How to achieve self-love and self-acceptance

Suhana Khan’s line, ‘I always have fun with me’, as Veronica Lodge from Archies, may have made you cringe. But, making yourself a priority is not only important for yourself but also for the sake of others. When there’s a lot to be done, taking some time to take care of your needs might come across as counter-intuitive, selfish even. But, in our quest to get stronger, better and healthier, we usually don’t think about being kind to ourselves. It therefore becomes difficult to break away from the narrative, stop self-sabotage and stop being destructive or wasting energy on self-pity. Read on to learn how to break the cycle.

Draw boundaries

“The First step to self-love is drawing boundaries– saying no when you have to and doing things you love; carving out me-time,” says Delhi-based clinical psychologist Dona Singh. Saying ‘no’ might be tough. But, once you get the ball rolling, there’s no turning back. Prakriti Poddar, counsellor and global head of mental health at Roundglass Living says, “One of the first steps towards self-love is self-acceptance. Practice speaking to yourself with kindness and compassion, just as you would to a friend.” and adds that self-love is a life-long journey.

She also recommends eating healthy, moving your body throughout the day, and prioritising getting enough sleep at night. “Recognise that inner negative dialogues are nothing but thoughts and thoughts are baseless without actions. Counter the thoughts with positive actions and past positive experiences,” says Singh. 

Acknowledge negative thoughts

“It’s critical not to suppress negative thoughts. You want to acknowledge them without dwelling on them endlessly,” Poddar says. But she also points out that focusing on negative thoughts accelerates body ageing and leads to lasting inflammation, potentially increasing your risk of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. Singh recommends using Discipline as a tool, more than motivation. “Discipline helps you remain consistent so that it becomes a part of your life. Working out and being disciplined is effortless for me now, but it took lots and lots of practice and patience,” she says. “I am a mom of a 7-year-old. It is never easy to juggle work, home and workouts. But we need to take out time for what is important to us,” she adds. This can be anything that makes you feel good– painting, meditating, going for a walk, a short session of yoga or a dance class.

Accept your flaws

Yoga instructor Abhilasha Kale says, “If you keep yourself physically, mentally and emotionally healthy, you are in a better position to help others.” We equate this to putting on your own oxygen mask during turbulence before helping your kid. She also says, “Self-love isn’t the sum of what you do for yourself or others, but accepting your shortcomings. Accepting your flaws and the negative emotions you feel like anger, guilt or envy is one of the important aspects of self-love.” Journaling is known to be a good tool to deal with the many emotions you feel.

One day at a time

Sonia Lulla, pilates and functional fitness trainer and health writer says, “When I first tackled obesity and shed 30 kilos of excessive weight, I told myself, I would never gain weight again. Obviously, that didn’t happen. In the last 20 years, I did gain and lose weight. And it was frustrating, but, I realised that enjoying life was crucial and getting angry at myself for enjoying life was silly.” 

“My weight loss journey taught me a lot– it taught me that there’s immense joy in being fit– being able to move freely and efficiently and have the energy to get through the day without getting exhausted. We think about fitness with an all-or-nothing approach. The magic will not happen only when you lose 10 kilos, it will also happen when you lose two, five or seven kilos. So every bit of effort you make is worth the benefits you can reap.” She suggests that one shouldn’t look at getting fit as a Herculean task, but, focus on approaching each day as it comes. “Tick off each day you exercise on a calendar and see how many days of exercise you’ve packed in in a month. Then, try to improve on that.” to get a fairly easy start on things, Lulla recommends trying dance workouts. 

Fake it till you make it

Poddar says that the fake it till you make it approach, when it comes to cultivating confidence does work to an extent. “Techniques such as visualization and positive affirmations can be powerful tools for stepping into a more confident and empowered mindset. With time and practice, that confidence can become effortless. Rather than “faking it till you make it,” I prefer to think of it as remembering and reinforcing the confidence and authenticity that has always been within you.”