependability. It is okay to say to yourself, “I am compassionate. I am loyal. I am dependable.” It is okay to say to yourself, “I have beautiful eyes. I have a winsome smile. I have great freckles.”

The more we practice positive self-affirmations, engage in positive self-talk and validate ourselves, the more we will notice an improvement in self-esteem, self-confidence, self-worth and a feeling of love for ourselves. Doing so requires daily effort and daily commitment, as does anything else that focuses on learning something new. The benefit of doing so will be not just feeling better about yourself, but likely noticing the good in others and in the world around you. What might you be able to say to yourself that is kind, gentle and loving? Can you practice being kind to yourself by focusing on your positive qualities? Can you learn the language of self-love?

~ Karri Christiansen, MSW, LSW, CADC, CCTP

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