Client story: "I'm 10 pounds over my ideal weight," explained Mary. "The way I see it, that's not a reason to stop loving yourself," I said. "It's a reason to start loving yourself more."

Lesson: In any given moment, you are either accepting yourself or rejecting yourself. Self-rejection is identifying with your ego more than with your essence. In practice, this means you often say no to yourself. No to your real desires, no to having any needs, no to stopping and relaxing, no to making time for yourself, no to letting yourself be helped and no to loving yourself more.

As long as you continue to reject yourself, you will live in constant fear of being rejected by others. Out of necessity, you will fashion a persona that tries to be good, not to ask for anything, not to be a burden, to please people and to ingratiate itself wherever possible. This personality type will feel unlovable, no matter how hard you try to love others. The self-rejection causes you to be mean to yourself—no attention, no care, no appreciation and no self-love.

Exercise: Self-acceptance is love, and your capacity to love yourself determines your capacity to love everyone else. The less you accept yourself, the more you will criticize your friends.

Try this affirmation today: "I see myself through the eyes of love." If you are like most people, you know exactly what you don't love about yourself, but you're vague and uncertain about the ways that you do love yourself. For example, you could easily write a list of the things you don't like about your body, including the cellulite on your thighs, the size of your feet or the number on the scale, but could you write a list of all the ways you do love yourself? When you see yourself through the eyes of love, everyone in your life will benefit. If your mother had taken better care of herself, would your childhood have been any better? While you can't go back into your past, you can begin to nurture yourself now.

Write down 10 ways you are not currently being very loving to yourself. Then, go back through your list, take a look at each point and imagine what would happen if you loved every single one of your supposed flaws. Write down exactly how would your life be better and how it would change the lives of the people around you.

Next: When to move beyond self-improvement


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