3 Things Self-Compassionate People Always Do (and 3 Things They Don’t)

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Being mean to others isn’t going to win you any leadership points, guaranteed. But self-compassion is a key factor for success too. Without it, as you hit the inevitable failuresthat come with experimenting and learning, both the confidence and energy you need to interact, generate ideas, and overcome difficulties fade fast. So it’s worth hitting pause for a second and assessing if your kindness to yourself needs a level up.

In The New York Times, Tara Parker-Pope offers a quick, no-fuss version of a self-compassion test adapted from the Self-Compassion Scale. The 12 statements used for that test that you’re supposed to consider are as follows:

  1.  I try to be understanding and patient toward those aspects of my personality I don’t like.
  2. When something painful happens, I try to take a balanced view of the situation.
  3. I try to see my failings as part of the human condition.
  4. When I’m going through a very hard time, I give myself the caring and tenderness I need.
  5. When something upsets me, I try to keep my emotions in balance.
  6. When I feel inadequate in some way, I try to remind myself that feelings of inadequacy are shared by most people.
  7. When I fail at something important to me, I become consumed by feelings of inadequacy.
  8. When I’m feeling down, I tend to feel like most other people are probably happier than I am.
  9. When I fail at something that’s important to me, I tend to feel alone in my failure.
  10. When I’m feeling down, I tend to obsess and fixate on everything that’s wrong.
  11. I’m disapproving and judgmental about my own flaws and inadequacies.
  12. I’m intolerant and impatient toward those aspects of my personality I don’t like.

I recommend that you take the NYT quiz to get your custom self-compassion score and have a better sense of how much personal work you might have to do. But simply looking at the questions themselves, you can see that, while they’re related, self-compassion isn’t the same as self-care. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re self-compassionate just because you took the time yesterday to indulge in a bubble bath or bought yourself that reward you wanted last week.

Self-compassion, as defined by Dr. Kristin Neff of the University of Texas at Austin, has three key elements. These are

  • Self-kindness vs. self-judgment
  • Common humanity vs. isolation
  • Mindfulness vs. over-identification

These elements mean that, if you practice self-compassion, you recognize that perfection isn’t possible. Subsequently, you don’t criticize yourself if you fall short. You do try to understand what it is that held you back and what you need. And if something goes wrong, you don’t egotistically think that there’s something magical about you that’s pinned you for more imperfection, suffering, or vulnerability than anybody else. You realize that you’re not an exception to the rule and that it’s the human condition to sometimes screw up and not get what we want. And, finally, you stay aware of how you feel in a balanced way. You acknowledge your emotions for what they are without getting lost in or judging them, and as both a participant and a more objective observer to those feelings, you have the clarity and larger perspective necessary to figure out the best way to move forward.

 

If you find that it’s difficult for you to do any of these three things, think hard about what negative implicit biases you’ve learned about yourself and where they might come from. When thoughts based on those biases crop up, every single time, flood yourself with positive messages to teach yourself of a new bias, one that’s true. Then surround yourself with encouraging people. As they see the best in you and offer compassion, it will be easier for you to see the best in you and be kind to yourself too.

Why Self-Talk Is The Most Powerful Hack In The World

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I listened as one of my fellow FBI agents gave a briefing on the next steps he planned to take in his investigation. I thought he was headed in the wrong direction, and when he asked for our opinions, I told him what I thought.

Unfortunately, I was the only one in the room who thought he was headed for trouble because everyone disagreed with me. I felt I had made a huge faux pas—I didn’t like the agent’s idea while everyone else thought it was brilliant!

The negative self-talk chatter started to build. “You should have kept your mouth shut. That was stupid. You came across as argumentative, etc.” My self-talk was nothing more than self-criticism. I couldn’t wait to get out of that room.

The internal conversations we have with ourselves, called self-talk, can go on for days, and sometimes through our nights as well. My self-talk was negative and destructive because it made me question myself, and soon I was second-guessing myself.

Many of us know how vicious that inner critic can be. Often, we are harder on ourselves than we are on others. It’s not because we want to be, it’s because we don’t know how to manage our negative self-talk.

Energy follows attention—wherever your attention is focused, your energy will follow. If your inner critic is beating you up about a failure, your failing will be the one thing you focus on.

However, there are ways you can harness the power of self-talk so it can help you. Here are 8 ways you can make self-talk the most powerful hack in the world:

1. Nip it in the bud

Notice when you begin negative self-talk: who are the people that trigger it? and the situations or circumstances?

Do a post-mortem on when you’ve unleashed the inner critic and then ask yourself some basic questions:

  1. Are my thoughts factual, or are they just my interpretations?
  2. Am I jumping to negative conclusions?
  3. What is the evidence for and against my thinking?
  4. How can I find out if my thoughts are actually true?

Once you get in the habit of observing your self-talk, noting whether or not it’s constructive, you’ll find it that much easier to nip the negative thoughts in the bud.

2. Reverse the negative spiral

In the Rogelberg study, researchers discovered that the more you use negative self-talk and second-guess yourself, the less free your mind will be to roam through creative solutions of the problems that you face. These outcomes will only further cause you to doubt yourself, leading to a negative, downward spiral.

Turn the situation around and counter your inner critic with positive and constructive self-talk. For example, in my situation, I could say to myself, “I don’t always agree with my colleagues. I’m glad I stuck to my guns and pointed out where the investigation could trip over itself. At least the agent understands that there are potential problems if he continues in that direction, etc.”

3. Be specific

When I say, “Don’t look at the pink elephant,” a pink elephant immediately comes to mind. In the same way, when you criticize yourself, you see a stupid person who constantly makes mistakes.

If your self-talk is “I don’t want—,” all you will be thinking about are the things you don’t want—which will probably be what you end up with because that is where your energy will be focused.

However, if your self-talk is “I want—,“ you will be thinking about all the specific things you do want—which is probably what you’ll end up with!

4. Change self-limiting beliefs

Many times it is our self-limiting beliefs that create the negative self-talk. As long as you are talking to yourself anyway, ask “Why do I have this self-limiting belief?”

Most self-limiting beliefs start in childhood and can be pointed to a parent or teacher telling us we couldn’t do something.

Those memories stick with us, even when circumstances change.

5. Respect yourself

One litmus test to stop destructive or negative self-talk dead in its track is to ask yourself this simple question: Would I talk to a child like this?

If the answer is no, you can be certain you are wasting precious energy on denigrating yourself in a destructive way. Often, we treat ourselves much worse than we would treat strangers; in fact, we would have no friends if we talked to them like we talked to ourselves!

6. Watch your language

Scientists estimate that we have between 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts every day. Whenever you think about something, it is a form of self-talk so you can see how important it is to control your thoughts.

Resilient people do not whine, complain, or blame others; instead, they have the mental toughness to take responsibility for their actions. Since you are not perfect, there will be mistakes and failures; instead of responding with negative self-talk, accept responsibility and turn your attention, and energy, toward learning from your mistakes and failures.

7. Embrace your imperfections

Many CEO’s, entrepreneurs, and business owners are both overachievers and perfectionists. It’s a double whammy of a curse because they often end up holding themselves to an impossible standard of performance.

But no one will tell you they are a success because they’re a perfectionist or an overachiever.  Instead, they will tell you they are a success because they are willing to mess up, learn, and move on. They don’t give up on themselves.

8. Give your inner critic a name

Researcher David Rock believes that labeling our negative emotions is an effective way of short-circuiting their hold over us. So give your inner critic a name or call it out for what it really is—jealousy, insecurity, fear, etc.

You can keep the name in your head, but Rock believes that when you speak it, it activates a more robust short circuit to help break the emotional hold.

If you think you can, or can’t, do something, you’re right — Henry Ford

This article was originally published on LaRae Quy.

Showing Yourself Compassion Can Have Mental and Physical Benefits

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Expressing love for your nearest and dearest is a hallmark of Valentine’s Day, but research suggests that you may want to save some of that love and compassion for yourself.

A study published in Clinical Psychological Science shows that university students who engaged in exercises focused on self-compassion had lower physiological arousal relative to peers who engaged in other exercises.

“These findings suggest that being kind to oneself switches off the threat response and puts the body in a state of safety and relaxation that is important for regeneration and healing,” says Hans Kirschner of the University of Exeter, first author on the research.

“Previous research has found that self-compassion was related to higher levels of well-being and better mental health, but we didn’t know why,” explains lead researcher Anke Karl, also of the University of Exeter.

“Our study is helping us understand the mechanism of how being kind to yourself when things go wrong could be beneficial in psychological treatments,” Karl says. “By switching off our threat response, we boost our immune systems and give ourselves the best chance of healing. We hope future research can use our method to investigate this in people with mental health problems such as recurrent depression.”

For the study, the researchers recruited 135 university students and assigned them to one of five experimental groups. Each group completed an exercise in which they listened to an 11-minute audio recording and engaged with a specific scenario.

The researchers monitored participants’ physiological arousal during the exercise, measuring their heart rate and sweat response. Participants also answered questions about how safe they felt, how likely they were to be kind to themselves, and how connected they felt to others.

As expected, the two groups that engaged in self-compassion exercises — either a body scan meditation or a loving-kindness meditation — reported feeling more self-compassion and connection with others as a result of the exercises. And they also showed reduced physiological arousal, with a drop in heart rate and diminished sweat response. They also showed an increase in heart rate variability, a sign of being able to flexibly adapt to different situations.

Importantly, participants who engaged in positive thinking by focusing on an event or situation that was going well also reported increased self-compassion and decreased self-criticism, but they did not show the same physiological response.

In contrast, the group that engaged in self-critical thinking, contemplating something they hadn’t managed or achieved as they had hoped, showed an increase in heart rate and sweat response — physiological signs consistent with feelings of stress.

“These findings help us to further understand some of our clinical trials research findings, where we show that individuals with recurrent depression benefit particularly from mindfulness-based cognitive therapy when they learn to become more self-compassionate,” says coauthor Willem Kuyken of the University of Oxford.

Future research will need to explore whether the one-time self-compassion exercises used in this study have similar effects for people with depression.

Overall, the findings suggest that showing yourself a little love and compassion may help you feel more connected and less stressed.

Reference

Kirschner, H., Kuyken, W., Wright, K., Roberts, H., Brejcha, & Karl, A. (2019). Soothing your heart and feeling connected: A new experimental paradigm to study the benefits of self-compassion. Psychological Science. doi:10.1177/2167702618812438

3 Ways Meditation Can Catapult Your Career

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Anyone that’s been to a yoga class recently has heard of the concept of meditation. Chances are, in 2019, you will start hearing about it more in the workplace, too. According to a report by the CDC, the number of American adults saying they meditated jumped from 4.1% in 2012 to 14.2% in 2018.

The benefits of meditation can help you in many aspects of your life, but here are three ways in which the practice can benefit your career.

  • It can help you realize what you really want. For the most fortunate of us, the hunt for a job meant finding out what truly makes us happy and turning that into a career. When that dream isn’t realized right away, it can cause depression and complacency, and ultimately result in the death of that dream. Meditation can not only help you practice self-awareness, but acceptance, as well.
  • It reduces stress. Work can be a huge stressor for most people, especially if there is a large sum of money on the line. When it comes time to grind, that stress can be a real hinderance. For example, a survey from EveryDay Health found that 57% of respondents say they are paralyzed by stress. Mindfulness meditation, even done for only a few minutes a day, can help reduce stress and anxiety, as demonstrated in a 2013 Massachusetts General Hospital study.
  • It gets creative juices flowing. If you work in a creative realm, you understand the concept of walking away and revisiting. Sometimes, when you’re stuck on an idea that you can’t seem to work yourself through, it is best to take a walk around the block and come back to it. When you don’t have that much time, however, focusing on your breathing and meditating for a few minutes allows your brain to do a soft reset.

While it may still seem like a foreign concept to some, the importance of meditation cannot be diminished. As I tell many of the entrepreneurs and job seekers I coach, even if it feels strange, what do you have to lose? I invite you to try it today and see how you feel.

Ashley Stahl is a career coach who helps job seekers find their purpose, land more job offers and launch their dream businesses. Visit AshleyStahl.com for free courses, resources and more.

8 Ways to Create the Love You Want

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Motivational speaker Tony Robbins once said that “We waste time looking for the perfect lover, instead of creating the perfect love.”

While the initial phase of a relationship seems effortless, the sublime chemical release of early love will only get us so far. Eventually, if we want the partnership to endure, we have to roll up our sleeves and start to sweat.

My husband and I recently attended a marriage retreat where we heard from couples who have survived affairs, medical problems, family feuds, and other kinds of heartbreaks and hurdles that are left out of the pages of fairy tales. Their crushing stories inspired everyone in the room with the conviction that infidelity, illness, financial stress, and other hardships don’t have to end a relationship. In fact, sometimes they inaugurate the best phase yet. I have summarized their wisdom into the following eight strategies for creating the love you want.

1. Understand the stages of a relationship.

Relationships are ever-evolving, changing organisms. They take different forms over time. Initially, there is romance, where your brain is so flooded with dopaminethat going grocery shopping together feels like a Caribbean cruise. Inevitably, though, disillusionmenthappens, when you may question if you have fallen out of love. Some are tempted to bolt and seek the dopamine spike with another partner.

Often the disillusionment morphs into sheer misery, the third stage of a relationship, where two people who were once madly in love with each other feel nothing but resentment and contempt. If they manage to navigate around the various potholes of this stage, they arrive at awakening, a deeper and fulfilling intimacy than even the initial romance.

2. Don’t rely solely on your feelings.

Most self-help books urge us to trust our feelings. The process of identifying our feelings and aligning them with action is a critical part of self growth. However, feelings can also be misleading. Given their unpredictable and fickle nature, they are often not a reliable GPS for relationships. If we’re not careful, they can take us down dead-end paths.

A committed relationship is a series of decisions rather than a collection of feelings. By making a daily decision to do what is required to sustain a relationship, we clear our brain of some of the interfering static that confuses us. This gives us more energy to love completely.

I compare it to staying sober. If I relied solely on my feelings to determine my path, I’d be drunk. Instead, I make a conscious decision every 24 hours to not pick up a drink.

3. Understand yourself.

We all have baggage from the past that informs and shapes our behaviors and conversations. Most of us have learned to protect ourselves from hurt and rejection with certain masks we wear: the caretaker, the clown, the bully, the perfectionist. Identifying how previous wounds impact the way you relate to your partner can afford you a truer perspective on the relationship dynamics. With this understanding you can approach problems more objectively and interact more fairly.

Rewriting the narrative you learned in childhood is never easy and takes time, but will lead to a more honest, deeper relationship.

4. Don’t just talk – communicate.

Talking is good, but it’s only the beginning. True communication is much more involved than a simple conversation. It is a process of learning how to describe your emotions in detail to your partner so they have a shot of understanding the complex world between between your ears.

During the retreat weekend, we picked from a thesaurus of adjectives to describe our feelings. We used physical sensations, nature scenes, mental pictures, animals, movies, shared memories, and our five senses to express in vivid detail the nuances and complexities of our feelings. While I thought this was a tad overkill at first, the exercise proved effective in communicating emotions to my husband that I assumed he understood.

5. Take the risk to be vulnerable.

It’s one thing to bare your soul under the influence of a dopamine rush. It’s another when you’re faced with disillusionment and doubt. However, this is precisely the time when you need to be brutally honest with your partner and lay your soul out for his gazing.

The most powerful session of the weekend for me was the one on what is required for trust: honesty, openness, and the willingness to change. Trust means giving your heart to each other for their safekeeping, which can feel terrifying to someone whose past hurts remind them of the price of vulnerability. However, it is the trust that pushes us through to the final and best stage of a relationship, where we awaken to an intimacy beyond our imagination.

6. Don’t shirk from confrontation.

Despite the way it feels, confrontation is where the gold lies in a relationship. It can be tempting to either avoid or manipulate, but neither resolves the problem at hand. Constructive confrontation is done with respect for the other person.

Create some ground rules to fight fairly. For example, don’t bring up past history, stay away from name-calling, don’t go for the jugular, and stick to “I feel” statements. You might refer to a thesaurus of emotions and express your feelings in writing. Refrain from a difficult conversation when you are hungry, angry, tired, or are in the car.

7. Learn his or her love language.

We all absorb affection differently. Folding the laundry might say “I love you” more profoundly to your partner than a reservation to a nice French restaurant or a scrapbook of memories that you spent a week on.

According to pastor and author Gary Chapman, emotional needs are met in five ways: words of affirmation, quality of time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. Learn your partner’s love language so that you can communicate your appreciation and love most effectively.

8. Forgive, and forgive some more.

“You come to love,” says American philosopher Sam Keen, “not by finding the perfect person, but by seeing an imperfect person perfectly.” We are all imperfect. When two people spend enough time together, they are bound to hurt each other. The transgression isn’t as important as the rebound. While you can hate the sin, try to love the sinner. Do your best to separate the awful thing that your partner did from the imperfect, lovable person she is. Trust that she is trying her best to learn from her mistakes and do better next time.

Do you Criticize Yourself Too Much?

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It’s important to be honest with ourselves. After all, too many people just say what we want to hear instead of sharing a candid perspective. But, where do we draw the line between honesty and stubborn negativity? Is it practical to be our own biggest cheerleader? Or, are we just fooling ourselves into thinking that we are capable when we truly are not?

Constant self-doubt is never a good thing. Sometimes, self-doubt might lead us away from a potential opportunity. Self-doubt could even cause us to step back before ever trying to see if we can make it. While honesty is vital, it’s important to learn how to quiet our inner critic, too. You can be frank while still being hopeful. Read on to learn how.

Positive Self-Talk

Overcome the critical voice in your head by using positive self-talk. Instead of just assuming that you aren’t good enough or that you won’t be successful, say words out loud like, “I can do this” or “My hard work will pay off.”

Look in the Mirror

Practice using positive self-talk while looking directly in the mirror, so that you are literally talking to yourself. Consider this exercise: Find one new thing that you love about yourself every day. In the morning, before you start your day, look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I love my [blank].” You might fill in that blank with words like smile, kind eyes, or friendly nature. See how many days you can go without repeating a quality or attribute that you love about yourself.

Our Attitude Drives our Behavior

The more that we use positive self-talk, the more we believe it. Those words become our mantra, and we say positive things about ourselves more and more regularly. Our attitude drives our behavior. So, a positive attitude will lead us to persist even when placed in a tough situation.

It’s normal to doubt ourselves. Be honest when evaluating your own strengths and areas of opportunity. Surround yourself with people who support you and your dreams. Participate in online communities or support groups to give you the tools and the understanding audience that you need to be successful. And, know that it’s okay to fail! When we bounce back from failure, we are that much closer to success. Remember that we either learn to fail or fail to learn. Which path do you choose?

Copyright© 2019 Amy Cooper Hakim

The Authentic Self versus the False Self

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The Authentic Self Versus the False Self

In my new book, Live True: A Mindfulness Guide to Authenticity, I write that it is the present moment that matters the most, and if we value the moments of our lives, we will want to make the most of each one, and not let any moment go by without having lived it as truthfully and authentically as we can.

But what does it mean to live “authentically”? The definition of authentic is “genuine” and “real,” or in other words, the combination of all your true qualities and characteristics. However, I like to describe authentic as “living your truth in the present moment.”

I know, it’s easy to want to hide or conceal certain aspects of ourselves we may not love, but once we start to hide who we really are, it can slip away from us to the point that we are living dishonestly to our true nature, and why would we want to do that?

Fear, insecurity, doubt.

Those are some of the emotions that strip us of our true nature. And before we know it, we are not living our truth in the present moment, or any of the moments of our life if we are not aware of the traps of our mind, which are the lies we tell ourselves that keep us stuck in self-deception.

Mindfulness, which is living in the present moment with total awareness, keeps us honest, and true to who we are. It reminds us when we slip out of the moment of authenticity, and try and hide or replace it with a false image of ourselves. But we don’t always practice the valuable skill of mindfulness or remember how important it is to stay present and authentic. To our detriment, we choose to present a false image or persona to others, and this can be one of the greatest causes of our pain and suffering.

As I note in Live True, it’s a lot harder to be who we’re not than who we are, and takes a tremendous amount of work to keep the inauthentic, or false-self, going. This means that you have to keep presenting yourself as who you’re not, and after a while it can be exhausting; both mentally and physically to keep the lie alive.

If you feel that you are living inauthentically and are reluctant or afraid to show who you really are to others, ask yourself what is your greatest fear about revealing your authentic self. Is it that you’re afraid you won’t be liked or loved, or judged for not being enough as your true self? And, if that’s the case, ask yourself if you want people to like and accept you for who you are, or would you prefer them liking you for someone that you’re not?

Living authentically means you’re being honest with yourself, and your honesty is what you have to live with. Even if you take a step back from it out of fear or insecurity, or for whatever reasons, know that you can step right back into the flow of your deepest “authentic truth,” which is the greatest honesty to realize.

6 Ways to Show Yourself the Love You Deserve

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When people think about being kind to themselves and practicing self-love, it’s often considered in a noncommittal, “Yes, I really should be doing that more,”sort of way. Then they go about their merry way, continuing the same old behaviors and being anything but kind to themselves.

Fortunately, a number of people do decide they are finally ready to start loving themselves. But what made them ready, and why have they waited so long to start?

What about you — are you ready to start treating yourself with kindness and learn how to love yourself fully, the way you deserve?

Where do you find yourself on the “self-love/being kind to yourself” scale currently? Are you at the bottom, clueless as to what loving yourself even means, or slowly crawling up the scale, wondering why it took you so long to treat yourself with love and kindness?

10 Things You’re Doing Because You’re Finally Starting to Love Yourself

I asked myself that same question many years ago when I finally considered the option to stop being so hard on myself and instead learn how to become my own best friend.

The best answer I have is that I had totally colluded with the pain of the belief that there was definitely something wrong with me and that I was not lovable. That was it. If someone had even suggested self-love, I think it would have gone totally over my head.

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I mean, how could I even consider self-love inside that painful paradigm? I couldn’t.

And I imagine you can’t either, if you still live under that spell of unworthiness and unlovability. It’s painful, isn’t it?

Have you suffered enough that you finally feel ready to try self-love?

Does learning how to love yourself sound like a foreign language to you? Maybe you have an inkling of what it means to others, but for you…?

Oh, how you’ve been swallowed up by this great misunderstanding of who you truly are and what you are worthy of! How you’ve been conditioned to shut yourself off from your inner wisdom, believing others know more than you do!

I often run up against a wall when I talk to people about the importance of learning how to love yourself — unless this person has suffered so much that it’s willing to try a new way. I wish suffering were not the only reason why you would stop this insanity of treating yourself as a second-class citizen.

However, if you happen to be standing against that wall blocking you from self-love now, no matter how you got there, and are weary from denying yourself the goodness of life, let me share a few things I’ve learned since I broke through that wall myself.

Here’s how to love yourself for who you really are and treat yourself with the kindness you deserve.

1. Make a Vow.

The step to learning how to love yourself is to make yourself a promise.

In my self-love journey, I took a clear stand and vowed to never treat myself the way I had been, ever again. I embraced a power that I had lost touch with during all the painful years of self-doubt, self-hate and self-denial.

The pain of this ongoing torture had worn me down to finally realize that I didn’t want to do that to myself anymore

Finally, I’d had enough and wanted something else. It was a strong decision and, without it, you may still have found me in the trenches.

2. Say “No” When You Fall Into Old Patterns.

So now that I made this vow, how was I going to do it? All I had to go by at this point was that I didn’t want to do this to myself anymore, but I didn’t know what to do instead.

My determination gave me the option to say “no” whenever I would glide into the muddy trenches, simply by default. That was the “how” for now: Refuse to continue, the very moment when I found myself slipping back in.

Or, if I was so lucky to catch the first glimmer of the familiar invitation knocking at my door, simply refuse to open.

3. Stick With It.

I really started getting a feel for using the power of saying “no,” to the familiar suggestions to put myself down. It felt good. Yet, to be honest, I probably fell into the trenches more times than I would like to admit. It was a deeply ingrained pattern that didn’t just take the first “no,” for an answer.

However, my determination was strong and my “no” was getting stronger. This started my journey out of the trenches, without any idea of what my next step would be. I didn’t care. I gave myself permission to exercise my “no” — maybe more often than needed. I had to. I just had to use this new powerful weapon against the demons who were used to me saying “yes” all the time.

4. Accept the Journey.

All this didn’t happen overnight. Without knowing where all this was going, I learned what steps to take and when. I started seeing steps, obstacles, dead ends, tricksters, successes, and failures. I saw doors open and close, and also saw doors open and open even wider.

I paid attention and finally (after many years) could authentically show others how to love themselves. My own pain and suffering slowly turned into my life’s calling, something I would never have imagined when I took my first stand many years ago.

Here Are 20 Ways to Be Good to Yourself Today

5. Let Go of Resistance.

There are certain behaviors that keep a closed door shut, no matter how hard you push against it. The biggest one is resistance — resisting the parts of yourself that you hate, dislike, and are ashamed of. Resisting yourself keeps you imprisoned forever, and if you want to move past the wall, you’ll need a new strategy.

Have you ever pulled one of those Chinese finger traps, where one finger goes into each end, and the harder you pull, the tighter it gets? The more you try to get away from it, the more you feel stuck? Well, that’s no different from the painful emotions you’re trying to get rid of. The more you resist them, the more stuck you feel.

6. Acknowledge Your Emotions.

When painful emotions come up, I practice “allowing.” Allowing is the opposite of resisting and, coincidentally, seems to be what works to get out of your self-imposed trap. It feels counter-intuitive, but it works. You’ll have to shift your familiar tendency to get away from discomfort and, instead, be open to leaning into it and experiencing it.

Just try it as an experiment first. Test out this theory. Find out what happens when you are willing to move toward a painful feeling that you normally try to get rid of. Allow space for it. Breathe into it and find out what happens. This is your experiment and is for you to find out if the grip loosens or not.

When you let go of resistance and make space for whatever you have resisted, you release a lot of energy. This energy was stuck in the trap when you moved away from it. Now, when you move toward it with curiosity, you’ll notice that the feeling you wanted to get rid of, gets exposed. It’s vulnerable and needs your care.

Would you be able and willing to meet it with the same kindness as you would a scared little child or animal? Try it and see how this feeling responds. It may be confused first because it’s not used to your kindness yet. Imagine you offer it a loving hand or caring touch to let it know you are here to help.

When that part feels safe enough, it will slowly let you know about how it’s feeling and what it’s upset about. This is the released energy from the trap of resistance. It’s been waiting for you to listen and take it seriously, and here’s your chance.

Use this opportunity to take another gentle breath down into the area where this feeling has been stuck.

Just take some kind, gentle breaths, as though you want to say hello to it. Do it with a caring attitude to make sure this newly liberated feeling stays open. Just notice what changes when you gently approach it that way with a curious, caring attitude.

The connection has been made. You are now in a new relationship with your previously resisted feeling. Can you feel the difference?

If you need more time, keep breathing kindly into the area in your body and do your best to be caring and curious. The aim here is to find out more about this pain that was stuck in the trap. That part has a story to tell and needs you to listen.

Maybe nobody has ever listened to that part of you, least of all you. Here’s your chance to deeply listen and learn about yourself in a whole new way.

This guest article originally appeared on YourTango.com: The Subtle-Yet-Obvious Reason You Don’t Love Yourself — Yet.

Why Would You Want To?

Author Article

In my ongoing quest to come to the end of the internet, this week I discovered a word I should have seen coming—self-compassion. Self-compassion is a stop somewhere out there on the journey to self-love, which, from my vast research, seems to be a terminal destination. Self-compassion nor self-love should be confused with self-indulgence, which of course is bad, and is probably the conjoined twin of self-care. And also, I took the quiz, though I lied. I put ‘sometimes’ down for every question because I don’t really care, I just wanted to see what they were asking. By the twelfth one I was clinically bored.

It seems to me, though I never thought it was possible, that modern western culture is determined to put a lie to that tragic questioning cry, found in the lections for today, if you were thinking of trudging off to church somewhere. It’s that famous line buried in a recapitulation of Psalm One (also for today) and much maligned by ex-evangelicals who love Brene Brown. Here it is.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

After two more articles on the website Well and Good, where you can find the link to take that quiz if you want, I feel like the answer to that question is, ‘Why would you want to?’ Because after a very short interval its not that interesting anymore. The more the world careens towards self-acceptance, self-love, self-compassion, self-care, all wrapped up with that dreaded bow of self-indulgence, the more the internet stops being curious and fun, the more twitter lives into its full malign nature. Are human people even that interesting when they are in the ghastly throws of self-compassion?

“Cursed,” explained Jeremiah, speaking on behalf of God, “is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength.” He is like a shrub in a desert, parched. But I am reminded of all that grass we human people are likened to somewhere else by some other prophet*. It grows up suddenly and waves in the bright sun and bends in the wind and you think ‘oh, that’s so fresh and bright and summer is so great,’ but then you come back a month later and there’s a heavy layer of snow and the grass is nowhere to be seen. It died. It was brittle. Fire or snow, or time really, and its as if it never even existed. That is the human person, scrolling wildly through a social-media news feed, driven along by that unsparing, internal rule of self-love. Cursed.

If that doesn’t appeal to you, and it shouldn’t, a few verses later you come across the antidote. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,” and then, in case you didn’t quite get it, Jeremiah repeats himself, “whose trust is in the Lord.” He is like a tree planted by streams of water, whose roots go down into the cool silent depths, who stays green all the time and even bears fruit.

How can a human person, of whatever kind of gender, in whatever state of self-love, who is here one moment, like the grass, and gone the next, ever be like a tree? I met a glorious tree last month. Some ancient, vast oak tree down in the south that looked like it had wandered out of Lord of the Rings, and also like it would say something in words if you stood there long enough, quietly.

Trees and grass are all of the same stuff, the same idea. They both live. They can both look pretty. But one of them isn’t going anywhere, and, according to Jeremiah, that one of is basically completely happy, blessed even, sucking up water through its roots while the other one burns itself out in a conflagration of self-love.

Jeremiah answers his own question, “Who can understand it,” with the only answer you’d expect of him. He quotes God, “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”

What is curious to me is that God would even want to know. That he bothers with the search. That he hasn’t already had enough of ladders.com and Well and Good and just chucked it. Sin—of which self-love, if not the chief, is surely reclining at the head of the table—is not that interesting. There is never anything new and wonderful about it. When you see it there in the light it doesn’t look shocking nor inviting. It is strange of God that he would take the trouble even to search the depths of a boring and bedraggled humanity, setting themselves alight with vanity and calling it special.

“Heal me,” concludes Jeremiah, setting himself down by the stream and probably throwing his phone into its sparkling depths, “and I shall be healed. Save me and I shall be saved. For you are my praise.”

God, who is the living water, and is himself the most interesting being out there, if only we would stop gazing at ourselves in the mirrors of our lives and wander away to read a book, but especially the book I’ve been quoting here, has the power and the inclination to heal and to save. His compassion far surpasses any that you or I could ever manufacture, even with the help of a leading psychologist. He has mercy on those who suddenly see themselves going up in smoke, who see the stream and the cool quiet and wish they could stop careening along in the way of the wicked.

And what of the tree? Because it is not just any tree. It stands there against the sky so that when you hurry by, if you were to pause, just for a moment, you would actually see a redemption, a healing, a compassion, a salvation, indeed, a solution to all the cares of the world, fixed there. You could pause and sit, and drink, and eat, and forget yourself in a haze of wonder. You can’t understand yourself or him, but he understands both.

Be a tree, go to church.

*Isaiah 40:7

Are You Sabotaging Your Self-Love?

Author Article

This month, we’ve been talking about self-love a lot over in my Instagrampage. We’ve been having meaningful conversations about what it is, why it’s so hard to achieve, and the main challenges about it.

Mariana Plata
Source: Mariana Plata

Self-love is the foundation for all the other relationships in your life. In simple words, one cannot pour from an empty cup. One can’t give if one doesn’t have:

  • You can’t have a healthy relationship with other people if YOU don’t have a healthy relationship with yourself.
  • You can’t be compassionate with others if YOU don’t practice self-compassion in your own life.
  • You can’t take care of others if YOU don’t take care of yourself, first.

Self-love, though it has a pretty ring to it, can often be one of the most difficult practices to accomplish. Why? Because we live in a society that promotes and celebrates your exhaustion and how tired you are. It benefits from your insecurities.

This is why loving yourself is a revolutionary act. Society has “normalized” the ways in which we sabotage prioritizing and taking care of ourselves.

The first step is realizing when these self-sabotages show up. Here are three red flags that you might be self-sabotaging your self-love practices.

You keep comparing yourself 

Social media is full of comparison traps. And, once we fall down this rabbit hole and don’t actively make an effort to get out, our self-love gets compromised.

I won’t tell you not to compare yourself, because we are only human. It’s only natural to fall in these traps. What I will ask you is that when you compare yourself, make sure you challenge that comparison. How? With gratitudeWhat is wonderful about YOU? What makes YOU magical, unique and special? And actively fight against that comparison trap with a gratitude perspective about yourself.

Black or white thinking 

“Good vs. bad.” “Skinny vs. fat”.””Pretty vs. ugly.” These are all black or white thoughts which are counterproductive to our mental health. Especially, to our self-love. Things aren’t good or bad, they are. Your body isn’t pretty or ugly, it is. It works. It helps you achieve your daily goals and tells you what needs adjusting.

These black or white thoughts only welcome shame, which is a powerful emotion that fosters a negative self-image, low self-esteem and promotes self-loathing. Shame is self-love’s arch-nemesis, and it’s only cured by practicing self-compassion, a key component of self-love.

You don’t prioritize your self-care strategies

Similar to self-compassion, self-care is a crucial part of self-love. The way we take care of our body (exercise, eating healthily, sleeping enough, drinking plenty of water); our mind (seeking help from our support system, talking about difficult emotions); and our soul (meditatingjournaling).

If you’re not carving out a space in your day to include at least one of the areas mentioned above, you’re not prioritizing yourself. And, if you don’t prioritize yourself, who will?

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