When you think about yourself, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Do your thoughts go to things you love about yourself? Are you quick to note all the things you wish were different? Are you more likely to focus on your opinion of yourself or of other people’s opinions of you?
If I asked you to tell me your favorite things about yourself, would your answer come easily? Would you struggle to come up with an answer or feel hesitant to share?
We spend a lot of attention on what we don’t like about ourselves. It makes sense in a way, doesn’t it? The things we don’t like are the things we want to get rid of or change, which takes effort. They are things we worry others will see in us.
What do you think happens, though, when we interact with other people while focusing our energy on the things we don’t like about ourselves or that we fear they won’t like about us? The interaction becomes more focused on hiding who we don’t want to be rather than showing others who we are.
What if, instead, we came to interactions with a deep awareness of what we really like about ourselves? These qualities might shine through for others to see as well. When we’re more confident and grounded in who we are, we’re better able to try for connection instead of seeking approval.
I’m not telling you to pretend the things you want to change don’t exist. None of us are perfect. But the things we want to change aren’t the most important or interesting things about us. Furthermore, we’re better situated to make real changes when we’re grounded in who we are, not in what we believe we lack.
My question for you today is simple, but for some of us it can feel difficult to answer.
What do you like about yourself?
Take a few minutes (at least) to think about this. You might want to jot down a list or even take the time to write in more detail about your very favorite parts. The things you choose can be anything. Appearance, personality, accomplishments, qualities, dreams…
This question can seem a bit obvious, but sometimes we need to be reminded to look for what we like about ourselves. It seemed like a straightforward question until I tried to write out my own answers. It was harder than I’d hoped to come up with a list of things I like about myself.
As soon as I started writing down things I like, I heard my inner critic chiming in to discount them. Every entry I added to my list was met with a yeah, but… That critical part of me was persistent about wanting to be heard…so I wrote down those arguments too.
I like the color of my eyes…a mix of blue and gray and green. (Yeah, but…you have no control over your eye color.)
I like that I am not content with having answers handed to me, but like to wrestle with deep questions. (Yeah, but people don’t like it when you don’t accept their answers and you don’t have a clear position when they want to argue with you.)
I like that I can see situations from other people’s perspectives. (Yeah, but this can get you caught in indecision…and how do you know you’re really seeing their perspective and not just projecting what you think their perspective should be.)
You know what?
I actually feel more solid in the things I like about myself after writing down the arguments against them.
First of all, ignoring my inner critic or telling her to shut up and go away isn’t helpful. She just gets louder in an attempt to be heard.
Also, just because my inner critic has arguments against the things I like about myself does not mean that they are valid reasons to not like what I like. In writing down her rebuttals, I was able to hear what she had to say without assuming it’s all true. Kate Swoboda calls this listening without attachment.
When I listened to what my inner critic without getting attached to what she had to say, I was better able to decide for myself what was helpful. For example, just because I didn’t choose my eye color doesn’t mean I can’t like it. At the same time, I do value the reminder that being able to see a situation from different perspectives doesn’t mean I’ll ever fully understand another person’s experience.
Just because my inner critic has a lot to say, doesn’t mean there is nothing worth liking about me.
It’s important to consider what we actually like about ourselves. Many of us are more likely to focus on what we dislike or on what we think someone else will like. It’s also important to acknowledge that celebrating what we like about ourselves might not be easy.
I’d love to know what you like about yourself. If you’re having a hard time coming up with a list of likable things or could use a little help working with your inner critic, let’s talk about how we could work together.