And here we are, the day we embrace self-love and acceptance! (Or in less dramatic words, it’s time for 15 different posts for our Collaboration with a Purpose theme, Self-Love and Acceptance. 😆) Previously I wrote the intro post for this theme, do check it out if you haven’t already. 😀
So, self-love and acceptance. We hear about them often, that they’re good for our happiness and mental health, and they’re often tied with self-esteem. But what do they really mean and how can we obtain them? These are the questions I had myself at first, before I started to grasp the concepts myself. 🙂
To start off, here are 5 quotes from well-known people on self-esteem and self-love:
- “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
- “Until you value yourself, you won’t value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.”
– M. Scott Peck
- “A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.”
– Mark Twain
- “Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.”
– Harvey Fierstein
- “Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.”
– Lucille Ball
My Story: Pre-Blog
I started my blog in mid-February 2017 (wow, time flies!). Before that, I was one of those people who have low self-esteem, so much that I have an online pseudonym for my creative writing activities, and I hid them from most people for fear of being judged. To them, I was the ordinary office worker who likes playing video games. There was even once a superior at work thought I was only passionate about video games and told me, “There’s more to life than just video games.” I was like, “Yeah, I know.” 😅
In the couple of months before I started this blog, I was reading quite a bit about positivity and self-esteem, including how to improve them. That was when I stumbled upon writing compassionate letters to self (or self-compassionate letters), and I decided in a spur of the moment to include a short self-compassionate letter in every post I publish!
If you’ve read my previous posts, you might have noticed that little section at the end with the header “A Short Self-Compassionate Letter”. 🙂
Just so that we’re on the same page, at least for this post. 😆
This section contains my understanding of each concept – self-esteem, self-acceptance and self-love – and I hope they resonate with you. ❤
In sociology and psychology, self-esteem reflects a person’s overall subjective emotional evaluation of his or her own worth. It is a judgment of oneself as well as an attitude toward the self. Self-esteem encompasses beliefs about oneself, (for example, “I am competent”, “I am worthy”), as well as emotional states, such as triumph, despair, pride, and shame. Smith and Mackie (2007) defined it by saying “The self-concept is what we think about the self; self-esteem, is the positive or negative evaluations of the self, as in how we feel about it.”
~From Wikipedia: Self-Esteem
The keywords are: “how we feel about [the self].”
We feel at the top of the world when others praise us, we question our worth when others criticise us. Many people’s mistake (including myself 😅) is to rely on an external source of validation to boost self-esteem, which is not a reliable source. Often this causes the self-esteem to fluctuate, like the worth of a currency that fluctuates with the state of the country’s economy, and it has consequences on mental health as mentioned in the following quote:
Crocker, who has worked on a series of self-esteem studies, found in her latest research that college students who based their self-worth on external sources–including appearance, approval from others and even their academic performance–reported more stress, anger, academic problems, relationship conflicts, and had higher levels of drug and alcohol use and symptoms of eating disorders.
~From American Psychological Association: Self-Esteem that’s Based on External Sources has Mental Health Consequences, Study Says
But that doesn’t mean external sources aren’t important; humans are social creatures, after all. When our loved ones praise us, our self-esteem skyrocket too! 🚀
It just means external sources shouldn’t be the only way to boost self-esteem. What is a more reliable source?
Self-Acceptance + Self-Love = +Self-Esteem
The answer, my friend, is within ourselves! After all, we’re all living our own lives; wouldn’t we be our own biggest motivator to make ourselves happy? 😀
According to Shepard (1979), self-acceptance is an individual’s satisfaction or happiness with oneself, and is thought to be necessary for good mental health. Self-acceptance involves self-understanding, a realistic, albeit subjective, awareness of one’s strengths and weaknesses.
~From Wikipedia: Self-Acceptance
Self-acceptance is the acceptance of the self as-is, strengths and flaws included!
It means we’re happy as we are, even knowing that we’re overweight, cry easily or hate bitter gourd. (And yes, for the record, I hate bitter gourd. 😛) If we accept ourselves as-is, that negates the idea that we need to be “perfect”, the need to “fix” ourselves according to others’ real or perceived standards.
After all, this is the body we’re born with. Instead of lamenting why we were born with an “imperfect” body, why not accept and love what we have and instead focus on what we can achieve? ❤️
regard for one’s own well-being and happiness (chiefly considered as a desirable rather than narcissistic characteristic).
~From Google Dictionary: Self-Love
Here’s my own understanding of self-love:
Imagine you have a loved one, whether a partner, child, family, friend or others; when you love them, you’d want the best for them and to make them happy; you want to care for them, you want them to laugh and smile. 🙂
Now, imagine yourself as a loved one and apply the same concept; when you love them, you’d want the best for them and to make them happy. You want to care for them, you want them to laugh and smile. That’s self-love. ❤
Of course, do note that self-love doesn’t mean indulgence! You want your loved one to enjoy chocolate cake / pot pies / alcohol / etc but not becoming addicted to them, right? Too much of something is no good. 😅
Writing Compassionate Letters to Self
Loving and accepting ourselves aren’t very easy in this negative world! (I didn’t say it was, now did I? 😛) It certainly is doable though, and I’d say it’s well worth the effort!
There are many ways to love and accept ourselves (Uncle Google says so), but for the purpose of this post, I’ll be focusing on what I know, which is writing compassionate letters to self (or self-compassionate letters). But you already know that from the post title, don’t you? 😆
It’s a letter (physical or digital) that you write to yourself to be kind and compassionate to yourself. It can be done in 3 simple steps that I paraphrased from Self Compassion.org’s article on Exploring Self-Compassion Through Writing:
- Think about an issue that currently bothers you.
- Imagine you have a kind and loving someone (friend, family, etc) who loves and accepts you unconditionally; what would that someone say about that issue? In the point of view of that someone, write the letter to yourself.
- Feel the compassion and kindness, let it soothe and comfort you.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? 😀
How Does It Work?
We often judge ourselves more harshly than we judge others, beating ourselves up over our faults, flaws, and shortcomings. (…) This exercise asks you to write a letter to yourself expressing compassion for an aspect of yourself that you don’t like. Research suggests that people who respond with compassion to their own flaws and setbacks—rather than beating themselves up—experience greater physical and mental health.
~From Greater Good in Action: Self-Compassionate Letter, Why You Should Try It
With a low self-esteem and lack of self-love and acceptance, we have a tendency to critical of ourselves; we tend to focus on negativity, on things that we should have done better rather than be happy with what we achieved. I know, because I’ve been there (and still occasionally do so). 😅
This exercise helps train our minds to be less critical of ourselves and to be more compassionate and kind to ourselves when things doesn’t work out the way we planned. It also helps reframe The effect may not be noticeable at first, but the more self-compassionate letters we write, the more we’ll say positive things to ourselves. ❤
Forgiving and nurturing yourself can set the stage for better health, relationships, and general well-being. Self-compassion yields a number of benefits, including lower levels of anxiety and depression. Self-compassionate people recognize when they are suffering and are kind to themselves at these times, which reduces their anxiety and related depression.
~From Harvard Health Publications: The Power of Self-Compassion
How Often Should We Write?
I’d say as often as you like! Though if you prefer a guideline:
15 minutes. Try to do this practice once per week, or at least once per month.
~From Greater Good in Action: Self-Compassionate Letter
For me, I only do it when I post something on this blog, so that’s twice a week for me. Sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on how I schedule my posts in advance. 🙂
How Long Should the Letter Be?
I’d say as long as you feel like writing about it! When I first started, I used to write one paragraph per letter, and now I usually write one line. Yep, it’s short, but hey, at least it’s something! 😆
My Story: Self-Compassionate Letters
Remember how I decided to add self-compassionate letter at the end of each blog post? Let me tell you how I ended up with that. 😆
You see, I’m totally not the type who can consistently write in a diary. The first time I tried, I was so excited to get a stationary set (you know, the ones where the pencils, notebooks, etc have matching designs?) that I wanted to start a daily diary, but I ended up having nothing to write except the weather from the second day onwards. I run out of things to write to myself. 😅
But I wanted to be consistent with these self-compassionate letters, so what could I do?
Since I was planning to maintain a consistent schedule with my blog, I decided I would add a short letter at the end of each post! That way, by the time I get to the end, I would have already gotten into the writing mood (I usually take a while to warm that up) to write the letter. 😀
Since I usually ran out of stuff to write to myself, I’d take note of stuff I was uncomfortable with when I wrote the blog post (for example, I’d feel bad about it when I wrote about, well, how not to feel bad dealing with beggars) and addressed the uncomfortable stuff in the point of view of a kind, compassionate friend. (And yes, my letter was extra long for that particular post! 📝)
If I didn’t have anything to address in the letter after I was done with the post (for example, the random videos I shared like this recent one), I’d think of something nice to write to myself! It might be something somewhat relevant to the topic (like the video post I shared earlier), or it might be something simple like, “It’s nice of you to share this [adjective] post for [reason].” 😀
So… Did the Letters Work?
The effects of these letters might seem subtle on their own, but after more than 6 months, I’d say it definitely have an effect on me! So far I’ve noticed these effects:
- Now I find I have an easier time thinking positive stuff or seeing the brighter side of things, like, “What? They don’t have [food] today?! I was looking forward to eating that! …well, [another food] is good too.” 🍰
- During setbacks and failures (especially in this difficult video game I’ve been playing the last few days, imagine losing almost 20 times in a row for 2 hours before finally winning 😱), I feel less affected and sometimes a short break was enough for me to start the challenge again! 💪🏻💪🏻💪🏻
- I feel less apprehensive when I publish a post, even excited to share whatever new thing I want to share! Though the credit goes more to the fantastic blogging family I have rather than the letters. 👨👩👧👦👨👩👧👦👨👩👧👦
These are the ones I remember at the top of my head, though I’m sure there are more. ☀
Hope you enjoyed this post! Do let me know what you think or share your own methods of improving self-love, self-acceptance and self-esteem. ❤
A Short Self-Compassionate Letter
It’s wonderful of you to share your method of improving self-love and acceptance with others, though I think it’s even more wonderful that you’ve stuck to it and never missed a single self-compassionate letter in this blog’s history! ❤
Read More on Collaboration with a Purpose: Self-Love & Acceptance
- Addison D’Marko: Self Acceptance and Self Love
- Barb Caffrey @ Barb Caffrey’s Blog: Why is Self-Acceptance So Damned Hard?
- Camilla Motte @ Moms on the Go: How to Love Yourself
- Divyang Shah @ i think my way: Self-Love & Acceptance
- Ipuna Black: Self-Love and Acceptance
- Jane Love @ Harmonious Joy: Why You Should Love Yourself
- Joel A. Scott: Self-Love and Acceptance
- Jothish Joseph @ TheJothishJosephBlog: Self Love and Acceptance
- Manal Ahmad a.k.a. iamthatgirl23 @ Sensible Nonsense: Self Love and Acceptance
- Mylene C. Orillo: Hello, It’s Me: How to Practice Self-Love & Acceptance
- Sadaf Siddiqi: Self-Love and Acceptance
- Sonyo Estavillo @ ‘Lil Pick Me Up: Self-Respect Means Knowing What Love Is & What Love Is Not
- Tajwar Fatma @ LifeAsWeHaveNeverKnownIt: Self Love and Acceptance.