Why is self-love so difficult?
“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.”– Lucille Ball
One of the questions I usually ask my clients is ‘What thoughts do you have about yourself when you look in the mirror?’ I have yet to come across anyone who says that they love themselves when they see the reflection looking back. Usually there is a lot of criticism. There are thoughts about the weight they need to lose, the wrinkles that are getting deeper, the grey hairs that are emerging or thoughts of guilt and shame regarding things they did or didn’t do. To even start to ask clients to look in the mirror and talk compassionately let alone, lovingly to themselves is often difficult territory. We have been programed with many messages about self-love that are not serving us. Many people believe that it would be selfish to love themselves. They use as examples people who are narcissistic and flaunt their wealth, status or physical attributes. Actually, I believe that the more obsessed someone is with their image the less they love themselves. Anita Moorjani states, “The less you love yourself, the more you need other people to prove that you’re lovable. That becomes your agenda. When we do love ourselves, we know we’re lovable. We don’t need to prove it.” Self-love has nothing to do with the material things we have or the shape of our bodies. It has everything to do with knowing the truth about who we are.
There is a difference between a relative truth and an absolute truth. Relative truths can change over time, but when we hear an absolute truth it touches on something deep inside and resonates. We instinctively know that it is true. When an absolute truth is stumbled across, it makes us take pause and we feel its power. A few absolute truths that I have found are: Anything is possible, Everything is energy, We are all one, I am worthy of love and I am the creator of my own destiny. As I work with clients I have found that helping them come up with their own statement of truth is not as easy as it sounds. One client came up with a statement of, “I deserve to be happy for me and my children.” But, actually saying it aloud was extremely difficult for her. There were so many voices of doubt and self-hated that came up along with the prior programing which said it was wrong to love herself, that actually speaking her truth was excruciating. Re-writing our default programing of doubt and laying down new programing of power takes work. Overcoming the doubts and fears is not a simple task. There is no other task that is more important in life though. When we love ourselves we see the world differently. We realize that our own self-love is the biggest gift we can ever give to ourselves and to those around us.
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”– Thomas A. Edison
In life there are many times when the best laid plans go awry. We take action on something and it fails or other people let us down or the weather ruins the day. It is easy to get discouraged and give up when things don’t work out. It is easy to go back into our comfort zone and refuse to try again. It is easy to say it just wasn’t meant to be. It is much harder in life to persevere. Thomas Edison was considered one of the greatest inventors of our time, but he also had some epic fails. His very first patented invention was an electrographic vote recorder. It was designed to allow officials voting on a bill to automatically tally their votes. He thought his fortune was made, but when he took it to Washington it was completely rejected. It would have been easy for him to give up, to stick with working as a telegraph operator, but he continued to push forward. Along with his famous working inventions he also created many not so great inventions that flopped. Edison was a bold and brave thinker who didn’t get discouraged by what looked like failure. He saw the opportunity in each invention that didn’t work and was too busy working on his next idea to focus on the one that didn’t work out as planned.
In the book, Your Invisible Power, Genevieve Behrend shares a story of how she was trying to get accepted to study under a man she greatly admired. When she first approached him with her request he rejected her. She then states, “I declined to be discouraged.” She goes on to explain how she persevered and eventually got him to accept her. I love her line, ‘I DECLINED to be discouraged.’ Even though she got the rejection letter, she chose to hold on to the belief that there was a way for her to study with him. How many times do we simply accept discouragement when we have equal power to decline it? Edison declined to be discouraged as did the Wright brothers, Henry Ford and many other brave thinkers. Although it feels safer to crawl back into our box, that thinking robs the world of our gifts. So, the next time you are discouraged, think about what it would it look like to decline the discouragement and instead move forward.
“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” — Meister Eckhart
What does it truly mean to say ‘thank you?’ We say thank you so often that it becomes an almost automatic reaction. Much like the casual ‘how are you doing?’ we throw around, but never really intend to find out how the other person actually is doing. We may say the words thank you frequently, but how many times do we truly feel the gratitude that is intended to go with the words? There are three different types of gratitude. First, there is gratitude for what has already happened. This is the gratitude we feel when we passed a test or found our soul mate or recognized the kindness someone has shown. It is a powerful practice to take time in the evening to reflect and write a list of things to be grateful for. For several years I kept a gratitude journal and each night before going to bed I listed at least three things I was grateful for that day. The practice made me more aware throughout the day as I was constantly on the lookout for things to be grateful for that I could add to my list. When we say thank you for what we have been given or what we have experienced, that is past gratitude.
The second type of gratitude is future gratitude. This is where we give thanks for the blessings that are awaiting us. Giving thanks in advance is one of the things Jesus demonstrated. Before healing or performing any of his miracles, he always looked up and thanked God. He always did this before he took any action. While it is easy to give thanks in advance for the meal that we are preparing to eat when we see it on the table in front of us, it is not as easy to be grateful for things we have yet to see. Giving prayers of future gratitude for the new job opportunity or the perfect home in the perfect location when it doesn’t seem to be a reality at the moment is not easy. Being able to use the power of imagination to envision whatever it is we want to be thankful for when it hasn’t yet come into reality is sometimes a stretch, but getting on the vibration of the gratitude shifts our perception.
The third kind of gratitude is present moment gratitude. Right now take a deep breath and then feel grateful for the breath that enters your body. Thank your heart for pumping, your eyes for reading this your body for giving you the gift of life. Then be quiet and feel the sensation of gratitude. We truly have a choice in this present moment, despite what circumstances may be swirling around us, to be grateful. As Albert Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Gratitude wakes us up to the miracles that we so often miss in our daily lives. THANK YOU!
Why does bad stuff always happen to me? What makes it difficult to move beyond our circumstances
“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.” ― Wayne W. Dyer
There is no denying that some people are given extremely difficult circumstances in life. Some of the challenges that people face are excruciatingly painful just to hear about and I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like to live in their shoes. So why is it that some people seem to get through difficult circumstances with strength and courage while others seem to crumble and get stuck? I remember watching news footage after a tornado went through a western town. The news reporter talked to a couple that was standing in front of where their house once stood and they were sobbing as they told the reporter that they lost everything. It was heart wrenching to watch. The reporter then went across the street where another couple stood looking at the debris that was once their house. That couple told the reporter that they were so grateful to be alive. They said they lost the material things, but their whole family was safe and they were just grateful that they had each other and could rebuild the house. Here were two couples looking at exactly the same circumstance, yet they both had very different experiences. The only thing that was different between these two couples was their perception of what happened. One couple was stuck in the negative, while the other was able to look at the positive.
It seems so cliché to say that it is important to see life with the glass half full. We have all heard that advice a thousand times, yet what makes it so difficult for us to do it?
There has been an abundance of brain research in the recent decades which has given us some clues to figuring out why it is easier to see the glass as half empty and harder to see it as half full. Rick Hanson wrote a book called Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence. In this book he explains how evolutionarily our brains have gotten upgrades, but the reptilian brain, which is on the lookout for danger is still functioning well. He says that our brains are like Velcro for negative and Teflon for positive. In studies they have found that it takes significantly less time for the brain to register a negative event then it does a positive event. We have a built in negativity bias that we have to overcome. What Dr. Hanson suggests is that we have to consciously soak in positive events for the brain to register them. So, the next time you see a rainbow or a sunset or your child smile take a few seconds and allow the brain to soak it in. The more we take the time to form the neural pathways for happiness the easier it becomes.
So, why does bad stuff always happen to some people? While I don’t want to deny the fact that some circumstances are extremely difficult, what separates the people who get stuck and those who rise strong has much more to do with their perception of the problem then with what actually happened. So take some time to build the brain wiring for positive and see if it shifts how you see the proverbial glass of water.