Emotional Health

Self-Appreciation: Smell the Roses

For many women, however, the landscape of their sense of self-worth is a malevolent garden: good feelings and accolades are like day lilies—gone in hours, but any bad feelings, memories, mishaps are as powerful as the strongest of weeds. No matter how many times you try to remove them, they keep growing back, while the beautiful “flowers” are long forgotten and seem to have no lingering fragrance at all.

Worse, when things go wrong you don’t consider it a matter of taking the wrong approach to a particular problem, you conclude that you have a lack a “green thumb.”  While there are many levels of expertise, however, anyone can learn to garden. And just as in life, you don’t have to produce prize-winning roses in order to create something beautiful.

When thinking about yourself, stop evaluating wins and losses and try to take a broader view. Some parts of your life may be flourishing while others require more tending at the moment. No one has a perfect landscape. At any one time, you may be dealing with difficulties and struggling in some areas, and yet making great strides in others.

Even in the height of summer, when conditions are perfect, weeds will always have to be rooted out, even though you know they will come back. The trick is to keep clearing them out, not giving in to them or being too discouraged when they do.

Most important, though, is keeping the healthy plants thriving. This too requires attention. If we are not diligent about their care, plants and flowers won’t do well. It is crucial to pay attention to your strengths, in other words. Appreciate, reflect, and remember the things you do well, or even well-enough. This doesn’t mean “dwelling” on them (over-watering can be deadly!) but giving yourself credit and owning it. Feeling positively about yourself means giving the flowers more attention than the weeds, recognizing how you helped grow them, and keeping conditions right for their renewal.

While problems always will need attention, giving them too much of it, and accentuating them is like seeing more weeds than beautiful flowers. You would not decorate with weeds, but many of us can’t stop looking at and rehashing our failures.

Though this tendency may feel baked in, you may have more control than you think. When you decorate your home, you don’t hang up an ugly painting, but sometimes you put less effort into keeping it beautiful than you might. To feel good about yourself, you have to mindfully accentuate the positive, highlight the best moments, etc. If you have nice flowers in the garden, look at them, or better yet, put some on your table so you can see them as much as possible. The same can be applied to appreciating your good points: put them where you can see them!

Like with gratitude, self-appreciation is something you can improve with care. Both are important to a sense of well-being and contentment, yet the idea of actively practicing them is relatively new. As with self-compassion, use as a model the way you treat others. When you see a friend who looks good, it is not because she looks perfect or is the most beautiful woman you know. It can be an overall impression, or even a small thing, like a new haircut.

A way to learn and practice self-appreciation is to try it with others. If you see someone do something well, tell them. If they look well, mention it. Even strangers are pleased when you notice something about them and comment. If a customer service person has been helpful, tell them, don’t wait for the survey. If a cashier has beautiful nails that she has taken great care with, tell her. It will help her have a good day, but it will also help you. Not only will you have been kind, but also, you are demonstrating how you can kindly appreciate yourself. And kindness counts, always.

 

 

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  • Sherry November 1, 2018 at 9:37 am

    Thank you, Dr Ford, for this beautiful and apt metaphor.

    Reply