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In today’s world, we are constantly bombarded with marketing imagery intent on cutting down our self-esteem. We see images of unattainable body shapes all around us: on TV, in magazines, on billboards, even in video games and toys! And all of this marketing (some subliminal, some not so much) has one end goal: to convince us that if we buy their product, we’ll be cooler, richer, smarter, faster, stronger, thinner, more muscular, attractive, sexy…the list goes on.

But in the end it just leaves us feeling miserable.

We generally treat others with kindness, empathy, and respect, and yet we treat ourselves like we’re our own worst enemy. Unfortunately, the older we are, the harder it can be to rewrite all those years of negative self-talk. It’s time to practice self-love rather than self-judgment or hate, but that requires practice. The effort, however, will be well worth it: positive self-image can improve your happiness, your relationships, your success at work — not to mention how a positive example of self-love and self-care can impact our kids and those around us. So with this goal in mind, here are five essential steps you can take today to rewrite those years of self-doubt and negative self-talk.

1. Leave yourself notes in places you see often.

We are surrounded every day with negative marketing, so why not add some positivity to the mix? Leave yourself loving, kind, and positive notes on the bathroom mirror, your computer background image or screensaver, your cell phone — get creative! You can even send yourself an email at the end of the night to be read first thing in the morning.

The key with this is to switch it up, so you don’t become acclimated and stop reading these notes. Create a file of kind, loving images on your computer and set your screensaver or desktop image to scroll from this folder. Switch up your phone background every few days from a stockpile of healthy messages. Try and surprise yourself.

2. Follow each negative comment with a positive one.

I saw this image on Pinterest a long time ago, and its message has always stuck with me. If you slip up and say or think something nasty about yourself, don’t beat yourself up about it — that’s just adding to the pain. Instead, follow up your negative self-talk with something positive. Let’s get your inner dialogue sounding something more like this:

“Ugh I’m so overweight”

“Oops!”

“If my doctor says I’m healthy, that’s what matters. Besides, inches are for measuring heels, not people. I may be a little overweight, but I really rocked that presentation yesterday.” 

Intentionally follow up with something positive.

3. Set routines for yourself while you develop new habits.

You’re going to need some reminders to engage in this new practice of self-love while you develop the habits and break the pattern of negative self-talk. Try setting alarms to ring on your phone every hour or two while you get used to it. Each time the alarm goes off, take a moment, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and complete one of your positivity tasks!

4. Try self-love journaling.

Take a few minutes every day to do some self-love journaling. Take this time to block out all distractions and really focus on the task. Be mindful, really reading what you’re writing, watching the letters and words come from the tip of your pen. Write down all the things you love about yourself, or things that you’re good at. It’s better if these things are not physical characteristics, since the body changes with time (sometimes from one day to the next) but rather about your mind, soul, and spirit. Write about your kindness, your generosity, your playfulness, your intelligence, your love, your community service, your dedication to your family, students or pets. Anything great about you, write it down!

Note that I’m saying “write” it down. And that’s because you should be doing this on paper and pencil, not typed. There’s something beautiful about writing love notes to yourself in your own handwriting, rather than an anonymous, typed letter. It’s more visceral, and will make a deeper connection on you emotionally.

Also, try to keep it all in one notebook, so you can go back and reread it on days you aren’t feeling your best. Then again, if you’re just taking a quick break at work, a scrap piece of paper is better than nothing!

5. Use self-love mantras.

Last but not least, develop some self-love mantras to repeat to yourself throughout the day. Time spent commuting is a great opportunity to repeat kind and loving mantras for yourself, since you won’t — or shouldn’t — be distracted by incoming texts or emails.

“I am kind.”

“I am smart.”

“I am witty and funny.”

“I am important to those around me.”

“I am a work in progress, and that is ok.”

“I am beautiful.”

“I matter.”

Be loving to yourself, flirt with yourself, date yourself! Because, in the end, you are the only person you will be with from the moment you are born, to the moment you take your last breath. Shouldn’t you be gentle and kind with such a constant companion?

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