3 Ways to Start Becoming Your Own Biggest Fan

Child with ponytail wears pink and yellow superhero uniform and smiles and points at her reflection in confident poseI have two toddler-aged kids. They regularly take my breath away with their often-unexpected highs and lows. But one thing I have noticed remains constant for both:

They love themselves!

My younger son smiles at himself in the mirror, kisses his own lips, and plays with his reflection. My daughter, a little older, admires whatever she is wearing, whether she is dressed up as Queen Elsa or Iron Man or showing off a wildly mismatched outfit she has put together herself.

The radical idea here is we all started off that way.

We are born into this world believing we are both entitled to everything we need and deserving of love, care, and attention. We inherently know we are creative, capable, and up to the challenge of whatever developmental milestone we face next.

Our work was to play, and whatever that looked like, we expected it would be engrossing, entertaining, and rewarding.

So what happens between then and now?

I work with people every day, generally accomplished and highly functioning, who feel unworthy, less than, valueless, lonely, and emotionally terrified of getting life wrong.

When did we stop being our own biggest fans?

We live in a time and place where we are encouraged to feel less than adequate. Or, dare I say it, less than absolutely thriving. Early on, we are bombarded from every direction with images and messages to weigh less, accumulate more, look better, stay younger, and generally “have it all.” For many people, this messaging inevitably advances into an unconscious pattern of negative self-talk, which I call NST.

Why is NST so detrimental to our well-being? For one thing, it is pervasive. It is so deeply ingrained in our culture to be overly self-critical. It is very awkward for many people to think or speak of themselves in positive terms.

I often sit with people in therapy who berate themselves to such an extent I would call it downright abusive. But even if your NST is not at the point of emotional self-abuse, can you imagine how your quality of life might improve if you were more charitable with yourself?

So how do we turn this around and once again become our own biggest fans?

While continued growth and challenges are important for development throughout our lives, can you imagine thriving not just in spite of yourself but because of your own self-care and encouragement?

  1. Think of yourself as a small child. Look at an old photo of yourself if you can. What do you want to say to that child? Would you speak to that little boy or girl the way you address yourself now? Keep in mind you are still that person, worthy and deserving of love and encouragement.
  2. Instead of talking to or about yourself disparagingly, imagine you are talking to your best friend or someone you love. People are often shocked to realize they would never address someone else the way they do themselves. If you wouldn’t say it to someone you care about, don’t say it to yourself.
  3. Look in the mirror. What’s the first thing that comes to mind? “My nose is so big!” “I’m losing my hair.” “I wish I could fix my teeth.” “Ugh! Another wrinkle!” Now try something different. Try saying something kind to yourself. Even if you don’t fully believe it, just try it. Does it feel uncomfortable? That’s okay—it is important information for you, an indication of the work you need to do with yourself.

I understand many people fear practicing kindness toward themselves could lead to contentment and therefore a lack of progress. Some feel being critical of themselves is what drives them to success and excellence.

I would argue otherwise. While continued growth and challenges are important for development throughout our lives, can you imagine thriving not just in spite of yourself but because of your own self-care and encouragement? While I believe endless self-critiques can spur someone to press on, it is rarely going to be truly inspired progress.

Whether you engage in therapy or counseling or not, everyone can benefit from acknowledging and doing the work of countering negative self-talk. Not only may you flourish when you embolden yourself with positive reinforcement, you may enjoy your success and quality of life that much more.

© Copyright 2017 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Alena Gerst, LCSW, RYT, therapist in New York City, New York

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Molly

    March 28th, 2017 at 8:12 AM

    Oh to have the same kind of love and ego for myself that I once had as a teenager! I thought that I was truly the bees knees, but I guess somewhere along the way someone showed me that I wasn’t so I stopped believing that I was.

  • Alena

    Alena

    March 29th, 2017 at 12:14 PM

    It might be interesting to sneak back in time to that person you were in high school and mine some of the thoughts you had for present use! What’s the harm in trying? -Alena

  • Elyse

    March 28th, 2017 at 9:54 AM

    I love this reminder. It’s so difficult sometimes to remember that we’re teaching others how to treat us, by the example we give them.

  • Alena

    Alena

    March 29th, 2017 at 12:15 PM

    Thanks Elyse! -Alena

  • jack

    March 28th, 2017 at 3:02 PM

    There will always be the people who spend way more time in life tearing you down than they do building you up. It has taken me a while to understand that, but those are not the people that I need in my life. I want to be with those who love to build me up in the same way that I want to be there and do the same for them. Life is far too short to spend it with people who don’t really care about your feelings, only about theirs. And if they are too busy trying to bring you down, then the truth is that this probably says more about what they think about themselves than what they think about you… they just happen to be taking all that out on you.

  • Alena

    Alena

    March 29th, 2017 at 12:16 PM

    That may be true, Jack. The question is, are you one of those people who builds you up? Your voice matters most. -Alena

  • AlExAnDeR

    March 29th, 2017 at 9:07 AM

    I am so thankful that I had parents who always focused on the things that not only I did well but also the stuff that could use improvement.
    They were never mean about it and I am glad that they pointed out that hey, we aren’t any of us perfect, there will always be things that we can work on to do things better.
    But they created in me not only a solid belief that I am good enough to try to do whatever I was interested in and that also I am smart enough to learn new things and to be okay with falling down and getting back up.

  • Alena

    Alena

    March 29th, 2017 at 12:17 PM

    Thank you for sharing the, Alexander. What a blessing! -Alena

  • betty

    March 29th, 2017 at 6:25 PM

    I learned from a very young age that if I was going to be supported then this is something that I would have to do for myself.

    My parents weren’t like that. They did the bare minimum I suppose of what parents should do for their kids and then that was it, they were done. I can’t say that I was sad to leave home and never go back because I never felt like any thing that I got from them was really anything that would benefit me in life.

    I guess there are times to leave the past in the past and focus more on the movement forward.

  • Alena

    Alena

    March 30th, 2017 at 11:20 AM

    Thank you for your wisdom, Betty. Even if you had won the parents lottery, the affirmative life encouragement would still need to come from you. It sounds like you’ve had to learn that earlier than many. -Alena

  • Alii S.

    April 15th, 2017 at 2:20 PM

    Big hug from me to you. I feel your pain. The same for me, exactly what you wrote. Yes we can be brave and try to be pragmatic about moving on, and I work very hard at that, meditating etc. But…still the feeing of being an outsider persists, never feeling happy, never having fun. The numb feeling. I have just discovered CEN as the cause. Yay…a good start. I can start putting the pieces together and realise why I feel like such a misfit. And work on my release. Best wishes to you too, Alii

  • Kaine

    March 30th, 2017 at 6:49 AM

    Self affirmations can always be a helpful tool to use.
    I don’t suggest that you do it in front of other people, they might think that’s a little goofy, but do it for yourself when you are alone.
    Sometimes just speaking the words aloud enough will leave you a believer in that truth.

  • Alena

    Alena

    March 30th, 2017 at 11:20 AM

    Kaine, Amen! -Alena

  • Kerry

    March 31st, 2017 at 4:23 AM

    This is wonderful! Thank you for your sage advice and guidance.

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