I wonder how often you feel awkward when someone flatters you or praises you?
For many of us, these moments have a ‘squirm factor’ to them. They make us feel uncomfortable for a number of reasons and most of these reasons seem to stem from fear.
We fear disappointing people. So if we down play our good points we’re more likely to pleasantly surprise people when we do well rather than disappoint them by doing poorly.
We can also fear being perceived as vain or arrogant.
And we can also be afraid of letting go of the devil we know. If we are used to minimising and underplaying ourselves, then recognising our positive qualities can feel alien to us – uncomfortable and unsettling even, like we’re breaking some unspoken code.
So it is very common and natural to protect ourselves from these fears and worries by ignoring our good qualities and brushing off other’s appreciation of them.
But when we live our lives like this, we are out of balance and have a distorted view of ourselves.
Mindfulness and an understanding of common humanity can support us to begin to open to the art of self-appreciation.
Common humanity, as Kristin Neff defines it, means that we recognise that all beings, including ourselves, are worthy of kindness and compassion just by virtue of being alive.
I’m sure you show kindness to your friends and loved ones by letting them know what you like and cherish about them. We would not want to take our friend’s good qualities for granted – and yet this is what we do with ourselves all the time.
So we can remember that we too, are worthy of this kindness – and offer ourselves praise and self-appreciation. We don’t have to do it out loud which would just be weird! But we can give ourselves the inner acknowledgement we deserve. e.g when we notice we’ve been thoughtful or generous or creative in some way.
When we allow our understanding of common humanity to shape our appreciation of ourselves, it means that we appreciate ourselves not because we believe we’re better than others – there is no sense of showing off or bragging – we appreciate ourselves because we know that all people, including us, have good qualities. And because to appreciate others goodness and ignore our own, creates a false sense of division between us.
Thich Nhat Hahn writes, “You are a wonderful manifestation. The whole universe has come together to make your existence possible”.
When we remember this, we realise we can’t think of our talents and gifts as purely personal. Surely they grow out of so many conditions beyond our immediate control? The gene pool of our ancestors, the nurturing of our parents and family, the kindness of friends and the guidance of teachers and mentors.
When we remember this, appreciation of our good qualities can also become an expression of gratitude for all those who have shaped us. Self-appreciation is then about much more than just our self – it also honours those who have helped us become the person we are today.
Of course, we need to be able to recognise our achievements and good qualities in order to appreciate them. The more we practice mindfulness, the more able we are to notice these moments. Another key aspect of mindfulness is that it allows us to hold our experience in a balanced view – so it supports us to neither get carried away with our glory nor exaggerate our failings.
Find out more about mindfulness courses.
Mindful self-appreciation allows us to have balance and perspective so that we can see ourselves without distortion.
A short mindful self-appreciation practice:
- Closing your eyes and becoming aware of sitting
- Bringing your awareness to the sensations in the soles of your feet, and then slowly to your bottom on the chair
- And then becoming aware of the movement of your breath in the body – perhaps at the chest or the belly, feeling the body expand and contract with each in and out breath, allowing attention to rest here with the breath for a moment or two
- And then, when you’re ready, thinking of one thing you appreciate about yourself, that really deep down, you like about yourself (could be your sense of humour, loyalty, kindness, creativity, courage, friendliness)
- Now considering….are there any people who helped you develop this quality? (friends, family, teachers, authors of inspiring books)
- If so, sending them some gratitude and appreciation
- when we appreciate ourselves, we’re also appreciating all the people who have helped us become who we are today
- Letting yourself savour feeling good about yourself…letting it soak in for a few moments
- And then, when you’re ready, opening your eyes and ending the practice.