“Loving yourself is the greatest way to improve yourself, and as you improve yourself, you improve your world.” ~ Joe Vitale
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day and the quote above, here is a question for you. Do you treat yourself with the same compassion and kindness you extend to those you love? Perhaps the following two examples might remind you of the discrepancy between how we treat our best friends, and how we treat ourselves.
Your friend calls you from the ER telling you he/she fell skiing and broke a bone. What do you say to that friend? Chances are that you feel and express compassion and concern for his/her situation. You’d ask how it happened, and you also offer to help with whatever they might want or need right now.
You are skiing and you fall and can tell you broke a bone. What do you say to yourself? Chances are you get mad at yourself. Maybe you swear and tell yourself how stupid you are, what an idiot you are, that you should have known better or seen this coming. Bottom line, most likely you unleash a barrage of self-criticism, with no kindness, support or self-compassion.
In the scenarios above, you can substitute whatever your self-critical voice says to you when you make a mistake, forget something or fail, and compare that to what you’d say to a friend in the same situation. Imagine how your experience with yourself would be so different if you talked to yourself like you do to a treasured friend, or to anyone about whom you care.
The heartfelt practice of self-compassion allows us to accept ourselves as we are (the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly), and to consistently relate to ourselves with kindness, whatever the situation. Self-acceptance, self-compassion and self-care are about being self-full. Selfish means there is no room in the psyche for anyone else. Selfless is no room for oneself. From the self-full state of being, we have a font of self-acceptance and warmth within ourselves to share with a generosity of spirit. Self-compassion allows us to practice the golden rule in both directions; Do unto yourself as you generously do for others, and do unto others as you would want them to do unto you.
Research studies have shown that relating to yourself with kindness, encouragement, empathy and gentleness (none of these are self-pity) positively impacts mental and physical health. People who scored high in self-compassion... aka giving themselves a heartfelt break… showed significantly reduced anxiety and depression, greater optimism and happiness, and even healthier diet and life-style choices.
Self-compassion also appears to set the stage for positive motivation, self-improvement and the desire to evolve. (Self-criticism, on the other hand, is demotivating and undermining.) Feelings of compassion also release the neurotransmitter oxytocin, sometimes called the love hormone. In many people this stimulates positive feelings of connection with others.
When asked how treating themselves with loving kindness made them feel, study participants reported it was a huge relief from the many pressures to be perfect. They added that they all felt better, liked themselves a lot more, and experienced the kind of self-worth which is humble and lasting.
HAVE YOU HEARD OF WABI SABI LOVE?
This ancient and still current Japanese perspective on life and love totally supports the ability to accept and love oneself, flaws and all. Wabi-sabi fosters embracing what’s not perfect as precisely what makes you more unique, interesting, and perhaps even more beautiful. At its core, this embraces and deeply honors how people really are. We are all perfectly imperfect precious human beings.
SO MANY WORDS FOR LOVE
It’s so curious to learn that Sanskrit has ninety-six words for love; Persian has eighty, Greek three, and English only one. There are truly so many meanings and nuances under the umbrella of the one English word “love”. When I was a child, and would exclaim with delight that I loved ice cream, my parents were quick to kindly remind me that love is reserved for people, not ice cream. Of course I protested. Other languages enjoy so much more richness of expression and feelings with their specific words to describe the love of your father, or your mother, or your spouse, or for an occasion, or food, or a special sunset or the stars.
WORDS FOR TODAY AND EVERY DAY
Noted author Louise Hays often encouraged people with the following wisdom, “Be kind and loving to yourself often, because it’s the best way to get closer to who you are.”