I know you have a busy life, but you need to remember something very important: in order to take care of others, you must first take care of yourself. And it’s a lot easier to get motivated to take care of yourself if you love your body.

Don’t misread me: I’m not saying you should become a condescending egomaniac who thinks you’re the best thing since sliced bread or anything like that, but there is nothing wrong with loving yourself (you’re pretty awesome, I bet).

If you want to improve your body image and self-esteem, I invite you to discover how to love yourself like you mean it. Challenge accepted? Click ahead for your 10 Step Plan.

1. Repeat after me: I’m not perfect, and that is okay.

Demanding perfection of yourself is just as effective as hunting for a magical dragon in your state park. How’s that? Because perfection is just as mythical (read: nonexistent) as magical dragons. No one is perfect. I know some magazine models might look like they have a “perfect body,” but that’s due to a little thing called Photoshop (not to mention the months of restrictive eating and gruesome training that probably preceded their photo shoot). Every person is born with a body-type that is unique to them. Yes, eat healthy and exercise to become the best version of yourself that you’re capable of being, but no amount of dieting (dreadful word) or training can defy genetics. Whether your body is “perfect” or not is beside the point. Love and accept your body, because it is a glorious vessel that protects you from sickness, carries you throughout your travels, and belongs to you alone.

2. Ask yourself: Would I say it about another person?

The next time you catch yourself thinking something like, “I hate my thighs,” or, “I look so fat in this outfit,” or, “I wish I wasn’t so ugly,” stop whatever you are doing and repeat the following steps:

  • Close your eyes.
  • Take 10 deep breathes (your belly should come forward with each inhale)
  • Imagine those nasty, negative thoughts leaving your body with each exhale
  • Imagine warm, loving, positive thoughts entering your body with each inhale
  • After you complete this breathing cycle, ask yourself: “Would I say such things about another person?”

3. Think about it: What traits do you admire in the people you look up to?

I know the concept of loving yourself might be hard to wrap your head around, so here’s a fun exercise that might help. Think about the top five or ten people you admire. These could be close friends, family members, co-workers, mentors, or even an author or philanthropist who you look up to. Make a list of the individual traits and qualities you commend these people for. Below are some things I imagine could end up on your list:

  • Never gives up
  • Shows empathy for others
  • Always does the right thing
  • Confident in who they are
  • Passionate about helping people

The point? Simple: None of the things listed above (or, I’m willing to wager, on your list) include one iota of detail about anyone’s physical appearance.

4. Answer this question: What do I like about myself?

Let’s make another list of the things you like about yourself. Your list could include things like physical and mental attributes, your sense of style/humor, talents and abilities that are unique to you, or any other factors that influence the strength of your character. For bonus points, ask a few close friends what they admire about you, and include their answers in your list. If you have a hard time creating your list, check out this article for inspiration.

5. Write it down: Make a list of all of those things.

I know I already told you to make a list, but I just want to emphasize how important it is that you actually write your answers down instead of just thinking about them. You might think you’ll remember, but life has a way of sneaking up on you and ruining even the best of intentions, so please trust me and “Just do it,” as Nike says.

6. Hang it up: Positive reinforcement is your friend.

The next time you start to agonize over things about your body that you don’t like, consult your list for a positive reminder of all the things you do like. It might help to put your list in a place you’ll notice it at least once a day, like on top of the dresser that contains your underwear (you’ll see it every morning!), or maybe put it up on your refrigerator with a magnet (you’ll see it at least three times a day!). Just as negative thoughts are strengthened by repetition, so are positive ones.

7. The 3-for-1 Method: Every negative thought should be followed by three positive ones.

There is no debating the fact that the occasional negative thought will slip past your radar no matter what you do. The 3-for-1 Method is a great way to become more aware of what you’re thinking about and flip the script of your mental chatter in your favor. Every time you think a negative thought, immediately follow it with three positive ones. If you’re stressing out and can’t think of anything nice to think, here are a few questions that will guide you in the right direction:

  • What have I achieved at work, school, or home today/this week?
  • In what ways have I made a positive impact in someone’s life today/this week?
  • What are some things I should be happy, grateful, and excited for in this moment?

8. Big Picture Thinking: If it wouldn’t matter next month, it’s not worth stressing about.

Fact: Most forms of stress are self-inflicted. No, you can’t control every event in your life, but you can choose how to react to it. Wallowing in misery is counterproductive, so shift your focus away from the negative situation itself to the positive action you can take to make it better.

9. Repeat after me: To take care of others, I must first take care of myself.

I know it never feels like there’s enough time in the day. I know life can feel like a never-ending To-Do List. I know you have children to raise, bills to pay, essays to write, jobs to fulfill, and chores to do. But you’re not the Energizer Bunny. You cannot expect yourself to be able to take care of every other person in your life if you can’t be bothered to take care of yourself. The sooner you get that, the more happy and fulfilled your life will be.

10. Smile, because you are worthy of love and happiness.

Will you smile for me? A giggle or chuckle would be even better. You can fake it if you have to. Don’t feel silly; it will make you feel better, I promise.

Life gets a lot better when you can learn to love yourself like you mean it.

If you find it difficult to wrap your head around the concept of self-love, I highly recommend reading the book, “Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It” by Kamal Ravikant. I know the concept of “falling in love with yourself” might seem a little awkward, but it is a great way to improve your body image and self-esteem. Please pass this along to any friends who you feel would be helped by it, and tell us how performing these steps worked for you in the comments.

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