Almost twenty years ago, when I was in my early twenties, I wasn’t really my own best friend. I was in graduate school and although things were going okay with my studies, I wasn’t very happy. When I made a mistake or failed I beat myself up for days or sometimes weeks.

I mostly focused on the negative and rarely took the time to appreciate the small and wonderful things about my life and myself.

I compared how I looked, my results in school, and success while dating to what other people had and their results. I was stuck in a rut of negativity and low self-esteem. Not a good place to be in.

But finally, after many years, I broke out of that rut.

It wasn’t easy. But step by small step I made changes in how I thought and how I viewed the world and myself. I stumbled along the way and many times I fell back into my old negative habits. Committing to a daily meditation practice was certainly the cornerstone, breathing and pausing mindfully multiple times a day. But in addition to meditation, there were some other habits that helped me make a big change in my life – habits that I still rely on to this day in order to maintain and build my self-esteem.

One of the first things I decided that I needed to stop doing was comparing myself and what I had to other people and what they had.

But what does one do instead, since replacing a habit tends to be more successful than trying to just stop doing it? I decided that I would compare myself to myself instead: to look at how I had grown; how far I had come; how I had become more successful in small or bigger ways.

One other interesting thing I discovered was that when you are kinder toward other people in your life, you tend to think about and treat yourself in a kinder way, too. And the other nice thing about this is that how you treat others is how they tend to treat you in the long run.

So I found it very helpful to focus on being kind in my daily life. This helped to put my metta (lovingkindness) meditation practice into action. Now, this kindness doesn’t have to be about big things. It can simply be to do things like:

-Just being there and listening fully for a few minutes as you let someone vent
-Giving someone a genuine compliment
-Letting someone into your lane while driving
-Taking a few minutes to help someone out in a practical way by giving advice, using Google to help them find something, lifting a heavy table, or making arrangements for a dinner at a restaurant

And you know what? You’re gonna screw things up. You’re human.

Instead of beating yourself up when you make a mistake, fail, or stumble in some way, ask yourself: How would my best friend or parent support me and help me in this situation? Then simply do things and talk to yourself like he or she would.

This simple change in perspective can help you to not fall down into a valley of depressed thoughts, but to be constructive and optimistic about what you do from here on out.

You see, one of the biggest reasons why I beat myself up so much was that I often wanted things to be perfect. And so I held myself to an unrealistic standard, in school and with whatever I did, really.

A big problem with this mindset was, of course, that I often did not do things at all because I was afraid that I could not do them perfectly. Or, I felt it would be too much work and quit before I had even gotten started.

Just realizing how this mindset was hurting me and people around me helped me to let go of it and adopt a healthier outlook. Also, reminding myself that there is a thing called “good enough” and focusing on reaching that instead of perfection helped me not only to get better results, but also perform better in all areas of my life.

It also helped me to stop procrastinating so much and to take a lot more action to improve my life step-by-step. One thing I learned over the years (from my son actually) is that “good is good enough.”

Here is my experience with self-love:

-Life becomes simpler and lighter, because you will not make mountains out of molehills nearly as often anymore.
-You’ll be less needy and more stable as a human being. When you like yourself more, when your opinion of yourself goes up, then you’ll stop trying so eagerly to get validation and attention from other people.
-You will sabotage yourself less. By raising and keeping your self-esteem up, you will feel more and more deserving of good things in all areas of your life. So you’ll go after these good things more often and with more motivation. And when you get them, then you’ll be a lot less likely to self-sabotage because you know that you deep down actually deserve to have them in your life.
-You’ll be more attractive in any kind of relationship. With better self-esteem you’ll get the benefits listed above. And all of that is highly attractive in any kind of relationship. No matter if that relationships is with a friend, at work, in school, or with a partner.

All these huge benefits coincidentally also made my life happier. And as I moved through my days, I kept these very important reasons for keeping my self-esteem up and improving it in the forefront of my mind. Imagine that!

So stop beating yourself up. You are a work in progress; which means you get there a little at a time, not all at once. Investing in the development of good habits, a foundation (like meditation) on which to build upon is a great start.

See you on the sand on Sunday!