Photo by Church of the King on Unsplash

The events that led to my separation and divorce should have made my neck hurt because it was like a car rear-ending my whole goddamn life. Everything as I knew it collapsed around me: my marriage, my perception of myself, friendships, other relationships, what I thought for my future.

I had to do things differently; I had to make changes because if I stopped, even for a brief moment, my grief would take me under like 1980s quicksand.

When I started making changes, changes wanted to make, I found that I became more attractive to the people around me. Friends told me I was glowing. People stopped to tell me I was beautiful or that I had a great smile. I hadn’t received this kind of regular outside affirmation like…ever.

I really hadn’t done anything special. No one snatched me up on the street to give me a $1000 professional make-over. I didn’t lose weight, cut my hair, or otherwise dramatically change my appearance.

I simply started treating myself better and worked on making a life I could be proud of. A more attractive inside started to equal a more attractive outside.

Here are the things I started doing in no uncertain order:

1. Exercising

I started cycling regularly and practicing yoga. I did lose some weight, but not more than a few pounds. I just felt betterwithin my own body overall because I was treating it better.

The time I set aside to exercise was time I always gave to myself.

When we give ourselves gifts, we show ourselves that we believe we are worth it.

Feeling like I was worth it equaled a higher sense of self-worth and self-confidence, which are consistently rated as attractive qualities.

2. Taking care of myself

Beyond regular exercise, there are several other things I started doing to shower myself with kindness.

I started going to bed at a reasonable hour, eating healthier, and doing things regularly that I enjoyed. I bought clothes that actually fit and worked well with my lifestyle.

I had to acknowledge that no one was going to make me do anything, and I am/was the only “I” I have.

For you, maybe this means implementing a self-care routine, scheduling an overdue yearly physical or a monthly facial or manicure, soliciting a friend for wardrobe or make-up help, or keeping your teeth extra white. Whatever you decide doesn’t matter because making that little extra effort shows that you believe you’re worth it.

3. Smiling

I smile. All the time. In the shower. At strangers. When I’m driving. When I’m bored. When I’ve just finished sobbing. When I’m so pissed I could spit fire.

I wanted a happy life, and that meant, for me, trying to make the best of everything, even the sucky everything. Yes, I did have to feel whatever I was feeling (there’s no way of avoiding that), but I always tried to come back to the positive when necessary.

Research shows that most people decide whether or not they like someone within the first seven seconds of meeting him or her. Facial expressions largely influence our initial impressions when considering traits like warmth and competence.

Smiling is a simple and effective way to display warmth, but it also influences your brain. Marco Iacoboni, a neuroscientist at UCLA, studied the mirror effect on neurons in the body, and tells us that it’s also contagious. You’re more attractive when you are perceived as warm and approachable. Smiling does that for you easily, and it’s free!

4. Affirming myself

I’m a big fan of affirmations today. They’re hokey, but they’re also simple and effective at counteracting negative self-talk (which I did way too much): You are lovable and worthy of being loved. You are confident and capable of handling all of the things that come your way.

Loving yourself means talking kindly to yourself too. If you’re kind to yourself, it’s also going to be plenty easier for you to be kinder to others. People want to be around kind people. People like kind people.

5. Practicing my empathy skills

I too often can spend time not really listening to whomever I’m conversing with. I might be just waiting for them to finish, so I can get a word in, or I might be thinking of what I’m going to say next.

One of the kindest thing we can do for another person is to allow them to be heard. Really heard. Not only what they say, but what they don’t say.

Be interested in the people around you. You can more easily build meaningful relationships if you take the time to pay attention, ask questions, listen actively, and be present. More meaningful relationships also leads to more personal happiness.

6. Making a life I love

I wasn’t happy with my job, and I hadn’t been for some time. It wasn’t the right choice for me to make a major career-change yet, so I focused on bringing activities into my life that I loved to offset my work time.

I started writing and reading regularly. Eventually, I so loved my writing time that I started building it into the successful side gig it is today. My joy at what I did and do in my off-hours balanced out and helped me feel joyful while doing other non-joyful things.

Joy is contagious, so find it where you can. Get a hobby you can dedicate your off-work hours to, or cut out time watching bad TV to spend quality time with the ones you love.

If you don’t have a life you love today, make a small step toward one tomorrow. Know you’re moving toward something great.

We are all capable of expressing our most knockout special precious selves; you just may need some tips to help you show you to the world. Be kind to yourself in every way possible, be kind to others, stand up tall, and make a life so awesome everyone is going to want what you have.

Tara Blair Ball is a freelance writer and author of The Beginning of the End. Check out her other writings hereSign up for her e-mail list here.