A lesson I have been working on for some time now is self-love. It is quite easy for me to love and see all the goodness in others. It is easy for me to believe in their positive intentions and acknowledge that they are trying to live this life as best as they can; to be the best mother/father, brother/sister, husband/wife, daughter/son, employee, community member they can be. It's easy for me to have compassion for those who are struggling, recognizing that we all just want to be safe, happy and free. I can see all of that when I look around me. But, do I always see that in me?
When I hear others say it is difficult to love themselves I normally think, "What? C'mon? How can you not love yourself? What do you wish for yourself if not all things positive?" However what does "loving yourself" really look like in thoughts, words and actions? Sure I want happiness in my life. Sure I want to be safe and free from harm, living in a country that affords me the freedom to live in the way I choose. Sure I want to feel content in the work I do and loved by the people I surround myself with. These are all wonderful things to want for one's self, but how can I take it a step further?
Can I sit in silence not wondering what others are doing and thinking about what more I can do to be productive? Can I just let my body relax and enjoy rest? Can I scroll through social media and not feel "less than" others? Can I hear all about all the wild adventures and impressive accomplishments that others are experiencing and delight in these stories, feeling inspired, without projecting back a feeling of unworthiness or inferiority or "not enough-ness" on myself? Can I close my self-help books and stop striving to incessantly be or do more? When the day gets away from me and I don't get all the boxes checked off my to-do list, what thoughts occupy my mind? When my life isn't shaping up exactly as I had expected or hoped for, what is the self-talk I feed myself? Can I show myself some compassion and understanding; and truly believe that I am doing the best I can? Can I trust myself and my capabilities, feeling secure that however things turn out, whatever curve balls life throws my way, that I will be able to figure out a way forward. Do I have the courage and confidence to live boldly and authentically, not letting anyone else's definition of success distract or trick me into being something else? This is self-love; and it's an on-going journey.
Whenever in my life I have tried to "be good" and do the things I was told I should do in order to be "successful," I was unhappy, stressed out, unhealthy and felt lost. Following those valleys were peaks when I have thrown caution at the wind and pursued my heart, such as when I turned my finance major into the study of social/economic justice; when I decided to go to the Peace Corps; when I left corporate finance to work in higher education and study psychology, nutrition and mediation; and finally, when I left in March to travel around the world for a year with my partner. These have been the times when I was actually listening and honoring my intuition; when I was trusting in myself and giving myself the things that my soul was asking for. However, self-love isn't a straight and narrow path. There are still many
times when my inner-perfectionist rears its way into my thoughts and tells me I should be doing more, and directs my attention outward to social media to see what others are doing.
"I should be doing more. I am not as talented, healthy, put together, driven, clever, etc., as this person or that person. What am I doing?! Tighten the reins…work more, exercise more, eat healthier, be more kind and compassionate, push harder, write more, etcetera."
I like to call this mental diarrhea the ode of "not enough." However, I am catching on. I am becoming faster and more skillful at recognizing the storyteller in my head and then letting her know that while her stories are super creative and entertaining; and they remind me of the things in life I value; they are only as real and threatening as I allow them to be. I can have a sense of humor about it all and then turn my attention back to the present moment by recognizing everything right now that is meaningful and positive. I can be grateful for my life, all the things I created and all the people and things that keep my heart so full. And, I can recognize with a huge sense of relief that I am, and we all are, forever a work in progress.
When we can be who we want to be, do what in our heart we know we’d like to do, say what we feel, even at the risk of falling on our face or being judged, then we know we're on this path.