You would never tell a friend, or even a stranger, that she was fat or stupid. You would never tell your brother he can’t do anything right. You would certainly never tell your child that he is worthless and nobody likes him.
How often do you speak this way to yourself?
Buddha once said “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” I was once told that I should speak to myself the way I would a beloved child – with empathy and kindness. Almost nobody does this. Truthfully, most of us do not even speak to ourselves with the same kind words we would use for a stranger.
How would our lives be different if we did?
Here are three thoughts to help you in your journey to accept, treasure, and cherish your authentic self:
1. Realize that there is a difference between being selfish and treating yourself with value.
All living things have needs – including you. Your needs go far beyond food, water, and shelter. You need fulfillment, rest, and emotional support as well. Meeting those needs is important. Doing so helps you to be a better person. The well cared for version of you is undoubtedly a better worker, student, friend, and parent. However, many people are reluctant to meet their own needs, or to advocate for them being met. We are wrongfully conditioned to believe that caring for ourselves is selfish. Parents are especially vulnerable to this misconception. If you are hesitant to take an hour for yourself to soak in a long bubble bath or go for a bike ride, remember good it will do. You are not only giving yourself some much-needed self-care, but you are showing your children how to do the same.
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2. Know that you have nothing to prove.
“Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are,” observed Malcolm S. Forbes. Everyone puts on their best mask to face the world – and few of us remember this when we look around. The natural inclination to compare yourself to others is toxic because it is unfair. You do not have all the information, and neither do they. It is natural to seek validation and approval. However, the times in which we feel most connected to others are often when the masks come off. It is scary to allow yourself to be vulnerable. It is also what makes you human. By taking off your own mask, you might inspire someone else to remove theirs, as well. If you do, you are sure to be surprised by what you find. They probably look a lot like you below the surface.
3. Embrace your darker side with compassion.
We have all done things in the past that we are not proud of. Most of us tend to either dwell on them, continually punishing ourselves, or attempt to put them from our minds entirely. Neither of these strategies is effective. Both will only keep you living in shame and distance you from your most authentic self. Own up to your mistakes, and attempt to work through them. Talk to a therapist about them, or share with a trusted friend. Find a way to make things right for yourself, and for anyone you might have hurt. If you stole something as a teenager, go to the store and pay for it. If you cannot pay your sins back, pay them forward. Don’t try to erase your past – that simply doesn’t work. Instead, try to write a more satisfying ending.
As Michel de Montaigne once said, “The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.” Own yourself, cherish yourself, and treasure yourself. This relationship is the most important one you will ever have.