Fulfill Your Destiny: O's 30-Day Plan for Finding Your True Purpose
By Nicole Frehsée, Kevin McCarthy, Melia Robinson
From the November 2012 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
Why a month of compliments can make all the difference in cultivating the real you.
Spotting problems can be an asset when you're packing for a weeklong camping trip or walking alone to your car late at night. But that same instinct can make it hard for you to see how fantastic you look in your new jeans (Is my cellulite showing?). "Many people find it hard to give themselves kindness, because we naturally have a negativity bias," says Christopher Germer, PhD, a psychologist, Harvard instructor, and author of The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion. "Yet no one can know or care for you more than you can know and care for yourself. You are your biggest potential ally."
Seeing the good in yourself can affect every part of your world: Research suggests having compassion for yourself can help you ward off anxiety and depression, and makes you happier and more satisfied with life. To help you recalibrate from spot-the-flaw mode, we present our 30-day challenge. Grab a pack of Post-it notes and a pen and set them by your bed. For the next month, first thing each morning, take a minute to write down one admirable thing about yourself. Be as specific as possible: "You're so sweet" may count as a compliment from Aunt May, but these notes are the chance to applaud the 5K you ran after decades of hating exercise or the fact that you're the only one in your book club who ever finishes the book. Try to alternate between physical features, personality traits, and good deeds you've done. It may sound counterintuitive, but "people tend to like themselves more when they think about things they've done for others," Germer says. And if listing 30 things worth loving about yourself feels daunting, you can kick-start the process with this exercise.
Stick each Post-it somewhere highly visible, like the bathroom mirror or your bedroom door (the more often you see your words on paper, the less abstract the compliments will feel). Whenever you catch your inner critic zeroing in on one of your flaws, defuse the negativity by recalling a positive Post-it. "Sure, my hair looks like hell, but I made it to the gym three mornings this week." Your positives don't have to directly rebut every negative, Germer points out. Just focus on shifting from razor-sharp critique to a more appreciative tone. With time you'll come closer to feeling as fabulous as you are—which is the first step in becoming who you were meant to be.
1. In the flower for family and another for friends. In each petal, write the name of a person you admire. Then write a specific characteristic about each of them that you love—you dad's incredible work ethic, your daughter's inquisitive spirit, your best friend's ability to make you laugh so hard it hurts.
2. The traits you value in others probably reflect things worth appreciating in yourself. Did growing up with your dad's rise-and-shine spirit mean you still love tackling a to-do list on the weekend? Is part of what draws you to your best friend's sense of humor the fact that she always gets your jokes? Not every trait you've listed above will be one you think you possess, but many will overlap. Circle the qualities you recognize in yourself—even if they manifest slightly differently in you than in your friends and family—and write your version of them on the third flower.
3. What you like about yourself will feel more tangible and true if you think about the trait in action. Next to each, jot a specific memory: For devotion, for instance, you might note the time you dropped everything to be there after your mom's hip surgery; for your enviable cooking skills, include the time you watched your coworkers wrestle for the last of your homemade brownies. As Neff says, "In the context of family and friends, looking at yourself stops seeming vain, and you feel almost ungrateful not appreciating yourself."