For some people, it can be really hard to like yourself. You may wonder why you can’t be better. You may be constantly criticizing the way you do things. If this is you, don’t worry. You can change this.
One way to learn to like yourself better is to train your brain to see things that it likes instead of things that it doesn’t like. This is hard because your brain is naturally wired to look for the negative things or what you don’t like. Historically, this keeps you safe and away from danger. But in this modern age when physical danger is not super prevalent, this natural tendency can lead us to focus on all the things we don’t like in life – leading to a lot of unnecessary negative emotion. However, you can retrain your brain to look for the good. You can train your brain to look for the positive around you. And you can retrain your brain to approve of most everything around you.
The process is fairly simple: everyday try to focus your brain on things that you like. Walk around and point out all the things you like. Think about what you approve of in your family, your neighborhood, your workplace, your commute, your friends, your world.
When you find your brain disapproving of something, try to find something you approve of about it. When you find your brain ruminating on the faults of someone or something, try to remind it of their good qualities.
This is hard work. Learning to control your thoughts and think intentionally is one of the greatest works you will ever do.
Here are some examples.
Let’s say that you don’t like how messy your house is. Every time you look at your messy house, you feel disappointed in yourself for not being able to keep it cleaner. Instead of looking for what you don’t like, try to shift to what you do like. You can notice how the walls are a nice color and how the air conditioner works well. You can notice the shiny countertops and the nice hue of the cabinets. When you shift your mind to focus on the positive, you are suddenly flooded with positive emotion. And guess what? You are much more likely to actually start cleaning your house when you are full of gratitude and positive emotion towards that house instead of full of disappointment and disgust.
Let’s say that you don’t like how your spouse does a certain thing. Your brain often ruminates on that annoying thing and it comes up again and again. You start to detest your spouse and try to confront them about this habit. They say that they will change but you notice that they don’t. So you confront them again about how they need to change for their own good and for the good of those around them! But by then your spouse starts to get angry and doesn’t want to change. Notice that you have told your brain to look for this annoying behavior and so it is hyper aware of every time that your spouse does it. But you can retrain your brain. Tell your brain that this habit doesn’t really matter and instead we need to find everything great about your spouse. With consistent effort, you might be surprised to find that you no longer notice that annoying habit and that you only see the good things that your spouse does. Try it. (This same scenario works for annoying kids too.)
Let’s say that at work, you notice all the small and big things that your boss and colleagues do wrong. You spin every day in thoughts about how things could be run better and about how they are messing everything up. Retrain your brain to focus on what they are doing right. Take the time to compliment your coworkers on the few things they are doing right. It will brighten your mood and probably encourage your coworkers to work even better in the future. Dale Carnegie, author of “How to Win Friends and Influence People” gives example after example of how positivity and compliments can yield HUGE monetary gains in the workplace.
Your Personal Results
Once you start approving of most everything around you, it will be much easier to approve of yourself. When you have trained your brain to focus on what it likes in your environment, it will use that same pattern in evaluating yourself. You will start to see the good things about yourself. You will like yourself more.
You will like other people more too. This will improve all of your relationships. Everyone loves someone who can see the good in them (and sincerely compliment them on it) and ignore the bad things about them.
If you didn’t know this already – criticism kills relationships…especially marriages. Even if the criticism is only in your own head. Those negative thoughts affect the way you act and respond to your spouse. Changing your brain’s natural tendency to look for the bad in your spouse will greatly help your marriage and your life.