Part III - Practical tools to stop self-criticism and invite self-love
“The flipside of trust is not mistrust; it’s action to turn this trust into belief.”
- Arun Sardana
In the previous two blogs on this topic, we explored the definition of “the self” and three ways to combat self-criticism to allow self-love to emerge as a durable emotion. In the final part, we look at some tools available in the arsenal of Western psychology and ancient wisdom to hello achieve this desired state of being.
Tools To Make Vulnerability Your Strength
Let’s face it, being totally transparent and vulnerable, just like a child, is incredibly difficult for most people. So, what are some safe ways in which you can become vulnerable when this transparency allows you to see your authentic image in the calm waters of the spirit?
Disclosure to the self
In this simple exercise all you need is solitude, privacy, a journal and pen. Before starting, center your energy and activate your parasympathetic nervous system to help you relax by doing simple deep breathing - inhale for a count of four and exhale for a count of eight. Do this for as long as you like when you can feel that your heart rate has calmed down. Then, use self-created prompts or those created by an expert in journaling therapy to write a brutally honest account of your desires, obstacles, hopes and dreams.
Start Small - Tackle only one challenge or desire at a time so as not to overwhelm yourself. Take some time to read what you have written and reflect on it. Then write a simple and realistic game plan of one-three steps to help achieve this goal. If and when you are comfortable, try this with a trusted friend or a loved one who is a good listener.
Shatter your comfort zone
Pushing the comfort boundaries at the margin in small steps may allow you to become more familiar with vulnerability, both physical and mental. Take a trusted friend with you for support if you are going to try something that you always wanted to do but you were afraid to do it. This could be something fun like riding a roller-coaster, zip-lining, rock climbing, skiing, scuba diving, surfing, or improv comedy. Having fun with vulnerability and becoming comfortable with the feeling it creates will allow you to gradually face more serious challenges.
How can your imperfections become your allies when the whole world becomes your playground of happiness? How can you reach a state where there is nothing left to doubt, recriminate, or loathe? Here are a couple of ways that may help you build the trust not only in your abilities but also in your imperfections.
Take a character strengths test
An important aspect of “know thyself” philosophy can be easily unveiled by a simple ten minute test that not only reveals your top five signature strengths but also the other nineteen strengths, as compiled by top positive psychologists. For instance, I always knew that creativity and spirituality always improved my self-confidence and trust in my abilities, but receiving that confirmation through this test further solidified my focus on how to build self-trust. Try it at www.viacharacter.org - it’s free! So, you have nothing to lose.
Emotional awareness exercise
The old saying “don’t bite more than you can chew” is the best way to describe this exercise. Write down a simple, achievable goal that you have been reluctant to go after for any number of reasons. Build a realistic action plan with as few steps as possible to help stay focused to achieve the goal. At each step when you feel unsure, anxious, confident, or exhilarated, take the time to write that down. Try to answer why you felt this way? What brought you to this feeling? How did this feel in your body? These notations will allow you to build the awareness of how trusting yourself feels. This connection with “the self” is critical to reaching a state of self-love.
How can you transcend the ordinary limits of body and mind and rise above the everyday normal. How can you become aware of a “the larger self” to help annihilate self-deprecating and self-loathing behavior? Here’s one way that even transpersonal psychologists will likely approve:
Listening to your body meditation
Find a comfortable place that’s your go-to area for finding peace and solace. Start with any kind of enjoyable body movement be it a dance, jumping jacks, or fast-paced yoga. Do this for about 10 minutes. Then sit or lay down in a way that allows you to relax. Close your eyes. Just lay there and consciously feel the energy channeling through your body - do it slowly.
The body’s energy scan: Start with the toes, the shins, the thighs and then your fingertips, your forearms, the biceps and on to your abdomen and chest, neck, face and head. You will feel different kinds of tingling, heat, or cooling sensations. That’s pure energy - divine energy that is fueling your mind, body and soul. Connect with it. Express gratitude to it. Smile to it. Caress it by gently rubbing your arms as if you are hugging yourself. Express love for this body and all its parts that make you able bodied. Offer gratitude to your mind that you are blessed to be able feel all the beauty that our body creates. You will feel the astounding results of positivity in this short 15 minute exercise.
Happiness lives here. Welcome home.
About the author:
Arun Sardana is the founder of karuna, a social enterprise committed to making this world a happier place by empowering women, youth and children and, in the process, breaking the vicious cycle of poverty and abuse. Learn more at www.accesskaruna.com.