One of my best friends sent me a photo this morning of the two of us in junior high school. That was nearly 10 years ago. Looking at the photo brings back so many memories of growing up and going through those trying pre-teen and teen years trying to find myself, my style, and my sense of security. At 23, that process of trying to “find” myself is ongoing, but through the years I have discovered many truths and uncovered what makes me who I am, and most importantly…how to love myself. I believe that showing up fully and authentically in life requires that we act in alignment with our values and shine our light on the world through kindness, compassion, and love. It is NOT an act of selfishness or vanity, and though I have struggled with that thought of selfishness lately, I have decided that I (and everyone else) owes it to the world to love themselves first.
“The most powerful relationship you will ever have is the relationship with yourself.” Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free
Lately, I have struggled with some of the important relationships in my life. I have struggled with making others happy, but have realized that sometimes it is at the cost of my own happiness. One example is allowing others to say things that may hurt me and not having the courage to stand up for myself or accepting that what is said has hurt me. What I learned is when I do stand up for myself, I am 1. owning my feelings and honoring them, 2. setting healthy boundaries in my relationships with others, and 3. empowering myself. Because of this I have been able to find peace and a certain degree of understanding between myself and a close friend. I have decided that it is okay to speak up and in many ways it can transform situations and our reactions to them.
While that is a more recent example of my dedication to loving myself, there are other ways that I choose to love and honor myself.
1. Taking time for myself
For me, this means meditation, journaling or just enjoying time to sit and think. or relax. or just be alone. I have learned that I need space and time to think. This has been one key practice on my journey to loving myself because it has allowed me to get away from the hustle and bustle of the daily grind and find answers to many of my questions. I have learned that meditation allows me to create the space for acceptance, for change, and for spiritual growth.
2. Accepting who I am and what I feel
This corresponds to the example I used above. It is okay to feel hurt, sad, or angry. When we are in a negative state, it is important to take steps to change that. I usually exercise or meditate in an attempt to change those negative feelings. In my example above, it was important for me to speak up for myself and share my feelings and that also helped. But first we must accept these feelings. In accepting how we feel, we can start to understand the why and that may be key to changing a negative mind state.
3. Remaining happy and positive
This ties in to number two. It is okay to be happy and positive. There are times when you will encounter people who are not and they may bring your mood down (intentionally or unintentionally) but it is your responsibility to protect your energy. If we allow everyone who was in a negative mood to bring us down, there would not be many positive people left in the world. That is why it is important to set the example. If I encounter someone who has a negative attitude, I try my best to understand why. We do not always know what someone is going through so it is important to be compassionate. Smile, listen, and be present. But do not let their negativity bring you into a negative state, and if it does – don’t allow it to keep you there.
4. Speaking kindly
I try my best to speak kindly to myself and about others. I am not perfect, but this can change your life tremendously. I think the most beautiful people are those who can find the good in life and the good in others. That means speaking positively and honestly. If I do not have anything nice to say about another, it is better not to say it. I tend to way better about myself when I speak kindly to, and about, others.
I do not exercise each day. There are some days where I do not feel like working out and other days where I feel like my exhaustion would not make a workout even worth the time. Try. Break it up into 20 minutes or do pilates. My all-time favorite fitness website is FitnbessBlender.com. They have so many workout types and routines for a variety of levels. It has been one of my favorite workout discoveries online.
These are not always easy practices. Forgiveness is an act that I continue to learn and develop in myself. I try to forgive and while it may be difficult, I also try to let go of the need to forgive. I do my best to look at the situation from another person’s viewpoint so I may have more compassion. If speaking up does not help and I have tried to approach the person or situation to the best of my ability (and shown up as my best self) to no avail, I try my hardest to forgive. Work in progress.
7.Working for something
Passion is essential. I do my best work when I feel passionate. That is not to say that every day is easy and all work should be a cinch. We do have responsibilities in life that we must take care of. But it is also important to find some way to fit your passion (of writing, of singing, of designing, etc.) into your life. If you can do that through the work you do…well I believe that is one path to great fulfillment! This is also one of my goals in life.
This list is always evolving but I see these examples as some of the top ways for me to love and honor who I am. I think that has allowed me to show up fully and authentically in many other aspects of my life.