Self-awareness has been one of the trendiest buzzwords of the last few years. Conscious living is in, and more and more people are beginning to embrace the practice, especially young entrepreneurs and business leaders who understand the benefits of conscious leadership. But understanding oneself is just the first step. It’s great to get to know yourself better, but what then?
Once our self-awareness improves, our outlook and actions begin to change. Putting our new self-knowledge into practice is an important part of our journey towards a more conscious and courageous life, but self-awareness alone is not enough. Without great practice, it is all too easy to fall into the trap of using our increased self-awareness to chastise ourselves.
“A depressed person might berate himself for his dismal outlook; and, an overweight person might criticize herself for repeatedly binging on sweets when she gets upset. Of course, such a negative view of oneself only makes matters worse. It’s harder to find inner motivation and support to change when you feel down on yourself.”
If step one is understanding our character, step to is relating to ourselves in a positive way. It’s important to learn how to use our newfound self-awareness to foster a positive relationship with ourselves, which can then impact our actions. Self-awareness is nothing without self-love. Whether you’re a self-awareness veteran or a consciousness newbie, hopefully you can benefit from these ten tips and tricks we’ve compiled to help you increase that positive relationship you have with yourself.
1. Make time for yourself
Let’s start off with an easy one, because I think by now we all understand the importance of ‘me time’. Do I even need to list the myriad of benefits of self-care? Do I need to remind you how much your hobbies can reduce stress, how relaxation activities can impact your sleep and mood? Probably not, so let’s just skip the statistics. We all need to prioritize ourselves, carving out time on the regular in order to de-stress and indulge in what makes us happy. Do some yoga, play a video game, get your paints out. Schedule you-time into your day and make that loving commitment to yourself. It can be all-too easy to neglect ourselves when busy lives and responsibilities overwhelm us. But you matter just as much, if not more. Remind yourself of that every day, and show yourself that love.
2. Acknowledge your achievements
Sometimes is can be difficult not to get wrapped up in the day-to-day; we finish one project, we solve one problem and we move straight on to the next. As humans, we are not really programmed to stop. We are always looking for more, looking to go further, go bigger. At these times it’s important to learn how to take a step back and look more objectively at our achievements. Have you recently finished a really bothersome task that has taken a really long time to complete? Well done. Tell yourself that. Celebrate your success. Have you finalized a big work project? Have you made progress on your health goals? Did you struggle to get out of bed this morning, but managed to do it anyway? Well done. Your self-awareness informs you of what is tough for you, where you struggle. You may feel bad about yourself when you fail in your goals, or don’t live up to your own expectations, and that’s just another reason why it’s incredibly important to remember to feel good about yourself when you succeed. Never forget to acknowledge your hard work.
3. Forgive yourself
One of the most frustrating traps that a lot of us tend to fall into on a day-to-day basis is that we’re often too hard on ourselves. We’re humans, we make mistakes on the regular, we hold ourselves to high standards, we are constantly making goals in order to better ourselves, because, we think, we must better ourselves. More often than not we fail, we fall, we do something wrong. And then we beat ourselves up because of it. We tell ourselves we’re useless, we’ll never amount to anything, we’re indecent human beings. We tell ourselves these horrible, stupid things sometimes, and we’re so wrong! Why do we keep wasting our time on this? What purpose is there to making ourselves feel bad about such completely ordinary, human, states of affairs? The reasons may be many, but they have zero validity.
We all mess up, we all do things wrong sometimes, none of us are completely happy with our lot in life. Let’s stop making ourselves feel worse. Use the skill of self-awareness and try to notice your thoughts next time you’re feeling like giving yourself a hard time. Then remind yourself to be kind, that you forgive yourself, and that you’re absolutely fabulous.
4. Give time and life to your goals
It’s in our nature as humans to want to achieve, to become something, to create, to leave a legacy behind. There isn’t one person alive today who hasn’t got a craving to fulfill a goal, but there are many who aren’t actively trying.
Sure, sometimes we’re busy. But, are we always? Can you honestly look back at the last year of your life and say that every single day you were too busy to spend the odd hour on your ambition? I think we all know that time is not an excuse, that time doesn’t magically appear in our day; we make time for the things that are important to us. Our reasons for not working on our goals are much deeper than that. Maybe we think they’re stupid, that we don’t even deserve to spend time on them, maybe we’re devastatingly afraid of failure. Whatever the reason, if you’re not giving time and life to your goals, then I strongly encourage you to look into whatever is holding you back and try and breathe new life into your ambitions. I guarantee you will feel healthier and happier for it.
5. Stand up to your inner critic
We all occasionally fall victim to that little voice inside our heads, the one who doesn’t seem to be our biggest fan. No matter what we do, we’re never good enough for that voice, and it’s always looking for those moments of vulnerability when it can swoop in and remind us we’re not as cool as that guy, not as then as those folks. That little voice is doing you nothing but harm, but it can be tough not to listen to it; it’s very convincing.
Sometimes we all need to remember to take a step back and acknowledge what we’re dealing with. We need to take that little voice out of the driver’s seat and politely inform it that it has no power here. Whatever it has to say to you, it’s never anything good. So, it’s not worth listening to, it’s not worth disrupting your day and your mood to it. Stand up to that voice. You are worth it.
6. Treat yourself
It may not be a great idea to splurge your life-savings on a luxury spa weekend or buy yourself a greasy pizza every day of the week, but at your own discretion, treat yourself. Do you need a reason? No! You are the reason. Life is tough, you work hard. If you’re feeling stressed and you feel like a lovely bunch of flowers will cheer you up, get them. You deserve nice things. Celebrate you. Have a treat.
7. Respect Your Body
We all know the importance of exercise and a healthy diet. We all know the health benefits of yoga and meditation. We know that we should refrain from indulging in too many bags of sweets or glasses of wine. Staying mindful of these practices is a fantastic first step in your self-love journey, but it’s worth noting that respect of the body is more than simply physical. Though your body likely will not respond to a heart-felt compliment, you will. It doesn’t matter what your body looks like or how insecure you are about it, your body is worthy of love and respect. It is deserving of a compliment, it is deserving of that gorgeous new dress you have your eye on. You are allowed to feel good about the way that you look, and it’s definitely something you should prioritize. Feed your body. Take it for a jog. Tell it how gorgeous it is. Respect yourself.
8. Stop trying to be perfect
Perfectionism is one of those truly subtle obsessions that we often don’t even realize we have a problem with. It can often occur both in our personal lives and in our work, and it really can be a major source of stress in our lives. What’s so infuriating about perfectionism is that if often masquerades under the guise of ‘normal’. Our minds have a way of comparing us to a non-existent ideal, one that we have completely made up. One example that we’re more commonly aware of is the comparison between our bodies and those of supermodels on the covers of magazines: we want that body, but thanks to professional photography and photo editing, that same model doesn’t even have that body. It’s an ideal; a perfect that doesn’t exist and you will not obtain it. You don’t have to obtain it. And you need to stop trying.
This way of thinking can pollute our daily lives in much less obvious ways. You may be wise to your brain’s tendency to idealise the perfect body, but are you fully aware of how often it does this? That silly thing you said last week that you’re still obsessing over: that’s your brain again. Trying to spend as much time at the gym and as much money on protein shakes as your favourite celebrities do; is that a realistic or necessary goal?
We are hindered by society’s often toxic expectations. It feels like we’re being told ten times a day that we should be doing this, we should be doing that. So often that our brains learn the behaviour and repeat the same to us the rest of the time. It’s great to be doing things, and a lot of them are very important, but there’s only so many things we can realistically achieve in one day. Some things are just outside of our limitations altogether. So if these things aren’t achievable right now, or even in the future, that’s okay. We need to pay more attention to our brains and recognize when it is being helpful – i.e. reminding us of things to do – and when it’s being harmful – i.e. expecting far too much for some made-up reason.
Perfect isn’t real. Humans are never perfect, but our minds can be fantastic at believing everyone is but us. Learn those times when it’s best not to listen to your brain, and give up the illusion of ‘perfect’.
9. Accept yourself
You are the way you are; so you might as well just be happy. Along the same vein of striving to forget perfectionism, mental health can take a huge turn for the better when learning to accept oneself. We have flaws, there are things we’re not good at, and that think we always say we’re going to do when we get round to it is never going to get done. Yes, people can change for the better, and it’s always great to have goals and try to better ourselves. But if you’ve been wanting to become a semi-professional gymnast for the past 10 years but still haven’t been to a single class, maybe it’s time to let that dream die.
Some goals are achievable. Some personality flaws can and should be changed. But that doesn’t apply to everything, and you should never try to change everything. It’s worth taking inventory of goals, listing our grievances, and figuring out what is important to change and what is, at the end of the day, unrealistic or really not necessary to work on. There are so many things we can really dislike ourselves for, and sometimes they’re things others would kill to have or to be able to do.
Accept your flaws. Accept your lack of (certain) achievements. Because for the most part, they’re all absolutely fine, and you’re still absolutely fabulous.
10. Pay it forward
There are few acts in life that give you the fuzzy feeling that comes from altruism. Whether it’s paying a compliment, listening to a friend, doing some charity work or simply writing a blog post about how to foster that ever-elusive self-love, it’s all great stuff. Caring for and about others is the hallmark of conscious living, and when practiced it only engages your heart and strengthens your psyche further. Show the love today, towards yourself and to others, and take the next step on your self-awareness journey.