If you want to be successful, feel good about your life, and have excellent relationships, you have to start on the inside. Achieving goals so that you feel better about yourself is working backwards.
Change comes from within, and if you don’t love yourself, then nothing you do on the outside of your life will change that, and your relationships will never feel quite right. This post is all about being happy with yourself.
No matter where you are in your self-improvement journey, you have to remember that it is in fact a journey, not a destination. You will probably never be perfect in every way that you hope. It’s human nature to constantly strive for more. Unfortunately, it’s also human nature to look at what we are and what we have, and assess it as not good enough.
That’s why millionaires and billionaires keep amassing more fortune when they could easily retire.
It’s why supermodels and professional athletes are still searching for the perfect workout or diet that will make them look or perform even better.
It’s important to have goals. People shouldn’t be stagnant; forward progress is essential. But the person you are right now is enough. You are good enough right in this moment, and I can prove it. Because the present you is working on improvement; that means you are already smart, and determined, and powerful.
I’ve touched on this in previous posts, and a lot on my Instagram account. A daily gratitude practice is key to being happier, and also of accepting what is in the present time.
Be thankful for even the smallest good things that happen, and try to find the silver lining in any situation. Maybe rain is messing up your commute, but you see a rainbow. Or the grocery store is crowded, but you run into an old friend.
You can also be grateful for things that didn’t happen—for example, with my chronic illness, I express gratitude for each day that my symptoms don’t prevent me from accomplishing things.
Maybe it seems trivial to find gratitude in things that are small or “normal.” We feel like something has to be a major event to be celebrated. But that just isn’t the case. If you can’t even appreciate what you already have, then what’s to say the bigger things won’t be taken for granted as well?
Gratitude evokes happiness. There is no reason to defer gratitude and the joy it brings into your life.
3. Sing your own praises
So maybe you need to lose some weight, or you aren’t the best public speaker, or you leave your socks on the floor instead of putting them in the hamper. You are still a good person, who has many positive attributes.
Instead of nitpicking at yourself, recognize your inner and outer beauty. Learn to say “thank you” and really mean it when someone gives you a compliment, instead of protesting and taking an opportunity to sound self-effacing and self-critical. Start living in a mindset that is personally complimentary.
If you struggle with this, ask the people who love you to help you recognize your best qualities. Take the answers they give you as gifts. Don’t protest against them; instead, try to see yourself through their loving eyes.
4. Believe you are worthy
You are worthy of love, acceptance, and good fortune. Today, right now. Just as you are.
Believe it, and project it out into the world. Make it your mantra. Repeat it out loud to your reflection in the mirror. Make it your screen saver. Put it on your fridge. Treat others this way as well, as it will only improve the chances of you receiving the happiness you deserve.
5. Listen to and honor your body and heart
In this chaotic world we live in, most of us are in a constant state of reaction. We have too much external stimulation, and it tends to drown out the signals we receive from our body or heart.
By the time we hear these signals, they are often more like fire alarms, screeching in displeasure. Then, rather than responding to a request, we must put out a fire and rebuild.
The only way to be better at this is to make time for it. You can meditate, or simply sit quietly. Ask yourself, “How am I feeling?” “What do I want?” “What do I need?” “How would my ideal life look?”
After many years of ignoring the warning bells, it may take some time to understand your true needs. But once you do, expect some strong emotions to flow. This is a natural part of the process, and one that should be embraced.
6. Smile and breathe
In elementary school, I had a friend who was a good artist. I would sit and watch her draw these amazing things, fascinated by her imagination and skill. She told me once (at the ripe old age of eight) that she smiled while drawing, because it made her drawings better.
There is so much wisdom to that principle that can be applied to all aspects of life. Give it a try. And if you don’t feel like smiling under present circumstances, conjure something that makes you smile—a happy memory, listening to uplifting music, or looking at funny pictures. Whatever does the trick.
As for breathing, a yoga instructor was quoted once for saying that she thought people loved her class so much because it was the only time all day that they got to just sit and breathe. Stress changes our breathing, and even makes us hold our breath sometimes.
When I do coaching sessions, or anytime I’m talking to someone and sense they’re anxious, I ask them to stop and take a couple of deep breaths before they start talking. You’d be amazed at how many people thank me for doing this, because they didn’t realize how tense they were.
7. Give to others
Research shows that charity work improves the health and well-being of the volunteers. If you haven’t done volunteer work, it’s hard to describe the feelings of joy it brings. Not only that, but if you are feeling low and unworthy, this is a great way to remind yourself how helpful and useful you are.
You don’t have to participate in organized charity work to reap the benefits, though. Any giving done without the expectation of something in return will produce similar effects. So as you go through your day, stop and offer help whenever you can.
8. Reduce stress
Easier said than done, right? But a stressed-out person is more likely to be depressed, have physical manifestations of stress, and that stress will creep into all aspects of your life, not just the area that caused stress in the first place. There’s nothing like a nervous breakdown to cause a blow to your self-esteem. Make it a priority to find and use a stress management technique that works for you.
9. Spend time with happy, encouraging people
You probably already have a voice inside your head that tells you that you aren’t good enough. Why amplify that by surrounding yourself with negative people? There’s science behind this idea, too; people are happier and more successful when they associate with happy, successful people. And to level up, there’s nothing better than finding mentors who have already reached the goals you want to achieve for yourself.
10. Don’t compromise your values
For a few years, I felt like I had to compromise my personal ethics at work. I’m not sure I could say they were doing anything outright illegal, but many of the choices made by the people in charge were about putting money first, or giving politically powerful people what they wanted. Meanwhile, I took the job because I wanted to help people and be an advocate for the rights of the patients we served. I tried for a long time to make it work, but felt myself having to compromise more often.
When it got to the point that I was starting to lose touch with who I was, I became angry most of the time. I got into a lot of arguments at work, and a tense situation became even worse. My physical and mental health suffered immensely from living in this dichotomy, until I decided I would rather be poor than work there (or any similar job) ever again, no matter how much they paid me. That’s when I saved up a years’ worth of expenses, and quit my job. I haven’t replaced my six-figure income, but I do make a smaller income, without the stress and guilt of the job.
I’m finally getting back to being “me,” and only doing things that align with my values. Don’t make the same mistake I did—catch yourself before it gets too far, or find a way to get out.
Everyone makes mistakes. Imperfection is part of the human condition. It doesn’t mean you aren’t good enough, just that you’re human.
Instead of berating yourself for mistakes made, look more objectively at what happened. Ask yourself what you learned from it, and what you can do differently in the future.
Then accept this opportunity with gratitude, and move on.