It breaks my heart that I feel the need to sit down and write this blog, that so many people do not love themselves. In fact, I bet the vast majority of people don't completely love themselves. THAT breaks my heart. I get it though, I can totally relate. There are so many factors influencing our perception of beauty all of which put an immense pressure on us to look, act, and be a certain way. It starts with our childhood when our brains are still developing and creates negative thought patterns that if we don't work to overcome, will stick with us for the rest of our lives... So scary! From the media, to the dolls that girls (and boys) are playing with, to the muscle-y men in movies like 300, to the influence and constant comparison at school. All of this causes us to compare ourselves to others. And as we know, comparison is the thief of joy. Like I was saying, I get it. I'm no different than anyone else and I was deeply affected by the pressures of comparison. I'm much better now than I was, but like anything else, its a practice that must be continuously worked on. As a teenager, I struggled with self image and self esteem issues which led to disorderly eating and exercise habits that I thought would make other people love me more or make me more popular. The truth is we only seek approval from outside sources when there's a lack of self love inside. I didn't love myself so I was seeking love from other people to fulfill this hole. I truly believe that all negative qualities in a person stem from a lack of love. So the big question here is: HOW DO WE LEARN TO LOVE OURSELVES?  Here's what I've learned about it:

1) You need to stop comparing yourself to others. Seriously. Comparison always makes you feel like shit. It will always make you feel less beautiful, talented, brave, successful, skinny, fit, healthy, or happy than you are. Here's the thing: it's all an illusion! People tend to only show their best sides and biggest accomplishments because that makes them look good to other people. Don't believe me? Look at people's Facebook profile pictures or the pictures they post on Instagram. 99% of the time people only post the most flattering pictures of themselves. It's the ego's self defence- don't blame yourself if you're guilty of this. I am too. Needless to say, you have no idea what kind of shit other people are going through, so stop comparing your life to other people's lives. Just stop doing it.

2) Let go of the negative self talk. First you have to start noticing how you talk to yourself- be mindful of it. Some key places to notice are when you're looking in the mirror, when you fail at something, and when you eat too much food. What kind of words do you use to describe yourself? Do you call yourself things like fat, stupid, ugly, lazy, a failure? Then.. honestly ask yourself, "would I still be friends with someone who talked to me the way I talk to myself?" No. Of course not. So why do we think its okay to talk to ourselves this way? Its not. Negative self talk promotes low self esteem. It seems cheesy but you HAVE to start talking nicely to yourself. Practice looking in the mirror, smiling, and saying "I love and accept myself exactly as I am." Do this everyday. Leave reminders on your mirror if you like. Look at your belly, give it a little squeeze of appreciation and learn to love every inch of your body. It's not always easy, but it will change your life.

3) Meditate on loving yourself. And this can only take 2 minutes if that's all you have. There are many ways to meditate on self love, but here's a super simple idea. Close your eyes. Become present with your breath. Then list off 5 things that you love about yourself. Keep going if you like. This is a very powerful technique.

4) Stop caring about what other people think of you. This is the ultimate freedom technique. There is no greater freedom than that of not caring what other people think about you. The way I practice this is to notice when you don't want to do something because you're scared of what people might think. That's when you have to act. That's when you have to do it anyways. My personal experience with this has been doing full yoga sessions in busy airports and going to the grocery store in my pyjamas. Yes, its kind of embarrassing at first, but its also really liberating. And then you realize that it really wasn't a big deal at all. People are more caught up in themselves and will usually applaud your bravery more than anything. Catch yourself caring what other people think of you, and act in the opposite way your fear is telling you to.

5) Focus more on what your body can do and less on how your body looks. This is huge. I have always had big calf muscles and always been super self conscious about them. Might sound silly but its the truth. Okay so maybe huge calves aren't super sexy or feminine or whatever, but they can sure get me up a mountain when I want. That's what I choose to see when I look at my calves. You can do this with any part of your body. Every body part serves a purpose and should be honoured for that. 

6) Listen to your heart. Your heart loves you. It really does. In fact, your heart loves everyone. Its your mind who doesn't. Catch yourself being judgemental (to others or yourself) and know that that's your mind talking shit, not your heart. Your heart only wants one thing: love. Always always always listen to your heart. Choose love every time. 

Learning to love yourself is a practice like anything else. You can do absolutely anything if you set your mind to it. You can learn to love yourself. Just keep practicing it.

Lots of love,