“There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than it took the risk to blossom.” Anais Nin
I’ve spent a lot of time hating myself.
Looking back, I realize what happened.
See, like many of us, I grew up with critical parents who thought they were building me up when, in fact, they were tearing me down.
They regularly told me that I didn’t measure up to others. They criticized my shortcomings and called me hurtful names.
I was a sensitive child, and some attacks and criticisms affected me more than others. Although my parents didn’t know what they were doing, I believe their stinging words and personal attacks damaged my psyche and self-worth.
If people who loved me were saying so many bad things about me, something must be wrong with me, right?
I had to come to terms with my upbringing and with all those messages I had internalized.
Did you experience something similar when you were a child or while you were growing up?
Do you have moments when you simply can’t stand being you?
Yes, I’m talking about self-hatred or self-loathing: not being comfortable in your own skin or not wanting to be who you are.
If you grew up in a damaging environment in which the words and actions of others hurt you, and did so deeply to your core, I hope these tips will help you boost your self-worth.
Here are 8 practices you can follow to care for yourself and become more comfortable in your own skin:
1. Feed your self-doubt and fears with kindness.
Those voices that make you doubt yourself are the critical voices of other people in your life.
You’ve grown up hearing disapproving language and harmful words from people who were supposed to love you.
You heard them tell you that you weren’t good enough or worthy enough. You weren’t smart enough, skinny enough, loving enough or talented enough.
These detrimental voices mixed with your own inner voice. Combined, they became a destructive voice in your mind, one that speaks whenever you start or do anything in your life.
Before you’ve had a chance to begin, these judgmental voices envelop you. You’re sunk before you’ve started.
Become more aware of these harmful voices and gently set them aside. Thank them for raising concerns, but let them know you’ll do just fine without them.
Ask yourself whether each individual thought comes from a place of courage or a place of fear.
Let the voices of fear and doubt recede like waves in the ocean.
2. Allow yourself to embrace your feelings.
Have you spent your whole life running away from your feelings, hiding from them or trying to deny them?
Did people tell you that your feelings didn’t matter and that you should just “get over them”?
If you’ve regularly suppressed your feelings, you’ll be in a continuous state of denial and feel disconnected from your true self.
Some feelings can be extremely painful and distressing, but I’ve found that if you experience them to their strongest effect, they tend to recede.
The more you feel your feelings, the less of a grip they have over you.
Be open to the idea of letting your feelings wash over you. Be willing to sit with them.
You become more comfortable with yourself when you don’t hide your true feelings—when you let yourself experience them.
Allow the feelings you’re experiencing to flow through you without resistance.
If you find your feelings overwhelming, cope with them by writing them down or talking to someone about them.
3. Embrace your past mistakes and failures.
“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.” Thich Nhat Hanh
Are you beating yourself up about something you did or didn’t do in the past?
Are you allowing the past to paralyze you and keep you from living your life?
You’re not your mistakes or your failures.
You are not the experiences you had growing up, the difficult relationships you were in or the struggles you’ve faced.
Know that the ups and downs of your life have made you into who you are today.
No need to deny your pain and feel ashamed about it.
Fully accepting and embracing everything you’ve confronted and dealt with in life allows you to live from a powerful center.
You are stronger today because of the mistakes and failures of your past.
Your mistakes are your experience. Your failure is your wisdom.
Again, embrace your story but don’t allow your story to define you.
4. Let go of the comparison trap.
People have been comparing you to others your entire life—your family and teachers, your coworkers and community.
Reality television shows, social media and society’s desire to rank people have led you to believe that you’re not as good as other people and that someone is always better.
Stop comparing yourself to other people and setting their standards as your own. Others are doing work or succeeding in activities that interest you, but you still feel inadequate when you compare yourself to them.
Think of life as a race—and you’re running only against yourself. Life isn’t about winning this race, it’s about enjoying the run. It’s about living a fulfilling and meaningful life.
Start living the life you want instead of feeling inadequate when you compare your life to someone else’s.
Release thoughts of inadequacy. Stop thinking that you don’t have enough or that you are inferior to others.
When comparisons float through your mind, remind yourself that having what others have will not make you happy. Stay focused on your life and your race.
5. Know that you’re enough.
If people constantly put you down or compared you to others while you were growing up, you probably feel as though you don’t meet other people’s expectations.
You want others to validate and embrace you. You want friends, family members, romantic partners and bosses to tell you that you’re enough and that you’re complete.
You soak in messages reminding you that you’re not enough physically, financially, emotionally or spiritually.
The secret to attaining self-worth as a person is to realize that you’re enough just as you are.
You do not have to do more. You just have to be.
Being means accepting yourself as you are.
It means self-awareness and understanding.
It means compassion for yourself and completeness from within. It’s realizing that you’re whole as you are.
No one’s opinion of you matters.
You don’t have to do a single thing more. No achievement or accomplishment will make you enough.
Realizing you are enough is sufficient.
6. Live your principles.
You’re more aligned with yourself when you’re honest with yourself.
Every person has a set of guiding principles or values that govern his or her life.
It’s difficult to identify these principles because the people who raised you, your friends and society at large heavily influence your principles.
They pressure you into doing things you don’t want to do and living a life that’s not entirely yours.
To live in the greatest alignment with yourself, you must live according to your life principles.
What principles govern your life? What values matter most?
Family? Adventure? Service? Fun? Loyalty? Equality? Humor? Fairness? Love?
Examine your life and determine the things you truly care about.
Write down these top values and determine whether your life embodies them.
Are you living your life according to what matters to you, or are you living someone else’s life?
To live your truth, live your life according to the principles that matter to you.
7. Let go of expectations and perfection.
If you grew up in a household that maintained high standards, you’ll continuously want to do more. You’ll set unrealistic goals and seek perfection.
Just like your parents or loved ones wanted for you, you’ll never be satisfied with what you have.
And you’ll strive to the utmost level of perfection—never settling and never satisfied.
Acknowledge these tendencies and be willing to let them go. Once you recognize that you have unhealthy expectations or perfectionistic tendencies, you can take a deep breath and step back from your life.
Once you let go of the unrealistic demands and expectations you have for yourself, you will feel a huge weight lift off your shoulders.
8. Appreciate who you are and what you have.
If you grew up in a critical home, you likely didn’t take time to be grateful. You were dealing with verbal wounds, inadequacy and lack.
Now is the time to appreciate yourself and what you have in your life.
The easiest way to stop feeling unworthy or as though your life’s not perfect is to look around and see all the good things you have.
First: you. Be proud of who you are and what you’ve done. If you’re reading this article, be happy that you’re committed to improving yourself. If you’re reading this on a computer you own, be grateful for that. If you have water, electricity and transportation, be thankful for those things.
When you write a list every morning of ten things you’re grateful for, you’ll start feeling more love and appreciation for yourself.
No matter what has happened in your life, know that you can turn it around.
Continue to care for yourself and become the person you’re capable of being.
Honor and love are the greatest gifts you can give yourself. You’ll not only be healing yourself but sharing the gift of a “new you” with everyone around you.