Here are a few ideas. Take them to heart or use them as a starting point to create your own ideas on ways to cherish yourself.
1. Make loving yourself the first priority of the day. Every morning, when you wake up, spend a few minutes thinking of one thing you can do for yourself that day, whether it's buying flowers or finding time to watch the Oprah Winfrey Show. When you brush your teeth, remember to smile at yourself in the mirror.Mouth the words, 'I love you'. On occasion, wrap your arms around your body and hug yourself. I've been known to lean forward and actually kiss my reflection in the mirror, but that could be too narcissistic for others. If you don't start by loving yourself, who else will? 2. Send your mother an e-mail asking her why she loves you. Tell her not to be shy when extolling your virtues. Then print out her reply and put it somewhere you can read it often, especially when you're feeling a little down. Because nobody loves you more than Mom. Alternatively, reread all your old birthday cards and love letters because people tend to gush more on paper than to your face. 3. Spend time out with your girlfriends. Use a book club or a slimming group as cover, then get together with like-minded friends to simply celebrate being with other women. Let your guard down and listen to each other with compassion. Life is pretty hectic, so this is time out to be with others who understand you. Drink lots of wine, giggle uproariously about your sex life and gossip about anyone not at the meeting.
4. Bond. Connect with people in a meaningful way. Strengthen ties with those you love, mend personal family rifts, remember your friends, and connect with a soul mate. Find someone who thinks you're cute, funny and clever. Okay, so you might have to find a very young person or a favourite sibling, but they still count as important people with discerning taste.
5. Pamper your body. Get a massage, have a facial, go for a pedicure, have your legs waxed, get your eyelashes tinted or spend a fortune on a new hairdo. On a very special occasion, go for several such treats one after the other on the same day.
Spend money on luxurious bath creams and anti-wrinkle ointments. Even better, blow all your savings on plastic surgery to get rid of the jodhpur thighs, floppy boobs and bags under your eyes.
6. Throw a temper tantrum. For once, drop the Ms Perfect pose and just go crazy-mad. Use vulgar language, break things (any ugly object lying about that you've always loathed), throw a few cushions about, stamp your feet and shout very loudly. Demand attention.
Then flop on to the floor and sob about everything you're sad and angry about, in the past, present and future. You'll feel fabulous, and will have burnt off the same amount of kilojoules as is contained in an ice cream.
7. Give your brain a boost. Enrol for a course you've always wanted to do. Learn another language, start studying part-time for a degree, go to evening classes or brush up on your computer skills. If this sounds too much like hard work, join a library and take out some interesting non-fiction books to read. Join a debating society. Start visiting art galleries and museums. Go to the theatre, take in a ballet or opera.
8. Eat sensibly and exercise regularly. Not only does eating properly give you energy and make you feel good about yourself, but exercise gives you an added endorphin rush. A healthy lifestyle ensures less stress, a more positive outlook on life, and solid sleep at the end of the day.
9. Take care of your health. Get a Pap smear and mammogram done every second year at least. Visit the dentist every six months, and get your teeth cleaned, too. You take care of your family's health because you adore them, and if this was neglected, you'd blame yourself. Why treat yourself any differently? Make appointments for every check-up you need and if you feel ill, go to the doctor.
10. If it's broken, fix it. Take stock of your life and find out where it needs attention. Need to lose a bit of weight? Does your marriage need some special care? Is it time to confront an uncooperative child? Maybe it's just a little thing, such as a task you've been putting off. Perhaps it's a nasty habit you can't seem to shake off.
Write a list of everything that bugs you and set aside time every day until all your problems are sorted out. If necessary, get professional help and indulge in a little therapy. This way you get to talk about yourself for an hour every week and someone actually listens to your opinions.
11. Unzip your sex life. Everyone needs a little shake-up and added inspiration from time to time. So buy a few books, read a couple of magazines, watch the odd movie. If you're brave enough, go to a 'girls-only' party and buy some sex toys. Even better, spend a romantic evening with the special person in your life.
Get a babysitter in for the kids, dress up and go somewhere special for dinner. Spend time talking, hugging and kissing. Best of all, take a whole weekend and pretend you're on honeymoon. Take a deep breath and tell your partner what you really, really want. Try out new things.
12. Buy yourself a present. Go out and splurge on something luxurious like a piece of jewellery, a bottle of expensive perfume, French champagne or a fluffy bath towel.
13. Take the holiday of your dreams. There is much fun to be had trawling through travel brochures and planning the holiday. But if your budget doesn't allow any such extravagance, indulge in some mind travel. When my sister and I were little, we used to lie on sun loungers in our garden in Pietermaritzburg and pull our peak caps over our eyes so we could only see the single palm tree and the blue sky.
Then we would play a tape with Caribbean music full-tilt, smother ourselves with Coconut Oil suntan lotion, and drink long, cold drinks from glasses with straws. We used to pretend we were on an exotic island.
These days, we go to India. First off, the Victorian Market in Durban, a suburb of Bombay, to sit around eating curry and listening to Radio Lotus. In the evenings, we potter around Grey Street and enjoy the sitar buskers, buy spices and incense from the hawkers, and then go off to a Bhangra bash in Reservoir Hills. Get the idea? Now you try it.
14. Get some rest. If your partner snores, turf him into the spare room. Make the bed up with crisp, clean linen (ironed for added pleasure), make sure there is enough air circulating in the room, and snuggle down for an early night.
15. Donate time or money to the needy. You get to feel like a decent person for ages afterwards and it serves to remind you of your many blessings.
16. Buy a dog. It will be your best friend, love and adore you no matter how ugly or fat you get, it won't talk back or argue with you, and will follow wherever you go.
17. Give yourself the gift of time. Get a friend to take your kids off your hands for a while, then take the day off work, and spend time just lying around on your bed, sleeping, reading or watching a schmaltzy video.
If your day has been busy, forget about cooking dinner. Order pizza