Surely you’ve heard the word “manifesting” popping up on social media or in the increasingly popular new age self-help section of literally any bookstore. And believe me, I devour these reads like the best of them, but if you’re not familiar with this idea, don’t worry my friend.
You don’t have to be a universe-worshipping “spiritual” woman to get in on magic of manifesting. “Manifesting” simply means that you intentionally create something that you want. That’s it!
Manifesting isn’t a far stretch from several psychological theories, so rest assured that regardless of your beliefs, you can benefit from these kinds of exercises. For example, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) focuses on shifting your thoughts to relieve unpleasant symptoms (like depression), and Positive Psychology emphasizes the importance of shining a light on the positive aspects of life in order to create further joy and ease. Both of these modalities rest on the concept of focusing on thoughts to change your reality.
The bottom line is, you can change your life using the power of your thoughts and visions. You can shift away from unhealthy or negative places by focusing on positivity, gratitude, and envisioning your preferred life.
So how does this work with self-love, especially when self-disdain and criticism is so pervasive in our society?
But first, if you’re wondering why self-loathing is so common, here’s the short version: The beauty industry and consumerism in general want you to feel badly about yourself so that you spend a ton of money on making yourself look better. Self-love doesn’t cause you to spend money as much as self-hate. Don’t forget that the idea of “not being good enough” has been marketed to you since the day you were born. Those aren’t your ideas. Somebody gave them to you. We need to work on giving them back.
Okay, so what can you do about this?
Well, creating a kind and loving relationship with yourself, regardless of how critical it might seem at this moment, is entirely possible for you. Let me walk you through how the concept of manifesting could help you with this.
How to Manifest Self-Love
1. Build your awareness about how you currently feel about yourself.
You need to understand your starting point before you move on to manifesting a different outcome. So ask yourself: how do you feel about being you? What are the areas about yourself that are hardest to accept? And when are you most critical of yourself?
Understanding your degree of acceptance (and being honest with yourself, knowing that this is just starting point) will give you clarity around the direction to move in.
2. Envision what you want.
How do you want to feel about being you? What kinds of judgement and criticism would you like to let go of? When you look in the mirror, how do you want to feel about living in your skin?
Creating an image of where you want to be is an important step in manifesting self-love. You need to have a clear sense of where you’re headed, to be able to feel into this new way of being, to try it on in your mind’s eye, to get a little glimpse of what this reality could be like.
This image of yourself that shows you what it’s like to accept, honour, and love being YOU, is the focal point of this work. You can bring up this image whenever you like to remind you of what your life could feel like. If you can image in, you can work toward it.
3. Ask for what you want.
The traditional concept of manifesting includes this important step of putting your wish, intention, or request out to the universe. Once it’s out there, then your job is to open yourself up to the possibility that it could become true (in other words, get out of the way of the good things coming to you… stop self-sabotaging or denying the affirming messages that you receive).
Now, you don’t have to necessarily put your request or intention out to the “universe” per se – just make this work for you! You’re the boss, remember?
You could draw on any basis that makes you feel connected and supported by another force. Some people might pray to God, some might ask “Source” for help, some might connect with themselves or other kind of spiritual source through meditation. Maybe you just say your intention or wish out loud without worrying about who/what is listening.
The point is, you need to get specific about what you want and then put it out there. Ask for what you want! Journal about your desired outcome. Write notes to yourself in lipstick on your bathroom mirror. Put your request on the backdrop of your phone. Leave sticky notes in places you’ll stumble upon.
Having daily reminders of your desired outcome is important. So if you want to love and accept yourself more, you need to intentionally bring these thoughts into your awareness every day.
4. Take action.
Sure, the concept of manifesting is largely about trusting the universe that your message has been heard, and that your dreams are available to you and are coming your way. But you probably know it’s not that easy, right?
While holding this preferred vision of yourself in your awareness every single day, you also need to take intentional action to move in the right direction.
For example, if you want to be kinder to yourself, yet you continually look in the mirror and cringe in disgust at your wrinkles, you’re not taking responsibility for change.
What can you do, right away, to begin repairing your relationship to yourself? When you identify the un-loving ways you think about or treat yourself (from step 1), you can then outline clear steps to overcome those negative patterns.
For example, let’s say you often lay in bed at night reviewing all the ways you “failed” as a mom that day. You lay in guilt, reviewing your conversations with your kids, wishing you didn’t get so frustrated, wishing you had more perspective in the moment.
Since you know this is your pattern, you can plan for this. When these thoughts come up (remember, they are just thoughts, not necessarily the truth), you have a choice to make. Do you continue down this berating story line? Or do you change it?
What if you said to yourself: “Ugh, those were some hard moments today. I feel badly about the way I spoke and I also understand why I was frustrated. I have a lot on my plate. I am doing my best, and my kids know they are loved.”
This simple self-compassion exercise of giving yourself understanding for how you behaved can really help take the sting out of self-judgement.
5. Be open to receiving.
The original thoughts behind manifesting (you can read more about them here) say that once you ask for what you want, look out, because it’s coming your way!
We need to be in an open and receptive place to allow good things to come to us, right? When we walk around with our backs up, in a defensive state of mind, it’s less likely that good things (like interactions, people, feelings) will make their way in.
In other words, be willing to have your vision of self-love become a reality. Entertain the possibility that this could be real! This is hard to do, especially when you’ve lived many years of self-loathing or with a loud inner critic.
Rather than just accepting that you’re always hard on yourself, a perfectionist, or judgemental, change the way you think of these things. Maybe you were that way, but you’re ready to feel differently. Maybe you’ve always judged yourself when you see your reflection, but you’re excited for a new experience. Keeping yourself open to experience new thoughts about yourself is key.
And when they do arrive (let’s say you lay in bed a night and feel proud of how you parented your children that day), welcome them in! Notice the difference, feel what acceptance is like, and don’t dismiss it.
As you work on self-love, I encourage you to intentionally search for the evidence that you’re making changes. Ask yourself, what small things have I done differently? Does my inner voice sound a bit differently? Have I been more self-compassionate or forgiving? Is there anything I’m proud of these days?
Shining a light on these new experiences of self-love (no matter how small) is essential in this process. You need to see the impact of your intentions.
6. Stay in self-kindness + compassion
Don’t forget that it’s taken your entire life to form who you are in this moment. Your automatic thoughts (especially the critical ones) have probably been reinforced for a long time, so don’t be surprised if they stick around for a while.
And most importantly, remember that thoughts are just that: thoughts. They aren’t always the truth, and in fact, they are often just habits! Well worn habits.
So if you find yourself back in the darkness of self-criticism and loathing (which you probably will at times), challenge yourself to recognize this as just an old pattern, and get back into a place of self-compassion.
Thoughts are a result of routines and patterns, really. SO if you allow yourself to hang out in negativity, that’s where you’ll remain. But if you intentionally get into a place of self-kindness + love (through the power of manifesting) then you’ll attract more of that into your life.