As much as we might know deep down inside that it’s not true, many us fall victim to the belief that self-criticism can push us to perform better.

The truth is, though, that it just doesn’t work that way. Self-criticism is better compared to self-sabotage, and instead of boosting our productivity, it can hurt our performance and make us more likely to fail. It can also cause us to fear failure, which in turn hurts our performance and encourages us to give up more easily.

While you may be tempted to think that learning to love and appreciate yourself might make you ‘soft’ or ‘weak’—you should know that loving yourself will open doors to future opportunities and can help you reach your full potential.

Learning to love yourself doesn’t mean you let yourself slide and get away with everything. Quite the opposite! It means recognizing and acknowledging that you have worth and value. It means treating yourself right and allowing yourself the freedom to try new things and make mistakes.

While learning to love and appreciate yourself can take some time, it’s an important part of realizing your full potential. Wondering what it looks like? Here’s a look at a few ways that you can give yourself the love that you deserve.

Choose Yourself

First, it’s important to choose yourself. This means giving yourself permission to take time for you, and make decisions for yourself, even if they risk upsetting others. This doesn’t mean that we have permission to be rude or inconsiderate, but it does mean choosing to leave the gathering before anyone else if you feel tired or overwhelmed. It does mean saying no to the bake sale if you have too many things going at the moment. Choosing yourself isn’t selfish. Far from it! Protecting yourself and creating boundaries is a sign of healthy self-love.

Eat Right

Loving yourself means caring about what you eat. It doesn’t mean that you have to be overly restrictive or swear off your favorite treats, but it does mean being mindful about what you’re eating, and looking to give yourself the foods that you know will help to fuel you, nourish you, and help you to perform your best. Set yourself up for success by planning out your meals and snacks. Think through your vegetables, greens, and fruits—then fill in with healthy grains and proteins! Eating nutritious meals doesn’t have to be difficult or daunting. Planning ahead is key to ensuring your success.

Take Time to Exercise

You shouldn’t feel guilty about taking time to give yourself some care—especially when it comes in the form of routine exercise. Taking on a regular exercise routine helps to rejuvenate you and will leave you feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world. Routine exercise can also help to reduce anxiety, lower stress, and increase energy—all great things! Jot it down in your planner to make sure it happens.

Get Enough Sleep

The importance of sleep is underrated. Getting enough sleep, though, is vital for feeling and functioning at your best. Take the time to relax your mind and body before going to bed. Allow enough time for your evening routine, and consider turning your phone off well in advance, and then using that downtime to spend with loved ones, read, or journal. Plan ahead so that you can rest easy at night.

Stop Feeling Guilty

Finally, allow yourself to enjoy things that bring you joy! If you have a favorite treat, don’t feel guilty about having it once a week. If you love spa days, book them and give yourself something to look forward to. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying our favorite things, so stop feeling guilty about it!

While it can be hard to get into the routine of learning to love and appreciate yourself, it’s vitally important nonetheless! With a little bit of planning, you’ll soon find that loving yourself can actually make you more productive, happier, and balanced—giving you the freedom that you need to be yourself and reach your full potential.

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