The biggest struggle in life is the struggle to know, embrace, and accept ourselves, with all of our faults and imperfections. Many of us were raised by parents who were themselves victims - who were not taught to see their own worth, or who were not really seen by their own parents. Our grandparents generation faced massive trauma and upheaval due to the Second World War and the Great Depression. The focus was on survival and minimizing the damage, rather than on love, appreciation and intimacy. Individuals and families today face the challenges of long commutes, longer working hours, and global economic uncertainty. These stresses can beat us down, or make us build walls around ourselves that are so dense that even our dearest friends, partners, spouses and children can't get in. Yet, there is another way.
When we have the courage to let the walls down - to know and embrace ourselves, despite our human failings, we also open the door to connecting in a more caring, empathic, intimate way with the ones we love and with all living beings. Our brains are wired for survival, but also for empathy. We have mirror neurons that fire when we see other people's pain. Let us learn to love ourselves so we can be more open and compassionate to others, and so we can take down the walls that limit who we can be and what we can contibute. The quotes below are intended as inspiration for your inward journey. Become more mindful of your thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Know your vulnerabilities as well as your strengths and achievements, and learn to love yourself for both. I have included categories that define some different facets of self love, including awareness, acceptance and growth. Following the quotes is an exercise to help you better know and accept yourself.
Divide a piece of paper into two columns. In one column, write down all the things you like about yourself; your personal strengths, difficult situations you have overcome, people whose lives you have touched, personal accomplishments, and values that increase your self-respect. On the other side, make a list of your personal weaknesses or issues that you still struggle with. Perhaps you are selfish, sometimes, or avoid taking responsibility. You may have treated other people in a careless way, or not followed through on your commitments. Disorganization and lack of self-control may have cost you opportunitoes - you may feel lonely, or heavier than you would like to be. Whatever these issues are, bring them out into the light of day to be examined, and they will automatically feel less shameful. At the end of the exercise, read both the strengths and the weaknesses column aloud. Next, put your hand on your heart and say "i am strong; I am weak. I am flawed; I am broken. I am vulnerable. I am human. And despite these flaws, I give myself permission to love myself unconditionally. I am a growing, evolving being, who uses past mistakes as a fuel for my journey of growth. I accept myself as I am, and I set an intention to become the person I want to be."
Read these quotes and do this exercise often. Spend time meditating on the patterns in your life that serve you and those that hold you back. Connect with the pain that disconnection from yourself has caused, and hold it gently in your awareness. By doing these things, you will grow in self-awareness, mindfulness, and compassion. When you learn it is enough to be you, you will also learn to accept and love other people with more compassion and less judgment.
About The Author
Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D. is a Practising Psychologist in Mill Valley and San Francisco, California, and an expert on mindfulness, communication, parenting, family & work relationships. She has published more than 50 articles, abstracts and book chapters, appeated on radio shows and acted as a source for national media, incuding CNN.com, Men's Health, Cosmopolitan, BBC 4 in the U.K., and O, the Oprah Magazine (South African edition). Previously a Professor at a training institution for clinical psychologists, she is now a practicing psychologist, speaker, and consultant. Dr Greenberg provides workshops, consulting, and keynotes for organizations, wight loss, parenting, and life coaching and psychotherapy for individuals iand couples.
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Read my Marin Health Psychologist blog for an article on why it's so difficult to lose weight and what helps.