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Cultivating Self-Compassion this Valentine’s Day

It’s February, which means that there is a large focus on love and showing appreciation for your loved ones. For this Valentine’s Day, I want to encourage people reading this blog to focus on how they can show love and support for their bodies. So often people get stuck thinking they will have the perfect relationship or love life if they “lose weight” or change an aspect of their appearance. Instead of focusing on romance with others, I want to encourage you to think of how you could show love and appreciation for yourself and your body. For this Valentine’s Day, I am challenging all the readers to complete a 10 day self-compassion challenge. This will be for those of you who want to make one intentional step a day towards self-acceptance and kindness towards yourself.

10 Day Self- Compassion Challenge

Day 1: Watch video from Kristen Neff’s self-compassion to learn a little more about self-compassion. After watching this video, write down a few ways you will work this month on cultivating your own self-compassion. Spend some time writing a few points down of the areas you struggle the most with, and the areas you find yourself having the largest barriers for developing compassion and kindness for yourself.

Day 2: Pick something that is self-care related and spend at least an hour alone doing something you like because you deserve to do something for yourself. This could be reading a book for pleasure, taking a relaxing bath, painting/creative space time, spending time on a hobby. Self-care is a concept that often gets lumped into self-compassion, however self-care is more about taking care of yourself. It is more about making sure your needs are met vs. being compassionate/ kind to yourself.

Day 3: Focus on socializing with someone who you feel love and support from. Spend the day chatting about things that bring you closer to the person and further away from diet/ body talk. Try making a connection with this person and calling them out or yourself out if you start engaging in any kind of body shame talk, and share with them how this kind of talk doesn’t help your views of yourself long-term.

Day 4: Pick one way you will focus on moving today that helps you feel connected to your body and the way it feelsrather than exercising for body control or the way you look. Practice being mindful of the experience of movement vs. exercising for any kind of weight control purpose or body change purpose. Notice how different it feels to move your body in ways that feel good vs. moving in a way that changes your body. Write down your experience and start to ask yourself how this feels different and how you would like to change your exercise habits in the future to be more flexible.

Day 5: Dedicate the whole day to catching your self-critical responses. Make a list of the things you say to yourself that are negative or self-shaming and write it down. This is an important activity to help change negative self-talk. It may sound easy, but people are often shocked to find how much they shame their bodies. They often find patterns of self-shame. This is typically if they feel like they made a mistake, when they look in the mirrors, when they have an argument with a loved one, these are typical situations that people start to struggle with personal shame.

Day 6: Take that list and think about how you would speak to a friend/ child/ partner/ or parent if they were saying these things to themselves. Does it feel really different? Would you never talk this way to someone else? How do you think it impacts your self-esteem if you are consistently talking about yourself in this way? Research has shown that overtime, when people are self-critical it starts to largely impact their self-confidence. It shows that people who criticize themselves often isolate themselves more, and engage in more damaging behaviors for their mental health. This may sound like a small step, but it has large positive impacts overtime.

Day 7: Try a body image exposure! Try wearing something you have always wanted too but maybe you were too anxious, or worried about what people would think of your body. This could be getting a new outfit, trying a new way to style yourself, or something that stands out for yourself that you have been too nervous to try! Even though this is scary, people often feel empowered after engaging in this activity.

Day 8: Write a letter of kindness of the things you are grateful for that y

our body allows you to do. This is a body appreciation letter. Some possible prompts could be “What does my body allow me to do that helps me be closer to my loved ones? What am I appreciative of with my body? What is an activity I like to do that my body helps me enjoy (a sport, date, time with family, etc.)?” Keep this letter in an accessible place and continue to add to it as you are reminded of things you are appreciative of your body. Be sure to pull this letter out as well when you are struggling with your body image!

Day 9: Today, share with a loved one the things you have learned about your experience with trying to bring in more self-compassion. Tell them some of the things you have been working on from day one and some of the aspects of the video of self-compassi

on that you are incorporating into your life.

Day 10: Try giving a gift to yourself! Book a photoshoot, a spa day, or some kind of gift to yourself to celebrate YOU. So often people are struggling to feel like they “deserve” any kind of gift to themselves. This is a challenge to those out there to book something and spend some of their time, money and energy focused completely on themselves.

One of the biggest reasons I wanted to challenge individuals reading this due to Valentine’s Day and the focus that comes with this holiday and the love for others. I want to challenge people out there to ask themselves what they can do to show love, care, and compassion towards themselves. Loving and appreciation of yourself and your body is the most important foundational step for you when building your self-esteem and confidence. Take this holiday and spend the time celebrating love for yourself and working towards showing yourself the same love and compassion you show to others.

Deanna Smith, LCSW

This blog is not meant as therapeutic advice, rather to provide education. If you or a loved one is struggling with disordered eating, or body image issues know that there are many educated qualified mental health therapists and dieticians who are well-versed in these complicated issues. Please seek therapeutic & nutritional support if disordered eating or body image concerns are impacting your life.

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