Maya Angelou once said that, "success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it." While inspirational, the sentiment is sometimes easier said than done. Culture has done a good job at trying to dismantle a woman's capability to like herself. Luckily, there are ways to like yourself according to science, which, as everyone knows from Sociology 101, is unencumbered by gender.
The human body is hardwired for survival. I'm not crazy about the phrase "women get in their own way," because I'm not quite sure I understand what that implies. I do understand from experience that by overthinking, I can make things harder on myself. That's when it's important to tune into the mindset that your body is rooting for you to succeed. Remember Darwin's survival of the fittest theory? Basically, by studying evolution, Darwin proved (in a totally simplified nutshell) that your body is doing everything it can to succeed in its environment. Circling back to Angelou's inspirational quote, that means liking yourself.
An article in Harvard Magazine surveyed evolutionary psychologists, and among them, psychologist Nancy Etcoff confirmed how culture has conditioned people to dwell on negative things in life, when the body is actually programed to fend off "more immediate dangergerms, predators" and nasty stuff. So, let your body lead you to self-acceptance. Better yet, here's how science can actually help you like yourself. And none of this involves Bunsen burners.
1Exercise (And Not For The Scale)
According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, "regular physical activity can help keep your thinking, learning, and judgment skills sharp as you age." So essentially, exercise can bring you back to your "infantile" mentality when you knew you were the bomb dot com.
2Practice Self-Love As You Would Any Physical Skill
Self-love functions like any other muscle. So, practice until you get it right. There is a ton of research on how deliberate practice improves performance, like Princeton University's Brooke N. Macnamara's study on self-determined motivation, which is super popular in academic circles.
3Dance Like No One Is Watching
In an essay for Huffington Post, lifelong dancer Gabrielle Roth wrote about the spiritual power of dance and how dancing creates a space devoid of analysis, criticism, and judgment. In other words, by dancing, you create an environment to like yourself. She wrote dance is "the fastest, most direct route to the truth." As for the science to back her claim up, Medical Daily confirmed that dancing to music increases dopamine, which is a feel-good neurotransmitter.
4Show Of That Smile
You don't have to have Julia Roberts' engaging smile to reap the benefits of the grin. Scientific American claimed smiling not only has proven health and mood benefits, but gives people around you the impression that you're happy.
The Journal of Health Psychology pointed out that people who “stay true to themselves,” or who are authentic, are more likely to be happy with themselves.
6Share Your Feelings On Social Media
In March 2016, a study reported that sharing how you feel on social media activates a part of your brain that makes you feel good about yourself. So, go ahead, get your post on.
7Stay Away From Drugs And Alcohol
While you might think getting drunk or high makes you a "free spirit," an article in Every Health cited reasons women drink, and a lot of them are not good. In fact, the research in the article discusses that alcohol and drugs will likely make you feel worse in the long run. But since you've had a hangover, you already knew that.
8Change Your Situation, Not Yourself
See how that cheetah runs because the zebra is in hot pursuit? This is survival of the fittest in action. But in life, when a metaphoric zebra comes after you, you can be tempted to think it's because you're unlikeable. Stop thinking this immediately. Deal with the situation. Research reported in Everyday Health pointed out that coping with situational depression will only increase your resilience and self-respect.
9Synthesize Self Love
Harvard psychologist and author of the best-selling Stumbling on Happiness, Daniel Gilbert came up with the theory that the brain is capable of synthesizing happiness. In other words, if you think it, you live it. So, start liking yourself, and your brain will inform the rest of you that you're fabulous.