We women are all too prone to exaggerated self-criticism—about our appearance, personalities, accomplishments or whatever. This negative self-talk can drag us down, deflating our self-esteem and even contributing to depression. But: It doesn’t have to be this way. In my work as a therapist, I have seen beautiful transformations take place when women are encouraged to think of themselves not as defective, but as divine—as goddesses! Consider the Greek Athena, the Hindu Shakti, the Roman Diana, the Egyptian Isis or any of innumerable other female divinities, all of whom evoke respect and honor. Envisioning yourself as such a goddess and treating yourself accordingly can help you cast aside habitual self-denunciation. To pay homage to the spark of divinity within yourself…
Express inner appreciation. At random times in the day (for instance, when you are waiting at a stoplight or walking the dog), compose a list in your mind about what makes you special—your wisdom, sense of humor, kind-heartedness, strong work ethic, toned arms, winning smile. When you have a moment, write down your list of attractive qualities and memorize it. Then, whenever you catch yourself in a self-deprecating thought (I’m so fat that I look terrible in everything I own) or berate yourself for something trivial (I forgot to send my sister a birthday card, I’m a rotten person), mentally review your list of positive characteristics. Let these affirmations become a form of a benediction (a word rooted in the concept “to speak well of”).
Seek inspiration from goddesses of myth, fiction and history. Learning the stories of revered female figures can help you identify qualities that you would like to incorporate as your own. Check out the exercises in the book A Goddess Is a Girl’s Best Friend by Laurie Sue Brockway. Examples: To see yourself as lovable and beautiful, evoke the spirit of Venus (the Roman goddess of love) by writing an impassioned love letter to yourself…to let go of workaholism and embrace leisure, try channeling Bast (the Egyptian goddess of play) by singing joyfully in the shower or emulating children at play. Also helpful: Download and display images of your favorite goddesses to help you visualize your goals.
Tout your successes. It is OK to toot your own horn sometimes, particularly to your partner, friends and others who truly care about you and will celebrate you (rather than people who might become envious). Sharing significant successes (“I finished writing the first draft of my novel!”) or even minor ones (“That crossword puzzle was really tough, but I nailed it”) reminds you to appreciate your own abilities and allows others to rejoice with you.
Accept adulation with grace. When paid a compliment (“That’s a beautiful dress”), do you automatically dismiss or minimize it? Resist the temptation to say, “This old rag?” Instead: Simply smile, say thank you and even add an upbeat remark of your own (“I’ve always liked it, too”), as you let the good feeling of someone else’s appreciation wash over you. If you still have trouble with compliments, try picturing yourself on a pedestal as you remind yourself that you deserve to be loved, admired and treated well.
Stage a “goddess night.” Ask your partner or best friend to agree to this exercise, where one evening together is totally devoted to pleasing you. For instance, he or she can take you out on the town or prepare an elegant home-cooked dinner…lavish you with compliments and constant attention…present you with a small gift…accompany you on a special activity, such as splurging on orchestra seats at the theater or having a spa day…or even do something as simple as letting you pick the television station. Assure the other person that you will return the favor another time, and he or she will be that much happier to indulge you.