As Published in Having Time on January 27th, 2015.
Last fall I read Brené Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, in which she challenges her readers to complete the following sentence with a word that conveys their secret fears about themselves:
“Not ________________ enough.”
I remember sitting in my living room, struggling to come up with the word to complete that sentence.
I finally had to admit to myself that I felt not smart enough, despite my university education and countless career achievements. Whenever I felt a bit insecure, I was telling myself that if I were smarter, I wouldn’t feel like that.
It was shocking to discover the feelings of unworthiness that were rooted in my desire to be smarter.
I had somehow turned intelligence into a measure of how much I deserved love.
The act of completing Brené’s sentence forced me to acknowledge a major obstacle to truly loving myself.
3 Simple Steps to a Self Love Affair
Learning to love yourself is simple.
But just because it’s simple, doesn’t mean it’s easy.
It can be uncomfortable to re-examine assumptions we have made. However, I have a hunch you wouldn’t be reading this if you wanted to feel comfortable all the time. You thrive on challenging yourself to grow!
So are you ready to fall in love with yourself? Here’s what worked for me.
Step One: Name Your Secret Fear
Admit to yourself that, in your darker hours, you feel not ____________ enough.
Acknowledge this is where some of your feelings of unworthiness come from. Call it out; look it in the eye; don’t let it hide in the shadows.
This step is like using the You Are Here labels on a map to get your bearings and determine which direction you want to go. Articulating what you fear about yourself validates where you are, so you can move forward.
Step Two: Go to the Source
Journal or talk to someone you trust. Did a particular incident trigger these feelings? At what point in your life did you start telling yourself that you weren’t _____________ enough?
If you could travel back in time and talk to yourself then, what would you say to give assurance that you are loveable just the way you are?
Need a prompt? Here’s the start of a note that I wrote to myself:
Dear Younger Me: You decided in grade six that you weren’t smart enough, and I want you to know that you are BRILLIANT. I also want you to know that you are ______________ (start listing positive qualities about yourself).
Write it out in your journal or talk it out with an empathetic friend.
Step Three: Change the Words
When these feelings of unworthiness next arise, change the narration to, “I am _____________ enough.”
What we say to ourselves is powerful.
If you start telling yourself that you are _____________ ENOUGH, it becomes true. How is this possible? Because the only person telling you that you need to be more ____________ is you!
When I worked up the courage to admit to my husband that I struggled with insecurities around my intellect, he looked at me incredulously. My closest friends reacted the same way. To those who love you the most, these fears are completely unfounded. We become our own worst enemies.
Everyone could be a bit smarter, prettier, skinnier, funnier, braver, calmer…the list goes on. At some point in our lives, we have to embrace who we are. This happens by changing the words we tell ourselves.
How to Keep Your Inner Critic Muted
You need courage to articulate your fears and decide to do something about it. The reward for this courage is being able to love yourself more than you ever dreamed possible.
Once you have followed these three steps, you need to keep choosing each day to silence your inner critic with words of truth. Chant inside your head, write on a sticky note, meditate, change your phone’s wallpaper to an inspiring quote—whatever you need to do to remind yourself of the truth. I used a combination of all of these techniques.
By overcoming the fears you have around your own unworthiness, you become free to brazenly love yourself.