17 Healthy Ways to Build Body Confidence

Does this sound familiar?

It’s Saturday morning. You’re at home, un-showered in your pjs, scrolling through Instagram. You laugh at some cute baby pics and a cat video, and then comes what seems like an endless string of photos of people with ultra-toned bodies doing yoga on the beach, posing last night in their new outfit, or modeling while on vacation.

Suddenly, what was a cozy morning has turned into a sinking feeling inside like your body (and life) don’t measure up.

If you’re nodding your head, you’re not alone. Research shows that self-esteem is negatively impacted the longer you spend on social media.

We live in a very body-conscious society. There are comparisons everywhere if we choose to measure ourselves against them.

Issues with body confidence exist far beyond social media. Though these scrolling sessions certainly seem to highlight them.

As someone who’s been on a rollercoaster ride learning to love and accept my body, I can tell you there are healthy ways to go about building more confidence, or there are Band-Aid fixes that make things worse in the long run.

I’ve compiled some of the healthy ways that helped me and my clients build a healthier body image. If you’re looking for more, I teach a 2-month body-love course called Eats & Asana. Our next session is coming up soon, get on the waitlist now.

Healthy Ways to Build Body Confidence - so you can feel good about yourself from the inside out.

  1. Root your confidence in who you are, not how you look. When you recognize that there’s a lot more to love about you than just your body, there won’t be so much pressure to look perfect. You’ll be able to be social and have fun with confidence because you know that having your hair out of place doesn’t make or break who you are or how others see you.
  2. Stop comparing yourself to others. Our bodies aren’t a competition. Even if they were, there’s no way anyone could “win” because we’re all so unique and different. Focus on yourself and what food, exercise and clothes work for you and let everyone else do their own thing. When you do find yourself comparing (we’re human, it happens) use it as an opportunity to be inspired by something you like, rather than feeling jealous and putting yourself or the other person down.
  3. Practice gratitude for your body. This goes deeper than appearance. Our bodies are walking miracles and we rarely stop to recognize that. Create a gratitude practice where you intentionally look for all the awesome things your body allows you to do (play sports, have a baby, help your friends, give hugs, heal, etc.). You’ll feel pretty awesome once you recognize all of the advantages your body affords you, most of which have nothing to do with how it looks.
  4. Meditate to calm your mind and connect with yourself. Strengthening the connection with yourself on the inside to focus less on your appearance. It will also help you build the mental muscles to direct your thoughts where you want them to go.
  5. Move your body in a way that feels good to you. There are so many ways to appreciate what your body can do, rather than how it looks. Find an activity you like (lifting weights, rock climbing, yoga) and focus on developing a skill with your body, instead of on manipulating its appearance through exercise. There’s a lot of freedom here and it will give you many more reasons to build your confidence.
  6. Stand up straight. Posture affects mood and reflects how you think about yourself. Lift your chin up, pull your shoulders back and feel the difference this instantly makes in your self-confidence.
  7. Talk to yourself like you’d talk to your best friend. Speaking to yourself with kindness and compassion is one of the quickest ways to build your confidence. You go from having an internal enemy to an internal ally. The effects of this are powerful.
  8. Make a list of things you love about your body. Start with the ones that come most naturally. Think about everything your body can do (even on the inside). Consider everything your body has helped you do in the past. This list will never be complete, keep adding to it over time.
  9. Spend less time on social media, and more time doing things that make you feel good.
  10. Talk about it/seek help. If you’re feeling consumed by thoughts about your weight, shape and appearance, talking with someone can help take some of the internal pressure off. Start by opening up to a friend or family member. You might eventually need to talk with a coach or counsellor who has the expertise to help you out.
  11. Eat well. Believe it or not the voice of internal criticism has good intentions. It gets louder when you’re not fueling yourself properly to warn you that you’re out of alignment. When you eat good quality, nourishing food that agrees with your body, this voice becomes quiet or it might even go away.
  12. Get rid of clothes that don’t fit and only shop for the size you are now. Using clothes as “motivation” works the opposite way you want it to. If you want to look and feel your best, wear clothes that make you feel confident right now, as you are. Don’t wait for a time in the future, when you can feel good about yourself today.
  13. Spend time with people who are kind to you and to themselves. Role models are everywhere. Find people who speak kindly about themselves. Witness their relationship with themselves and you’ll see that it’s ok to feel good about your body and to treat yourself with respect.
  14. Read books that help you build yourself up. This can be any type of book that makes you feel better than when you picked it up. Part of building confidence in your body is allowing yourself to feel the way you want to feel more often than not. Books are a great way to bring up those positive feelings.
  15. Put away magazines. Unfollow social accounts that make you feel icky. You are the guard at the gates of your mind. Choose wisely what you’ll allow inside.
  16. Avoid TV shows where characters talk down to themselves or diet to change their appearance. You don’t need any more role models on how to have unhealthy body image.
  17. Say nice things about yourself. Words are powerful and your body is always listening. This is one time to take the advice “say something nice or don’t say anything at all.” It will help you build the mental muscle of dismissing negative thoughts and planting positive ones instead.

A note on change

There are plenty of ways to get started building more confidence in your body. One thing to note is that self-improvement and self-love aren’t mutually exclusive. It’s ok to love yourself and to want change for how you look or feel in your body.

It’s important to make changes in healthy way, from a place of healthy motivation. Check in with yourself and your desire to make changes. If you can do things (like exercise, eat healthy meals, etc.) from a place of self-love, then go for it and your confidence and trust in yourself will grow. If you’re motivated because you don’t like the way you are right now, that’s a good indicator to use these body-confidence tips before trying to make changes.

How to Build Your Self-Confidence

If you’ve been around for a few decades you probably know that confidence is something that comes easier for some than it does for others. The tricky thing though, is that you can’t always tell who it comes naturally for.

We live in a culture that prides itself on knowing the answers, being productive, and forging ahead even in uncertain times. That leaves little room for second-guessing, being indecisive, or wondering if someone else would be better suited to your leadership position. And yet, these are the feelings that come up naturally for many of us.

I recently read a revealing profile in the New Yorker in which Sheryl Sandberg admits she’s felt like a fraud all her life.

Sheryl is a two-time NY Times Best-Selling author with the role as COO of Facebook on her resume, and 270K Twitter followers. If she's not confident in herself what does that say about the rest of us?

Where does confidence come from?

I suppose what that says about those of us who haven’t worked in leadership at a Fortune 500 company, is that we have more in common with the perceived elite than we think.

Whether that’s refreshing is up to you.

Personally, I find myself wondering if she feels that way because she’s a woman? There’s something to be said for coming up in a patriarchal culture that plants nearly invisible seeds of doubt in women's minds through the media, political and corporate structures (more on that another day). Regardless of gender, if our roles, accolades and success don’t make us confident in ourselves, what does?

Could it be that confidence is a ruse? As in, it starts out as a mindset you create for yourself and then you live into it until it feels real? The affirmations and positive self-talk of the personal development world would like to have us think that.

While it’s true that mindset is a powerful way to impact the nervous system (which governs our experience of reality), it seems there’s more to the story. There’s a transparency to genuine confidence which makes it harder to feign and easier to learn.

After all, if you’re reading this you probably want to feel confident, not just outwardly look it to others.

The bottom line is that self-confidence comes from the inside. It’s partly based on your mindset but there’s another important piece: connecting with and trusting yourself.

Confidence can be learned

The good news in all of this is that confidence isn’t something you’re born with (or without). It’s not something that’s bestowed upon you. You have control over your level of confidence and it starts with connecting to yourself.

The more years I spend coaching and doing my own personal development, the more I can see that many desired states all lead back to the same practices. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then, that slowing down, making time for reflection, mindfulness practices, yoga, and meditation are a few central practices that can help you create a deeper connection with yourself and thus improve your confidence.

Cultivating a strong relationship with yourself does a few things that will get you ahead: first, it allows you to discern your inner voice from outside influences. Second, it enables you to take an honest look at your behaviours, your thoughts and fears and your motivations so you can critically assess your strengths and weaknesses. Lastly, it creates a foundation for self-trust so you’re more likely to act according to your intuition and know (trust) in your ability to make decisions, follow through and be resourceful when facing a challenge.

Without building this inner muscle (of listening to and trusting yourself) you’re much more likely to be wrapped up in what other people think or approve of, instead of trusting yourself. If you’ve ever tried to make an important decision by trying to appease multiple viewpoints, you know it’s extremely difficult to do.

Confidence Spoilers

There are plenty of things that get in the way of experiencing confidence. Here’s a good list to look through to pinpoint some of the things that might be holding you back:

  • Seeking approval from others
  • Trying to please others
  • Placing too much importance on things that don’t matter in the given situation
  • Personal insecurities (appearance, weight, clothes, etc.)
  • Giving too much credit to others' voices
  • Not reflecting on past wins to reference your strengths
  • Not asking for help (thinking you should be able to do it alone)
  • Not recognizing your strength, talents, and abilities
  • Fears that aren’t based in reality

How to build your confidence:

Ready to have a boost in self-assurance? Here are actions you can take to build your confidence:

  1. Check your negative thoughts. Instead of letting negativity carry you away, return to the facts by asking yourself “is this true?”
  2. Have a trusted advisor you can talk things out with when you need to be reminded of your abilities.
  3. Set yourself up for success by preparing as much as possible. This will ease your nerves in the moment.
  4. Visualize your success. Rehearse the outcome you want in your mind until you can see yourself behaving the way you want to in the given situation.
  5. Reflect on times you’ve succeeded in the past. This gets your mind used to thinking of you as someone who succeeds.
  6. Use confident body language. Amy Cuddy has a great Ted Talk on this.
  7. Use meditation and mindful movement on a regular basis to connect to your body and strengthen your relationship with yourself.
  8. Make a point to learn from your mistakes. This will take some self-compassion, but you’re more likely to trust yourself if you feel like you’re improving as you move forward.
  9. Embrace optimism. Whether you believe you can or you can’t, you’re right. Remember, confidence has a lot to do with your mindset.
  10. Celebrate your successes. Big or small, take time to personally acknowledge your wins to reinforce the behaviour you want to see in yourself.
  11. Get to know your values. The more you understand yourself and what’s important to you, the easier it will be to make decisions with confidence.

The Ultimate Guide to Self Love- Part 2

Part 2- Practices for Connecting with and Loving Yourself

In Part 1 of this guide we talked about the 5 essential steps to self-love and we also looked at what can get in the way of loving yourself.

Something that became increasingly clear to me as I delved into the concept of self-love is that sometimes it doesn’t look the way you’d expect.

I’ve been on both sides of the coaching conversation, asking and answering the question “if this were your best friend, would you treat her the same way you’re treating yourself?”

That always puts things into perspective. We like to be the heroes of our own journey. We set ourselves up to do hard tasks like carry the workload of two people, push down our feelings for the sake of being polite, or wait to eat until every family member is perfectly taken care of. When we eventually wind up exhausted, having fallen short of the goal, we take the opportunity to slather on self-judgement for what we “should” be able to accomplish.

Yet in the back of our minds we know that we’d never treat our girlfriends this way.

This extends not only to what we set out to accomplish in our careers, family and relationships, we set these high expectations for our bodies. Here’s where we get into trouble.

Loving yourself inevitably extends to loving your body. This is sticky territory for many of us, especially women who’ve grown up with impossible beauty ideals. We might be able to stand up for ourselves in relationships, but when our jeans don’t fit it can set off a domino effect of shame and judgement that eventually affects our behaviour.

I’ve seen this time and again with my clients, some of whom seem to have a great relationship with themselves, until the scale is involved.

The love we show (or don’t show) ourselves is rarely as clear as when it comes to accepting our bodies. That’s because body image is the intersection of self-image and our actions namely, eating, exercise and self-talk. When one part of the equation is lacking (often self-image) the other parts are affected as well.

Loving your life starts with loving your body

Let go of shame and self-judgment and embrace your inner confidence with the Body-Love Checklist.

For me, learning to think positively about myself and take care of my body was the starting point for self-love. These two sides of the equation rose in equal proportion to one another.

I’ve seen the same thing happen for dozens of women in my Eats & Asana program where we focus on creating a healthy relationship to our bodies and food.

Our habits with food (meal choices, whether we eat, distracted eating, etc.) reveal the way we feel about ourselves. Often the thoughts we have about our bodies are unconscious, but they’re acted out for us to see in our relationship to food. Other times we know something’s up because of things like stress eating, emotional food cravings, or yoyo dieting.

It’s important to recognize that there’s something underneath the surface of your relationship to food… it’s your relationship with yourself as a whole. There are several ways to invite more self-love into your life that will benefit your body, your mind and your health.

Habits for Connecting to Yourself

Being in touch with yourself is the first essential step to cultivating self-love. This happens through:

Mindfulness- slowing down enough to feel into your senses and get centered in the present moment is a great way to connect with yourself. Start small by making time each day to pause what you’re doing, take a few deep breaths and bring your awareness into the present moment. Mindfulness is a muscle that will grow as you prioritize connecting with yourself.

Eating well- the ultimate sign of self-respect is taking great care of your body by choosing your fuel wisely. Eating well is a daily step you can take to ensure that you have the energy, mental clarity to do the things you love to do.

Movement- instead of thinking of this as exercise, consider moving your body for the sake of joy, self-expression and experiencing the full range of what you can do. Movement can be a meditation that allows your mind to come into alignment with your senses. It’s often during physical activity (playing sports, yoga, kayaking, etc.) that you’ll receive insights from your intuition because you’ve slowed your mind down enough to listen.

Creativity- any kind of creative expression that speaks to you (singing, playing music, painting, writing, etc.) will connect you with your inner knowing. Being in creative flow feels fantastic! Getting to know this inner creative nature will help you appreciate and value your body and mind and want to treat them well.

Relaxation- this takes many forms, but what I’m talking about here goes deeper than laying on the couch watching a movie. Find an activity that allows your nervous system to calm down so it can heal. This can be meditation, yoga nidra, or going for a massage or acupuncture. The more time your nervous system can spend in the parasympathetic “rest and digest” mode, the more you’ll be connected with your true self as opposed to living in a state of reaction.

How A Self-Loving Person Acts

Sometimes it’s helpful to witness self-love in action so you can find a way it fits for you. This list is by no means exhaustive, but here are a few characteristics of self-love that you can look for in yourself. If you’re not exhibiting one of these, think about what would need to shift in order to make it happen.

A self-loving person…

  • Prioritizes needs over wants because they’re committed to the health of their long-term relationship with themselves. This includes eating and moving in a way that serves their body.
  • Sets boundaries in their work, personal relationships and with themselves. They communicate their boundaries with others and feel reassured rather than threatened when others set boundaries with them.
  • Has difficult conversations because they recognize that everyone involved will be at ease when things are clear and out in the open. While these conversations might be challenging, they’re committed to clarity in their relationships so they can be fully themselves and others can too.
  • Listens to themselves. This often takes the form of a regular practice like journaling, talking with trusted others, or spending time in contemplative thought. They listen to their thoughts and make a point to feel their emotions and use both as an internal guidance system to keep them on track.
  • Doesn’t compare themselves to others. This one can be tricky, because comparison and self-judgement can happen so naturally. But someone who’s committed to self-love will not compare themselves to others as a way to boost their ego or to justify self-judgement. Instead, they focus on paying attention to their own life and doing their best.
  • Practices forgiveness with themselves and others. This takes a deeper level of emotional awareness, which their committed to for their own health and wellbeing.
  • Speaks kindly about themselves. They treat themselves with the same respect they would treat their closest friends.
  • Prioritizes joy and fun because they know that they deserve to feel happy, joyful and to do things that light them up.

Remember, like any other relationship learning to love yourself is a process. There are always opportunities to connect with yourself in a deeper way. Stay open and be willing to take them as they come. Which self-love practices will you start with?

The Ultimate Guide to Self-Love

Part 1 – What self-love is and what gets in the way

As much as I’m into personal development and spirituality, I still shudder at things that sound super cheesy. Self-love used to be one of them.

The term “self-love” used to conjure up ideas that were somewhere between baths with rose petals in them and a modern revamp of Tupperware get-togethers called “pleasure parties.”

I'm sure the rose petal baths aren’t all that bad, but I like things that are practical. Things need to be grounded in a purpose for me to want to get involved.

I found self-love through a back door, almost unexpectedly, and it changed my life completely. What I mean is, I found self-love after being utterly unloving to myself for years.

Starting in my teens I dedicated the large majority of my waking hours to pleasing other people. I put my needs on the back-burner in an effort to be the perfect student, employee, friend, daughter, granddaughter, etc.

At the same time, I had my own ideas about perfection which included eating at appropriate times (so as not to tick off my Italian family. Mangia!) and being thin.

There are only so many meals you can reasonably skip before you realize you have a problem. I was about 5 years in before I reached out for help.

It was the combination of months of eating disorder counselling coupled with yoga that allowed me to flip the switch in my brain from self-destructive to self-loving. As hard has it might sound to have to flip that switch, after making the shift it feels harder to even imagine going back.

Committing to stop my destructive behaviour is what returned me to myself. That’s when the real work began.

Loving your life starts with loving your body

Let go of shame and self-judgment and embrace your inner confidence with the Body-Love Checklist.

What is self-love anyway?

Today, self-love is a buzz word. It’s common to suggest that a friend “love herself more,” or that we can’t truly love others until we “love ourselves.”

Depending on where you are, the idea of living with self-love might sound like the promise land of green grass on the other side of the fence.

What makes up the “fence” between you and that self-love bliss are things like self-destructive behaviour, lack of boundaries, being disconnected from your truth, and dishonoring your body.

Oh, that.

Self-love is a really big deal. It’s a crucial component to living well because it influences every choice you make – from picking a mate, choosing your career, your friendships and even the way you spend your money.

Essentially, it’s at the heart of your fulfillment. But self-love is deeper than a state of feeling good. It’s a state of appreciation for yourself that grows as you take actions that align with your physical, mental, and spiritual growth.

Self-love is dynamic. It grows through actions that develop you into a more well-rounded human. You develop self-love over time by acting with your best interest at heart. As you take actions in the interest of furthering yourself, you begin to have more compassion for yourself as a flawed-yet-perfect human being in your search for meaning and fulfillment in life.

In short, self-love isn’t something you attain, it’s something you grow.

Love is a Verb

Love is something you feel. It’s also something you do.

Recently I got a text from my partner saying, “I washed the dishes so when you get home you can relax.” The pile of dishes in the sink had been on my mind since I left the house. I read this and my heart melted.

If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed with gratitude when your partner, your child, or your friend, does something with your best interest at heart you know that love isn’t just a word, it’s a verb.

Cultivating self-love is about taking consistent actions that support your wellbeing. This means standing up for what you need even when it might be inconvenient for someone else. It means setting yourself up for a great day by making a healthy lunch the night before, instead of watching an extra half hour of TV. It looks like setting boundaries and managing expectations with your boss so that you can do a great job and be an awesome Mom to your children.

You might be starting to notice something here… acting out of self-love often means doing the un-sexy but practical things that set you up for success. It doesn’t always feel good in the moment (though sometimes it does). Sometimes you need to get uncomfortable and have the sweaty conversation that will set you up to feel empowered, respected and free to be yourself in the future.

What gets in the way of self-love?

Learning to love is learning to listen. It starts with tuning in. If you don’t know what you need, how can you respond in a loving way?

It makes perfect sense to me that my path to finding self-love came through my body. More specifically, it came through learning to connect with and listen to my body, so I could meet my own needs.

In my experience, the more I pushed down my body’s signs, the more vague they became. As I got used to ignoring the signals, my body turned down its cues to a faint whisper until I was left wondering “am I hungry? No wait, thirsty? Does my stomach hurt? Maybe I’m just tired…” It became so confusing I’d often give up and stop trying to listen.

Have you ever felt restless and then found yourself in the kitchen mindlessly drinking wine, or eating anything you can get your hands on?

Here’s why that happens: when you don’t understand what your body is trying to tell you (probably that you’re tired, lonely, or need a break) you’re more likely to respond in a way that numbs the feelings that are coming up. The farther you move away from feeling, the more disconnected you become.

That’s when it’s easy for self-destructive behaviour to slip in. The more you disconnect from yourself, the less pain you feel when you do things to sabotage your wellbeing.

It can be confronting to dip your toe in the realm of self-love; because it means you have to feel. The beautiful thing about this process is that the more you commit to feeling and listening to your body, the less likely you are to mistreat yourself. It’s much harder to disrespect the Self that you’re connected to than it is to dismiss your Self when you’re disconnected.

Just as you can push down your body’s cues, the same thing can happen with your inner voice. As you learn to prioritize other things over your inner voice, your truth will get quieter and you might stop hearing it in general.

The good news is you can regain your sensitivity to your body and your inner voice.

5 Essential Steps to Self-Love

  1. Connect to yourself – practices like mindfulness, meditation and yoga can help you connect with your body and quiet your mind so you can hear your inner voice of truth. Other activities that bring you into the moment (like writing, singing, playing music, or spending time in nature) can help you reconnect with yourself as well.
  2. Listen – this is more of a moment to moment practice. Spending even a few minutes in stillness and silence daily is a great way to show your body that you’re willing to listen.
  3. Understand the message – here’s the tricky part. When you walk into a crowded room and get a funny feeling, you might get the message but not know what it means. At first, listen and watch. It takes time to tell your inner nudges of anxiety and fear from excitement and opportunity. Be willing to get it wrong at first. As you learn to obey your inner wisdom it will step up to guide you more often.
  4. Respond with love – it takes practice to respond to yourself in the most loving way possible. If your knee-jerk reaction is to judge or put yourself down, notice this and choose again. Sometimes the most loving thing you can do is give yourself permission to feel awkward while you figure it out. When feelings come up you can always take space to regroup and decide how you want to proceed.
  5. Feedback – this is your ‘reward’ for listening and acting according to your truth. Sometimes the feedback will be positive and you’ll know you’re on the right track (i.e.: you eat something and your body feels better). Other times the feedback will tell you you’re off base (you get anxious in a crowd and leave, only to realize it was really excitement and you want to go back).

The journey of self-love starts with the willingness to do so in the first place. Willingness is a softening that allows you to open up and look inside to truly meet yourself. As you listen to your body you’ll become more connected with your truth and you’ll develop the skill of responding appropriately to your needs.

Read more in Part 2 - Practices for Connecting to and Loving Yourself

Comparative Suffering – How to Stop Denying Your Feelings

It’s been 9 weeks since quarantine began. That’s nine weeks that houses have been filled with family members who usually scatter in different directions.

We’ve stopped coming and going. Now we’re “sheltering in place.”

If you’re a parent, this means you’re homeschooling your children, making every single meal at home and trying to keep up your workload from the dining room table while spending all day in the same home as your kids and spouse.

That’s 24 hours per day, 7 days a week, with no evening escape to the yoga studio. No joyful breaks to run errands. No private phone calls. No glasses of wine with your girlfriend. And no stroll through Indigo, or inspiration shopping at HomeSense.

When your girlfriend (who you haven’t seen in over 3 months) calls you up at night and asks the most loaded question “how you doing with all this?”

You open your mouth to give an honest answer. You want to tell her you’re at your wit’s end, that you haven’t baked a single loaf of bread and it’s been weeks since you worked out. You want to tell her that you’re starting to question your sanity, and your relationship.

But just as you go to tell her your real, honest, raw truth, this tiny thought runs through your mind; I shouldn’t complain, so many people have it so much worse.

So, you gloss over your story and say something about it being tough, “but at least the dog’s getting more company these days” and finish up with, “we’re lucky we haven’t lost our jobs and will be ok. You?”

Deep down, you know you live in a neighbourhood of parents who, just like you, are trying to keep it all together while entertaining their kids and putting 3 healthy-ish meals per day on the table.

You know you’re not the only one who’s tired, a little scared, and a lot overwhelmed.

And you can’t help but wonder how long will this be your new normal? How long will you be cut off from friends and support from family? How long will I last in this version of reality that looks like your life, but doesn't feel like it at all?

But you hesitate to say these thoughts out loud, even to your best friend, because you know how incredibly blessed you are to be healthy, and safe at home with your family, while people around the world are not.

This Covid-19 pandemic sure is bringing our “stuff” to the surface. One thing it’s dredged up in droves is this tiny toxic thought process called Comparative Suffering.

Comparative Suffering Explained

It’s not something that’s new or unique to this situation. I bet you can think of many conversations when you felt guilty sharing your feelings so you covered them up with “…but how can I complain when I know other people have it so much worse?”

This is comparative suffering.

We do it to save face, to relieve guilt, to sugar coat our unpleasant feelings because somehow, we think they’ll be easier to swallow if we remind ourselves that someone else has it much worse.

The thing about comparative suffering is that it doesn’t make us feel lighter, it just makes us feel more alone. There’s a powerful healing quality to being witnessed in our struggles, and letting someone else know when we’re in pain.

Like when your girlfriend calls you up and admits she feels like a bad Mom for yelling at her kids after she’d had a long day at work. It’s cathartic for both of you to hear because you both realize you’re not alone. We all struggle.

Brené Brown says this about comparative suffering:

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past decade, it’s that fear and scarcity immediately trigger comparison, and even pain and hurt are not immune to being assessed and ranked. My husband died and that grief is worse than your grief over an empty nest. I’m not allowed to feel disappointed about being passed over for promotion when my friend just found out that his wife has cancer…”

Just as powerfully, she adds—

“The refugee in Syria doesn’t benefit more if you conserve your kindness only for her and withhold it from your neighbor who’s going through a divorce.”

We need to remember that empathy is not a limited resource. We heal more quickly together, partly because sharing removes the temptation to shame ourselves for being wounded in the first place.

Feelings are for Feeling

No one wants to go on about their problems. Yet, when we can’t even admit to having uncomfortable feelings, we’re denying parts of ourselves the healing of being seen, heard and loved.

Let’s get one thing out in the open – there’s no shame in feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, tired, angry (or any other unpleasant emotion). Ever.

You’re not a bad person for having hard feelings… even if you have a great life. Especially if you have a great life, you can heal and let others heal by sharing that things are hard for you at times too.

So, instead of withholding love from ourselves and saving it for “the suffering” (a group of people we know are out there and have it way worse), what if we try compassion instead?

What if we agree not to evaluate, compare, and tally each other’s pain? What if we stop judging ourselves and our friends for their feelings because comparatively it could be worse?

Instead we could spread empathy. We could admit that the house feels like a zoo and we cry at night because hugs from our friends seem like distant memories. We could listen to a friend share about their loved one in the hospital and not feel like it diminishes our right to feel like things are hard in our own home.

We can keep our struggles in perspective and allow ourselves to express them.

Both are true and real.

Both are feelings to be felt.

And everyone deserves to feel their feelings.