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Karen Maleck-Whiteley: Practicing self-appreciation

Live Well Stress Less

Posted: July 2, 2009 9:46 p.m.
Updated: July 3, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
“It is of practical value to learn to like yourself. Since you must spend so much time with yourself you might as well get some satisfaction out of the relationship.”
Norman Vincent Peale

I hope this quote made you smile. It does for most people, even if behind the smile it makes us a little sad to consider how we think about, talk about, and sometimes treat ourselves.

Last month’s article was about how to express your appreciation for others in your life, and I must admit, I was completely surprised by several e-mails from people I know, expressing their appreciation of me.  

This allowed me, to return the favor and tell them how much I appreciated each of them. What a wonderful series of positive reinforcement loops this set up.

This month, I want you to appreciate yourself and turn some of that magic inward. You may find that upon reading this, you are immediately having thoughts like: “Yikes!  It was pretty easy to tell others why I like and appreciate them, but how to do it for myself?” “Right, I am such a loser — if only people knew — I would be lying to myself,” “I feel like a fake ignoring my shortcomings; aren’t those the things I need to improve on to be happier?” “What about the virtue of humility — it feels strange to toot my own horn,” or “This idea just makes me feel weird.”  
I know this is foreign ground for many of us.  We are so much more at home being outwardly positive and giving to others, and feel uncomfortable acknowledging ourselves.

Many of us are very practiced at keeping a carefully constructed calm outer façade, while inwardly letting what I call “the committee in your head” conduct a rampant running negative critique of everything we do.

That’s the part of you that may have made statements like those in the prior paragraph.  Don’t worry if this sounds more than familiar — it is a normal human condition.

So, I am asking that you suspend your tendency to judge these ideas and techniques, knowing that this is just another example of the “committee” in action (e.g.: “Yeah, this may work for you, but this stuff never works for me,”) and try these two simple tools.

A self-appreciation list
Every day, think of at least five things you appreciate about your body, your mind, your strengths, skills and abilities, your accomplishments, your personality, the things you are, or the things you have done in your life.

The only requirement is that the things you list need to be about you. Do not list things like “I have great friends,” but rather, acknowledge yourself for being the kind of friend that attracts quality people, or for maintaining meaningful relationships, or for being a good friend.

The things you list can be big or small. What do you like best about your looks?  What can you appreciate about how the miracle of your body functions? What are things you accomplished throughout your life? Even the crooked picture you drew in second grade that made your grandmother smile is worth mentioning. You don’t have to show your list to anyone, so don’t be afraid to anything.

When you take time to regularly focus on the things you value in yourself, you find that you actually do like yourself more and feel happier on a daily basis living in the skin you’re in.  

Answer the committee
Another way to practice self-appreciation on a daily basis is to actively listen to that “committee in your head” and answer it. Your committee may be expert at telling the story of events in your life in a destructive horror-story manner.

You have the ability at any time to appreciate where these characterizations are inaccurate and to correct them with truth.

Noticing the words you use internally gives you the power to change them. Just knowing that the committee tends to be negative and to speak in absolute terms like “always” and “never” makes it pretty easy to counteract the committee’s input.

There is almost nothing your committee can say that you cannot debunk. It’s actually fun to see how well you can do it. Here’s how.  

Whenever you notice one of your committee members giving you negative input, answer that voice immediately. Tell yourself the truth about the situation.  

Examples:
Committee: “Wow this is a disaster. You always screw up these reports.”

You: “No, Hurricane Katrina was a disaster. This is just something we need to figure out. And I often do my reports correctly.”

Committee: “What are you thinking? There’s no way this is going to work. Your ideas never do.”  

You: “Things like this work out for people all the time. Many of my ideas have worked — you’re exaggerating again.”
Your objective here is to give yourself as much or more positive input as negative, by answering the committee and making your self-appreciation list. Over time, this will tip the scales in your favor.  

If you cannot think of anything true to say back to the committee, all you have to do is tell it you are choosing not to listen right now, and go back to the first tool — thinking of five more things you appreciate about yourself.  

Karen Maleck-Whiteley is a certified hypnotherapist, coach, speaker, and author. She is also the co-owner of Balance Point Spa in Santa Clarita, where people go every day to reduce their stress and feel appreciated. For information on improving self-esteem or coaching yourself, call (661) 252-0650, or e-mail to karen@balancepointspa.com. Find out more by visiting BalancePointSpa.com, WMWgroup.com, livewellstressless.info, or Five4Me/podhoster.com (free podcasts).

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