The Importance of Self Appreciation

We often say thank you to the people who help us. We say thank you to the waiters who bring us our cup of coffee and food. Have you ever said thank you to yourself? Have you ever even considered saying thank you to yourself for working so hard, going to school, studying so diligently for your exams, brushing your teeth daily or changing your clothes, cooking meals for yourself, exercising and helping others? Why is it that we can easily say thank you to anyone and everyone but ourselves?

We are extremely harsh to ourselves most of the time and instead of thanking ourselves for our tireless efforts in going about our day-to-day, we usually affirm ourselves negatively with statements like, ‘I have not done enough’, or ‘this is not good enough’.

In my 50s, I learned this truth the hard way for more than 40 years, that I have been my biggest bully, I have been my own slave master, and I beat myself up harshly. I have always seen myself as a lesser human being, in a way that made me think that everyone around me and everyone else was much better than I ever was or could ever be. I did this so often, that it got to the point of me feeling crushed and depressed all the time. I started to search for the problems I created in my life. Which is how I ventured into psychology and counselling. I began to see a problem in my life, I learnt to overcome it and began to live a more healthy life. I learnt to develop a loving relationship with myself and I stopped hating myself.

It is so easy for us to comfort our friends, give them good advice and encourage them when they feel defeated. When your friend comes to you saying, ‘This is all my fault, I feel so bad’, usually your reaction is to tell them, “You didn’t intentionally do that, stop punishing yourself, just forgive yourself. You are a good person. You just made a mistake—that’s all.” But how many of us can say that to ourselves, or will say that when we make a mistake? Rarely, right? I had been doing the same for the past 40 years of my life.

But now this is how I will be talking to myself when my self-criticism pops up again. I learnt to talk to myself as my own best loving friend, as someone who is caring and loving to me. As I supported my friend, I learnt to support myself. For 40 years I lived as a hypocrite. I supported my friends, and I came to love, encourage, and give affirmation to my friends and family members, but I didn’t do that to myself. I spoke two different languages. I was a hypocrite, showing two different faces. Angel to the people around me, but a devil to myself. Most of us grew up with that ‘hateful’ voice in our heads. It pains me every time I hear my clients tell me words like this: ‘I’m stupid, I’m a loser, I’m useless, It’s all my fault, I’m not good enough, I’m not worthy’.

Think about the last time that you made a mistake. It may have been at the office, at home, or with a friend. How did it feel? What were the messages that you told yourself?

When was the first time we learnt about ourselves that we are a loser, a failure, not worthy, not good enough or useless? It has to have come from a source or someone, we must have learnt it somewhere.

As children, we experience great pain whenever we make a mistake, the idea of making a mistake can be intolerable, driven by both physiological and psychological factors. The body’s response to failure often manifests as genuine physical discomfort. Interestingly, the same regions of the brain that react to emotional wounds also activate in response to physical injury. Thus, not only do mistakes generate a physical sensation, but they also provoke feelings of shame, leading us to question our worth if we can’t achieve perfection.

Therefore, we keep repeating the cycle which results in more and more pain and loneliness. When we can’t forgive ourselves or respond to ourselves with love, we start to learn to hate ourselves and develop an inner critic within. We become our enemy. We associate a part of ourselves as “evil”. Self-rejection makes us feel lonely on the inside and disconnected from ourselves.

Why is it so hard to show love to myself? If you have not learnt to walk, you will not know how to. If you have not learnt to eat using chopsticks you will not know how to. If you never learnt to cook, you can’t cook. If you never learnt Math, you can’t count. If your parents keep carrying you and never put you down to learn to walk, you will never learn how to walk. So, when we have not learnt the healthy way to love ourselves since we were a child, we won’t even be able to love ourselves as adults, because we seriously don’t know how to do it. We know what pastries and cakes are, but we don’t know how to bake, because we haven’t learnt baking. We know or heard about self-love, but we don’t know how to do it.

This is often the answer I receive from my clients, when I tell them they need to love themselves, they almost always answer ‘but how?’ or “What is self-love?’. I treat myself well, I go on holiday, I go for a massage, is that not enough?

The best thing you can do for yourself is not just buy yourself a house or a luxurious car, an expensive gift, a spa session or go on holiday. Rather, the best thing that you can do for yourself every day is simply love yourself enough, saying thank you to yourself, appreciating and acknowledging your efforts and hard work that you’ve put into everything.

Self-criticism leads to shame, and shame is among the most potent and distressing emotions one can endure, compelling individuals to go to great lengths to avoid experiencing it. One of the most empowering acts we can undertake, particularly for our children, is to openly discuss the significance of making mistakes. By highlighting the value inherent in mistakes, we transform them from shameful episodes into opportunities for growth and learning. This perspective shift fosters resilience and encourages individuals to embrace the potential for growth within every misstep.

Learn to treat yourself with love and care instead of criticism. Being nice to yourself will transform your life and your relationship with others. A happier you, a happier partner/significant other. A happier you, a happier son/daughter. A happier you, a happier friend. Conversely, an unhappy you leads to an unhappy partner, unhappy children, unhappy friends, unhappy workers and unhappy human beings.