I spent all my time taking care of others, filled my hours with charitable distractions, so I wouldn’t have to focus on myself. It was an excuse not to address my own problems. My health deteriorated. I fell into depression. I was always exhausted.
The only thing that finally allowed me to get out of that pattern was starting a gratitude practice. I made a concerted effort to consistently focus on what I appreciated about my life. I would write down five things I was grateful for every day, no matter how ungrateful I felt. The extent to which this increased my sense of balance in life cannot be overestimated.
After seeing the positive impacts such a small practice had on my life, I was motivated to take it even deeper. So, I tried something radical, just to see how it felt. I started to thank myself for just being me.
I would say things like, “Thank you for doing the best you can.” “Thank you for trying each day to do your best.” Even when I was disappointed with myself, even when I thought I had fallen short, I took myself to a place that I could still be grateful to myself and appreciative of the fact that I had shown up. I had made an effort.
The results of my self-love gratitude practice were surreal. I found inner peace, discovered my life purpose, and developed a genuine love and appreciation for me.
It's easy to get confused about this. It's easy to let self-imposed expectations and guilt trick us into believing self love is selfish. It isn't. It is our innermost need. When we accept ourselves fully and feel gratitude and appreciation for ourselves, we can give to others of our time, our energy, and our love more richly.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving — a celebration of gratitude — take time to thank yourself for being you.
Not a clue where to start? Here are 15 easy ways to inject some gratitude for you into your day.
1. Stop chastising yourself for not being further along in a certain process or towards a certain goal. Appreciate how far you've come.
2. Look in the mirror and compliment yourself. (This is one you can do every day.)
3. When you find yourself speaking negatively about yourself, stop. Immediately. And think of a compliment instead.
4. Accept compliments with grace instead of deflecting them.
5. Write down ten things you love about yourself. Refer to it any time you start to feel unhappy about yourself.
6. Schedule a special date with yourself.
7. Eat the extra helping without feeling guilty — if it's what you really want.
8. Make a list of ways you've made a difference in others’ lives.
9. Smile more.
10. Listen to your heart.
12. Take time regularly to do what makes you happy. (Even if it's 30 minutes a week to get a pedicure or hit the gym. It makes a huge difference.)
13. Express yourself more. The world needs what you have.
14. Ask yourself “What do I really want?” instead of “What should I want?” And do it.
15. Write a letter to yourself, thanking you for being you.