An Exercise In Loving Yourself

When we surround ourselves with friends, we are declaring that we deserve a team of incredible people committed to bringing light, laughter, health, happiness and beauty into our lives. Yet, sometimes we forget the important fact that we are also an integral part of that team, bringing love and energy to those around us. We are plagued by negative self-talk, self-doubt, and body dissatisfaction. While we know we deserve these amazing people, we forget we are one of those amazing people too, and that our uniqueness is what makes people gravitate towards us.

I know firsthand that sometimes it takes a little bit of an effort to start believing in ourselves and our beauty again. I want to share with you an exercise in loving yourself that one of my amazing friends shared with me. Her personal energy radiated through me and now I want it to radiate through you, to remind you that we are all connected, and we all possess a beauty and an energy that serves the people around us. I want you to remember why you are an integral part of this universe's team. 

This exercise is for even the most critical body sceptics, those who know only how to berate themselves and apologise for the space they take up. It is designed to turn that inner body critic into your greatest ally. To remind you how perfect you are! But it may not be an easy road at first, so please be compassionate with yourself. Please note: While this exercise is geared towards body talk, it can be modified to address any negative self talk in other areas of self as well like ability, personality, character, presence, intelligence etc.

Here’s what to do:

1. Get a pen and a piece of paper/note book ready.
2. Get down to your birthday suit - take make up off as well! Let your radiant self be visible.
3. Stand in front of a mirror.
4. Keep your eyes open.

Be prepared. The first time you do this, all kinds of negative nasty thoughts will be running through your mind. This is common for most people. Society likes to bully us into believing we aren't good enough just as we are. Try and think of all those negative thoughts as 'society the bully', and not as your own feelings about yourself. You may feel incredibly ashamed and vulnerable. That's okay. Stay there. Pay attention to all your thoughts and ask yourself, why do you think they are true?

If the so called 'flaw' was on someone else, for instance your best friend, would you think so negatively about them? Would you tell them all the put downs that you are telling yourself?

You may get angry. You may cry. You may feel depressed. That is okay. You are simply purging all the negative messages that you have picked up over the years from an image obsessed culture. Your true inherent self is pure without these messages.

After the influx of crappy thoughts have passed I want you to look at yourself and write five things that you see and like on your pad of paper. It could be something small such as a mole on your collarbone, a pinkie finger, the texture of your skin on the inside of your elbow... or it could be larger features such as your booty, or stomach or the color of your eyes!

For the people who will find the first time very challenging, get creative, there are always (always!) five things to be proud of - you just have to give yourself permission to compliment yourself (you deserve it).

Over time, or maybe even right away, you might feel elated to look in the mirror because you forgot how perfect you were!  But if it takes a few tries, know this: You can do it!

You should also write down how you feel about yourself on a scale of 1 - 10 with 1 = terrible and 10 = exceptional.

Ta da! Now you have a list of five things YOU like about your body (and that's the opinion that matters most). It’s time to congratulate yourself. Now you can go on with your day knowing there are five things you like about you.

The next day, commence the process again: birthday suit, mirror, eyes open. This time write five more things you like about your body - they must be different than the ones you wrote before. If you're struggling, try and stretch your imagination or think, "what would (insert favorite person's name here) adore about my body?" Write them down.

Would you look at that! You now have 10 things you like about your body!!

I want you to challenge yourself to do this exercise everyday for a week. A full seven days, five different things you see and like about your body. At the end of the week you will have 35 items on your list. Which is accomplishment all on it's own. Hooray!

On the seventh day (or you could do it every day if you want) look at your scale from one to ten again. Has the scale changed from the number you initially chose for yourself? Now, seven days and 35 compliments later, how are you feeling about yourself on a scale from one to 10?

The most interesting part of this exercise is the perceptual change you experience during the week. Most often when people look in a mirror they're picking at all the things that they perceive as wrong with them. Yet over the course of one small week, I bet your perception changed when you looked into the mirror; you began noticing the items you have on your list. You began to focus on all your wonderful attributes. Imagine what you could accomplish in a lifetime of loving yourself! Soon enough, when you walk by a mirror, you’ll catch yourself thinking "Wow. I really DO like #17 on my list, why didn't I appreciate it before?" instead of berating or shaming yourself. Your so called 'flaws' no longer own your self-concept.

Now, I know everyone has a bad day, a down on your luck day, an angry scary boss day, a bad grade day, a hangover day, a difficult children day, a fight with your lover day, and the thoughts start to slip back into the negative. That's okay. This is a perfect time to refer to your list to remind yourself of the magnificence that you are even when your thoughts aren't at their best! We all need to come back to self compassion and the knowledge that we are all one. You share your beauty with everyone around you. You are more important than your little stresses.

For those who suffer from deep rooted self-hatred, it takes time to break the cycle of negative thought patterns, so please be patient with yourself, continue to find things you like about yourself, including your character and personality too. If a week isn't enough to change your perspective, keep going! Go for 10 days, two weeks, a month or more. It's up to you. You have a lifetime to change your thought patterns, but you waste a lifetime if you don’t know how incredible you are. Read your list out loud to yourself every day, write it on the mirror. Remind yourself of your perfection. And if you’re still in the slumps, a good therapist is always waiting to help guide you along.

You may find after one week, your perception changes so much that you realize what a  waste of energy, brain power and time is spent on berating your body. Outside of our negative brain space, the reality is that all along, these 35 things (and more) were the things people around us noticed first. After all, the greatest beauty anyone can posses is a deep sense of inner calm and confidence. This exercise will do just the trick.

Erin Watson is a graduate student in gender and sexuality focusing on sexual embodiment. In addition she is pursuing her sexual therapy certification, maintains two blogs and is writing a book exploring mindful sexuality. Erin is committed to holistic health and beauty and recently developed an all-natural skin care line. In her free time, Erin dances like no one is watching.


Websites: The Sexuality Challenge 

Twitter: @sxltychallenge 

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