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Be Your Own Valentine: The Health Benefits of Good Self-Esteem

Self Esteem, Valentine's Day

This week, many people around the world will celebrate Valentine’s Day, also known as the Feast of Saint Valentine. It is a celebration typically associated with romantic love, but the first love of your life really should be yourself. There are many benefits to having a healthy self-esteem.

We are often taught by society that our worth is found in the “idols” of our culture – the better house, the nicer car, the higher social status, sex, money, power, outward beauty, or romantic relationships. But if you base your self-worth on these external things, you will never be capable of self-love. You will always think to yourself, “I am not good enough.”

There is a wise old saying that you cannot truly love someone else until you love yourself. Thich Nhat Hanh also once said, “To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.”

People with low self-esteem tend to display the following characteristics:
• They are extremely critical of themselves
• They may downplay or ignore their positive qualities
• They judge themselves to be inferior to their peers
• They tend to use negative words to describe themselves such as stupid, fat, ugly or unlovable
• They have discussions with themselves (‘self talk’) that are always negative, critical and self blaming
• They may assume that luck plays a large role in all their achievements and will not take the credit for them
• They blames themselve when things go wrong instead of taking into account other things over which they have no control such as the actions of other people or economic forces
• They don’t believe a person who compliments them.

Low or poor self esteem can reduce the quality of one’s life in many ways, including:

• Negative feelings – the constant self-criticism can lead to persistent feelings of sadness, depression, anxiety, anger, shame or guilt.
• Relationship problems – for example they may tolerate all sorts of unreasonable behavior from partners because they believe they must earn love and friendship, cannot be loved or are not loveable. Alternatively, a person with low self-esteem may feel angry and bully other people.
• Fear of trying – the person may doubt their abilities or worth and avoid challenges.
• Perfectionism – a person may push themselves and become an over-achiever to ‘atone’ for what they see as their inferiority.
• Fear of judgment – they may avoid activities that involve other people, like sports or social events, because they are afraid they will be negatively judged. The person feels self-conscious and stressed around others and constantly looks for ‘signs’ that people don’t like them.
• Low resilience – a person with low self-esteem finds it hard to cope with a challenging life event because they already believe themselves to be ‘hopeless’.
• Lack of self-care – the person may care so little that they neglect or abuse themselves, for example, drink too much alcohol. They may even fail to provide for themselves the basics of life such as proper food or shelter.
• Self-harming behaviors – low self-esteem puts the person at increased risk of self-harm, for example, eating disorder, drug abuse or suicide.

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Michelle King Robson, Founder, Chairperson and CEO of EmpowHER, one of the fastest growing social health companies dedicated exclusively to women’s health and wellness, offers the following tips for increasing your own self-love:

1. Find your inner beauty
Easier said than done? Definitely. But if the old adage “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is true, what message are we sending ourselves when we fill our own heads with criticism? Instead of picking at everything you think is wrong with you, work to actively locate the beauty inside yourself and celebrate it.

2. Write it on the mirror
To help with my internal transformation, my daughter took my lipstick and wrote “I am beautiful” on my bathroom mirror where I had to see it every morning. We cleaned around the words for a year until I finally got it through my head. So take your brightest lipstick and write the words you need to see on your mirror or on a note on the refrigerator door or a sticky note in the middle of your steering wheel. Wherever you put your message, be sure you read it every day – and leave it there until you believe it.

3. Give yourself a break
We all do or say things we wish we could take back. Then we fall into the inner dialogue of thinking, “Why did I say that?” or, “Why didn’t I do better?” These thoughts are so automatic we don’t even realize how much we put ourselves down. Instead of letting mistakes loop in your head, give yourself permission to let them go and move on.

4. Pay attention
As women, we often find it easier to give compliments than to receive them. Don’t brush aside affirming words. Whether it’s a kind act or a thoughtful word, give yourself a moment to really think about what others appreciate or admire in you. Those things are real, and they deserve your personal attention. For me, compliments from other women are more meaningful than those from men. So don’t be stingy in paying compliments to others. I believe whatever you give out will come back to you ten-fold in personal satisfaction.

5. Smile
Even if you still don’t see your inner beauty, lock eyes with someone and give her a big smile. You’ll see her light up as your inner beauty shines through. Better yet, that light will reflect back onto you, and you’ll both feel better about yourselves.

Loving yourself should be the norm, says Ms. Robson. Each of us needs to be happy in our own skin. Take the time this Valentine’s Day to focus on yourself as your primary true love.

Resources Include:
Fox News - 5 Ways to Fall In Love with Yourself
The Better Health Channel (Australia)