Someone had to drag me to a mirror and force me to look at myself to notice I have pretty green eyes -- not hazel, green. I didn't know it, just like I didn't recognize the beautiful smile others commented on. I was twenty-eight years old and didn't value myself at all. Since childhood, I was fixated on what was wrong with me, which distracted me from what was right.
Having a poor self-image is common among women. My friends picked themselves apart and I joined in. It felt normal. Growing up, girls who thought well of themselves were labeled conceited -- and worse. Modesty was touted as a good quality. And above all else, I needed to be liked by everyone, another unfortunate mindset that many women take into adulthood.
I had lots of love at home growing up, but didn't feel any for myself. People said I was pretty but I didn't believe them. Being tall for my age and a teeny bit chunky motivated me to becoming a people pleaser to make up for not feeling good enough. I saw myself as too big. The petite girls were the most popular and favored by teachers. The rest of us tried to win their favor.
Appreciating my green eyes for the first time was my turning point. They really are pretty! As I began to treat myself with a little more kindness, I noticed I felt happier. The more I did for me, the better I felt about me. The better I felt about me, the more I was motivated to do things that made me happy. Each bit of self-kindness changed my self image a tad. When I began to say "no" to things I didn't want to do, it began to feel loving instead of wrong or scary.
Slowly, kind act by kind act, I developed self-love. It didn't hit me what it was at the beginning but I knew it felt good, and I felt better about myself. I began to recognize and appreciate my good qualities. Seeing myself through the eyes of love instead of a ruthless critic was like waking up as a new person. I smiled when I looked in the mirror instead of looking for things to hate.
Even with all the love I got from my caring family and friends, this was the first time I knew what love was. Self-love made me protective of my happiness and well-being. I became conscious of how much I beat myself up and did my best to stop it. The meaning of contentment became clear as I basked in self-acceptance and gratitude about finding out who I really was.
Self-love makes you want to take care of yourself. It gave me the confidence to reinvent myself and shift into an uber-satisfying career. It fed my strong desire to express gratitude for all my blessings. Now I wake up smiling every day, knowing I'm my true best friend and will always take the best care of myself. I want everyone to have it, but self-love is in very short supply. Clients come to me and point out flaws I can barely see with all the good qualities they have.
Even people with great looks, a prestigious career, etc. often still focus on what's wrong with them instead of loving themselves for who they are. Years ago I heard Nicole Kidman put herself down to Jay Leno on "The Tonight Show." He immediately raved about her looks but she kept refuting him. Leno was puzzled that she felt that way. Kidman said she didn't think anyone really loved themselves and asked him to show her one person who truly did. I screamed at the TV -- ME!
While insecurity used to motivate me to please people, now self-love makes me want to help others because I feel so blessed. That's why I took my book, "How Do I Love Me? Let Me Count the Ways," back from my agent, officially registered January as Self-Love Month and am giving the book away for free, along with a 31 Days of Self-Love Challenge -- to do something loving for yourself for 31 days.
Every bit of kindness you give yourself -- from buying the more expensive coffee or lotion you love, to cutting yourself slack about mistakes, to saying "no" to breaking a bad habit -- is a brick in the foundation of self-love. Building it increases confidence. Loving yourself also makes you more attractive. Without it, I'd still be an unhappy teacher instead of enjoying the wonderful life I created! I still have cellulite and am getting some wrinkles, but every day I love myself more.