Dear Fellow Travelers,
When you consider the command: Love your neighbor as yourself; how does that work out for our neighbor? I mean, really? Did you ever think about it? We understand this statement to mean that we need to be good to our neighbor, kind, loving, patient, forgiving, etc. I predict that your neighbors, like mine, may just be in a bit of trouble.
I came to this conclusion at least 30 years ago and I’m still working on the solution. But why is it so difficult? Why is it easier to be nice to a total stranger, smile, give a compliment even, than it is to be kind to ourselves? I honestly can’t say that I have the definitive answer, but I trust that it is there and if I keep asking, it will be revealed to me. It’s been my focused intention in recent months to be committed to loving myself. I’d be honored if you would join me on the journey. As I said, I don’t have a full proof process but here are 5 things which have provided me with some big shifts in the direction of self-love:
*Forgive yourself for perceived past failures.
*Get real about who you are.
*Look at yourself through the eyes of those you truly admire.
*Find ways to celebrate yourself.
The first is to release unreasonable expectations of yourself. These may be in place because you’ve accepted them from outside yourself or they have been internally generated. Either way, they can have the power to hold you hostage and suck energy and joy from your life. An example from my life would look like this: “You can’t let anyone in the house if it’s not perfectly clean.” The energy projected from this expectation was rigid & unwelcoming. It meant that my children grew up in an environment that didn’t allow much spontaneity with friends. My heart said I wanted to be the Kool-aide mom (you know, the one who hosted all the kids in the neighborhood), but my insistence on holding to this rigid standard denied me something I wanted and drove my sons’ childhoods. This brings us to my next point.
Forgive yourself for perceived past failures. I was aware about the time my sons were preteens that I had the above dynamic and it haunted me. I still wanted them to have the freedom to invite friends over on the spur of the moment, but the voices in my head wouldn’t let go. I didn’t seem to have the time and energy to keep things up to my own standards and I kept hearing, “What if someone came to pick up his/her kid and saw my house as it is on a daily basis?” Mind you, our house was NOT dirty, nor was it especially messy. One of the funniest things my older son ever said to me that was both funny and painful was: “Gee, Mom, we should have people over more often, the house is a lot cleaner.” I can laugh at this now with no pain because I’ve let go of the need to judge myself. Along with that, I’ve forgiven myself for the years that we spent not inviting people over because mom couldn’t let go of the image of the perfectly clean house. Do I wish things had been different? Yes. Can I change that now? No. I so appreciate this definition of forgiveness from T.D. Jakes tdjakes.org, founder and senior pastor of The Potter’s House of Dallas.
“Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could ever be different.”
It’s powerful; let it sink in and please notice that I said “perceived” past failures. We are much too skilled at declaring that we have failed. Let it go and forgive yourself.
Next, get real about who you are. I mean who YOU authentically & genuinely are. Don’t define yourself from outside your internal knowing. This was HUGE for me. When we allow our definition of ourselves to come from others, it constantly changes according to the people with whom we interact. It keeps us in a state of limbo, never finding solid ground upon which to make life choices. We live in a state of confusion and doubt. This may not be as easy as it sounds on the surface. It may not resonate on a conscious level. Get into yourself and see what’s actually there for you. You can do this. Who do you know yourself to be? Then go dance in that energy. It will cut the bonds from other people’s perspective that have kept you stuck and dizzy with confusion.
Once these three things have been achieved, you’re ready to start with a cleaner slate. Now is the time to get some clarity on your own value in the world. When I struggled years ago with the idea that people in my department at work didn’t seem to want to include me in their social activities, I was hurt. It was a great motivator for moving me into some life transforming decisions, but it was still not a happy time. It was frustrating because it was obvious that they valued me as a professional colleague and often sought out my help with projects, but when it came to lunch or happy hour, I was out of the circle. I spent way too much time wondering why this was and what “was wrong with me”. It was exhausting. One night it came to me in a flash, if I looked at the people at work for whom I had great admiration they all felt the same way about me. So, I gave up worrying about whether or not any particular person “liked” me because I was liked and admired by people whose opinions I had always respected. It wasn’t so much about being liked as it was about acknowledging my tribe. And now I say if you’re needing a boost in seeing your own value: Look at yourself through the eyes of those you truly admire.
As they say, last, but certainly not least: Find ways to celebrate yourself. One of the best ways to do this is to identify who in your world does that naturally, celebrates you, I mean. It may be your mother, your significant other, your best friend. It could even be the lady behind the deli counter at the grocery store. Be aware of how these people are acknowledging YOU, not your position at work, not your physical beauty or your great musical talent, but YOU, just as you are, no particular extra shine or polish. I promise they are out there. See it, take it in and allow it to fill you with light and love. When you see the appreciation that others have for you, it helps bring it into your consciousness and gives you greater access for self-love. Along with this, you must choose ways to celebrate yourself. This is different from pampering and it certainly is not indulging. What do you honestly like about yourself, when do you feel most alive and full of energy? Do those things and hold that frequency in your body as you remember how wonderful it is. Allow yourself to feel the wonder of your own experience. If this is a struggle, think of a time when you were a young child and just felt good to be alive, maybe you were swinging on a swing in the backyard or park. Maybe you were performing a puppet show for your family, or just lying on the floor of your room imagining some adventure. Get into that moment again and feel how exhilarating it is to be you. That feeling, celebrate it.
Consider these things I’ve suggested and see what they yield for you. It is my sincere wish that you find a shift in your experience of self-love. And when you do, your neighbor will thank you. As always, if you would like some guidance on this journey I’d be honored to assist.
Blessings & Light,
Don’t let your past define you, rather
let it become part of who you will become.
~Nick, My Big Fat Greek Wedding