I’ve been thinking a lot lately about confidence. Where does mine come from? What about everyone else’s? How can I better teach and foster it in my clients? Is it a skill that can be taught and practiced, or is it some inherent gift?

I believe confidence, forged from self-love, is a skill. I think self-compassion and self-kindness are skills that can be honed, and given the insane epidemic in our society of body-hating, I encourage everyone to start practicing right now. In an effort to help the cause, I’ve decided to share something with you. It’s easily the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever written about on the Internet. It’s a practice I have, a habit that I’ve never told anybody about until now.

Honestly my secret is something I’ve been doing my entire life, since far before I connected it to my work or considered it useful to society. It’s something I did as a kid, just like everything else, because it felt good. Then as a teenager, as my body and face were changing, I did it as a way of coping and getting to know myself. It was instinctual and intuitive, and it just stuck.

What’s my big embarrassing secret? I admire myself in the mirror.

On a regular basis, I look at my reflection and I make faces and I pose and I think really nice thoughts about myself. If this sounds like the absolute most self-obsessed thing you’ve ever heard... it kind of is. I recently told my best friends I did this and they were like, “Only you, Jessi.” And I know. I know how embarrassingly self-indulgent it sounds to admit that I purposefully spend time admiring myself. I KNOW. But I also think, “Well hey, I’m one of the few women I know who really, truly loves her body.” So maybe there’s something to this. Maybe we’re given so much sh!t from society for truly loving ourselves that dedicating time to self-worship is considered shameful narcissistic bullsh!t.

But when other women talk about “indulging” themselves with relaxing spa days, massages, or whatever, I’m like: Ugh. That all sounds like work. To me, the most restorative and indulgent thing I can do is to spend some quality time deliberately loving myself. Rather than paying someone else to treat me nicely, I get to be the one who treats me nicely. For me that means looking in a full-length mirror with good lighting, posing in clothes I rarely wear (or in my underwear, or naked), sometimes dancing or making faces, and just thinking really nice thoughts about myself.

Change Your Point of View (to Someone Else's)

I know for some women this might sound like a nightmare. Put them half-naked in front of a mirror, and all they’ll see are glaring flaws and failures. But the key to my practice, which I didn’t even realize I did until recently, is that while I admire myself, I do it from the point of view of someone else.

The Best Thing You Can Do for Your Self-Esteem It’s hard to love all of myself, all of the time. But when I’m spending time alone with my reflection, I’m consciously seeing myself through the eyes of someone who loves and accepts me fully and completely—my imaginary “biggest fan,” if you will. It switches depending on my mood, but I always view myself through the eyes of people, both real and imaginary, who love me or are attracted to me. I see how my little brother must think I’m so weird and cool. I imagine how I must look to the boy I’ve been dating, I wonder what he likes best about my face and body, and I replay some of the most wonderful things he has said to me recently. I fix my hair about a dozen ways and toy with the idea of cutting it again soon.

But it’s not just physical. To me, external beauty is such a reflection of internal beauty. (That’s why my taste in men can confuse people sometimes. I’m attracted to someone’s energy, to how their insides and outsides align.) So while I’m loving my body and my face, I’m also loving my heart and my spirit and my whole history as a person. I imagine what my mom must see when she looks at me, how strong of a woman I’ve grown up to be, and how proud she must be to be my mom. I imagine that when she looks at me she must see such a long and winding story; how I still resemble my childhood self, how I look like her sisters and herself, and how I’ll always be half my dad.

I consider how well my energy matches my appearance, how close my life force lives to the physical surface of myself. I admire that when you look at me, you can see my heart worn on my sleeve. I wonder how I can let more of Me out. Can I do my hair in a way that’s more authentically Me? Can I let my shoulders relax in a way that’s more Me? Can I tear down more boundaries between Me and everyone else?

The Biggest Self-Love Mistake Most of Us Make

I don’t compare myself to anyone. That would rob the experience of joy. I even try not to compare myself to myself, although there are certainly some thoughts, some memories. I remember how my body looked and felt in high school, versus when I was dancing every day, versus now that I lift weights. But it’s always done through this filter, this point of view of an imaginary fan who loves me the most right now, as I am in this moment. I don’t say mean things or think about stuff I want to change. I just admire. I just love. And for that time, through the imaginary eyes of my biggest fan, I am my biggest fan. I am the one who loves me the most. And you guys... I think people need this.

Because the thing is, you walk around making up what people think of you anyway. You can never really know. I mean, you hope your parents are proud of you, and you suspect that mean girl at the office might be jealous of you. But you can never know. Your interpretation of what people think of you is essentially made up. And for some reason, most people, most of the time, make up mean and negative things. They see themselves from the POV of an imaginary enemy. They imagine how they must come across to someone who doesn’t like them, who doubts them, who thinks they’re ugly, fat, dumb, or just not good enough. They spend their entire day hanging out with this judgy, imaginary person who makes them feel insecure, and their entire life suffers for it. When you constantly see yourself from the POV of someone who judges you unkindly, the world feels like a harsh and dangerous place, so you shut down, take less risks, and find ways to live smaller.

So since we’re making it up anyway, why don’t we imagine our fans? Why don’t we start practicing seeing ourselves from the point of view of our biggest secret admirers? Why don’t we invent an admirer who thinks we are absolutely perfect, right now, in this moment, and spend some time getting to know ourselves through their eyes?

The Best Thing You Can Do for Your Self-Esteem My biggest fan thinks I look sexy, even when my stomach is bloated and my skin is breaking out, and I haven’t slept in days. Sometimes I look at myself when I feel like complete crap, and after 27 years of practice switching my point of view, I am still able to see myself kindly. My imaginary biggest fan can see a super hot young woman who is sleep-deprived from hustling for a job she believes in, who takes risks because she is brave and strong, and who needs to be taken care of sometimes because she’s human. And my fan falls in love with me just a tiny bit more in that moment, and therefore so do I. Because it’s really just me, after all.

I am my biggest fan. I am the only one with the power to love myself this wholly.

Are there people who probably meet me and come up with nasty things to say? Of course. In fact, I can guarantee that even writing this post will not sit well with some people. Heck, maybe my mom will even roll her eyes. But the thing here isn’t blind Pollyanna-style optimism. I don’t think everyone likes me, and I certainly don’t expect everyone to love or accept me as I am. I’m just as flawed as everyone else.

By practicing getting to know myself this way, however, I go out into the world with the knowledge in my back pocket that I am loved. I am seen. I am admired. I know, because I am the one who does it. This confidence gives me the seemingly magical ability to be radically and authentically Me, to chase my dreams unapologetically, and to live a life overflowing with purpose, compassion, and love.

That’s what I want for every single person on earth. You deserve to be seen, loved, and admired for exactly who you are. So maybe it’s time you become the one who does it.

This post was written by Jessi Kneeland and originally appeared on JessiKneeland.com. To learn more about her, read her blog, and follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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