“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” – Buddha

For too many years, I used other people as an instrument of self-validation. I spent so much of my precious time trying to please others that I didn’t have any energy to focus on myself and what I truly wanted.

I needed others to fill my void and help me avoid myself. Focusing on other people was a way for me to escape my own flaws and limitations. I used to associate this behavior with the extroverted side of my personality, but today I know that was a lie.

Once I learned to approve of myself unconditionally and treat myself as if I were my own best friend, I didn’t need others to validate me. Though I still need to be loved and appreciated, I am not needy for approval any longer. And I no longer try to control how people perceive me, as I know they’ll always see me filtered through their own lenses.

When I began to take care of myself – mind, body and soul – I started to feel happier and more balanced, energized, and alive. Investing in my self-care was the best decision I could ever make, and a life-changing one. And that was a lesson of self-compassion.

We often talk about stepping into our true power, building our confidence muscle, boosting our self-esteem, and giving ourselves the precious gift of self-compassion.

Although self-confidence and self-esteem seem similar – referring to how we feel about ourselves – they are two very different concepts. As for the self-compassion, many people do not understand what that is.

As for myself, I also felt confused regarding these terms for quite many years, before digging into psychology research, and here’s what I found out:

Self-esteem refers to how we generally feel about ourselves and the overall image we associate with who we are (I am beautiful, I am ugly, I am stupid, I am smart, etc.)

Self-confidence is related to how we feel about our abilities and how capable we see ourselves of doing certain things or handling different situations (I can do this, I’ll never make it, This is too hard, etc.)

Self-compassion is all about loving ourselves unconditionally, which is not selfish but essential for a healthy life.

  1. Being okay with who we are and loving ourselves regardless of whether we can or cannot perform certain tasks;
  2. Treating ourselves with kindness, dignity. and respect;
  3. Staying away from self-punishment and self-criticism. Knowing that perfection does not exist, and aiming for good enough. Accepting our flows and mistakes as much needed opportunities for growth and part of being human;
  4. Embracing the entire repertoire of human emotions, including the so-perceived “negative” ones: shame, guilt, sadness, anxiety or pain. Showing up for ourselves during the rough times, not only when life feels painted in pink.
  5. Knowing that loving others starts with loving ourselves.

To me, accepting myself exactly as I am has been a learned practice. I used to be obsessed with my weight – the size of my hips, the number of kilos on the scale before and after Christmas or summer holidays. I’ve done all the possible diets and purchased fancy gym subscriptions I only used a few times.

In all truth, life felt like a struggle. I didn’t have a problem with the way I looked, I’ve always been healthy and feeling good with myself. The real problem was the way I thought I should look like.

If you don’t know what I mean, take a beauty magazine, see all those photoshopped women and ask yourself who makes the beauty rules.

And here I am, nine months pregnant, bigger and heavier than ever. Surprisingly, I’ve never been happier, and this pregnancy got me very well prepared. I came to understand beauty is a state of mind and a state of being. Whatever I chose to believe myself to be, that’s who I am. It’s all about the way we perceive ourselves.

It took me years to detach from whom I thought I should be and give myself permission to be who I am. I stopped putting labels on self-love. I consciously decided to stop loving myself with conditions, like “someday, when I go back to my initial weight, I will start loving myself again.” Or “someday, when I lose an X amount of kilos, I will finally be happy.”

Such thoughts are nothing but projecting happiness into an imaginary future that hasn’t happened yet – the same thing like missing real life, which is here and now.

Goodbye self-punishment, self-guilt and conditional love! I have decided to love and approve of myself as I am. Instead of wanting to be slim, I want to be healthy. I am perfectly imperfect and that allows me to be Me.

I learned how to love my wrinkles, my cellulitis and my pregnant elephant feet:) I love my body as it is, this temple of my soul, an amazing vehicle who helps me see the world and go through such different life experiences. A body that is currently hosting a new life.

If my sharing resonates with you and you think you should be taller, smaller, bigger or shorter, here’s what I want you to know: you are a magnificent human being, worthy of your own love, care and attention. Stop focusing on who you think you should be and start honoring who you are. That’s real freedom.

Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder and that most important beholder for you to care about is you. Decide you are gorgeous, and see what happens.

Sara Fabian is a Women’s Empowerment & Career Coach and inspirational speaker, on a mission to help professional women to discover their unique strengths, gifts and talents, boost their confidence, find their calling and live a meaningful life of purpose. For weekly inspiration, subscribe to her free newsletter at www.sarafabiancoaching.com or follow her on Facebook.