How To Thrive!

Posted: August 24, 2009 in thriving
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flower in the wall Love Yourself

Recently, for lunch, I had some delicious chicken tacos with a likeable friend. It was part of my work day. I have a cool job. Basically, I get paid to eat with people.

So, my friend and I were eating tacos and talking and I thought. I like this guy. He is comfortable with himself.  So I said, “You’re pretty relaxed around people. People seem to like you.”

I always compliment the people I eat with. It leads to better digestion. And maybe they’ll pay.

 “I wasn’t always comfortable with people,” he said. “It’s something I’ve worked on.”  “Really,” I said, “It seems natural.”

“Yeah,” he said, “One day I when I was younger, I was bragging on something. A girl walking by overheard me and said to me, “You don’t think much of yourself, do you?” She kept on walking.

I thought, “Is she being sarcastic? Or does she think that I don’t like myself?” It got me to thinking. And after thinking on it, I realized: I didn’t think much of myself. And I decided I’d work on that.”

Looking at my friend, I thought: That worked! He’s transformed himself into a likeable person.

I like the narrative here. It rings real. I’ve noticed that I struggle with self-love, at least at some point or some area.  So do many of my friends. It’s something to work on.

After a making a mistake, I know I’ve said, “I’m so stupid.” Looking at one of my flaws in the mirror, I’ve said, “I hate the way I look.” After a public faux pas, and I’ve made them, I’ve thought, “I am such a social klutz.” Forgetting an appointment, my own inner voice has critiqued me:  “You are seriously losing it!”

Consider however, that many of the great thinkers of the world, those who have transformed history, have counseled self-love. Gandhi was committed to human dignity, self-respect and self-rule for India. Buddhist practice is called the “middle way,” between self-denial and self-aggrandizement. Jesus taught, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Jesus assumed we love ourselves

In saying, “Love your neighbor as youself,”  Jesus was more specifically saying something like, ” You feed yourself, clean yourself, groom yourself, rest yourself, protect yourself. So feed, groom, rest and protect others in the same way. You overlook you own mistakes. Don’t jump on other people for theirs.”

I was with a person recently. I teased that not everybody in the world loved her. She quipped back, “If they don’t love me, there is something wrong with them.” I think Jesus would approve!

But for many people, self-love is a battlefield. 

A couple of thoughts come to mind. How do we love ourselves in healthy, appropriate ways?

Speak truth.

When tempted to say, “I’m a failure,” it would be more truthful to say, “I made a mistake. “When tempted to think, “I am a social klutz,’ it would be more truthful to say, “No I made a  blunder, but I’m not defined by one interaction.”

Gerald Ford gained a reputation as clumsy after several mishaps, driving his golf cart into a crowd, falling down the steps of Air Force One. Chevy Chase lampooned him for this on Saturday Night Live. The truth? Ford was very athletic.

At the University of Michigan, Ford played on two championship football teams, and he was named to the college all-star team. He turned down offers from the NFL. At one time or another, we will all need to fight for a truthful view of self

I’ve noticed that even seasoned older people have difficulty treating their souls with dignity and kindness.

Recently, I was with a very wise and accomplished lady, who has, in the last few years, lost her husband and a private grade school she helped create and direct. I sat with her in a preschool board meeting. The school is a remnant of her lost grade school. As we discussed a tough decision regarding some cutbacks in the preschool, she began to cry. “I just realized,” she said. “I’ve been so caught up in grieving the loss of my husband, I have never taken the time to grieve the loss of my school.”

Multiple losses – this is one of the signatures of aging. But do we know to give appropriate time and sacred space for recovery? It is a deep truth that we need to make sacred time to love ourselves by allowing ourselves time to grieve our losses.

If any of us saw a baby unattended and crying, we would go pick it up and we would speak soothingly to the baby. So when we cry, why don’t we go gently to ourselves, pick ourselves up, speaking soothing words of understanding and comfort?

Backing my SUV up a few years ago, I jarringly realized that a telephone pole had jumped out of its place and slammed into the back of my car.  $900 in damage resulted. I felt  stupid! “Why didn’t I see it coming?”  At home that day, not one harsh or critical word came from my wife. “We’ll just get it fixed. That’s why we have insurance,” she said. Her gentleness was theraputic for me. I dropped the complaint against myself that was beginning to breed something ugly in my mind.

But let’s take this further. Loving yourself isn’t an end in itself; it is a beginning. It is the beginning of loving others.  A healthy, true self, is a self that can love other selves. Thinking gently is  excellent, but being gentle with others is supreme.

In the United States in the 1980’s, there was a massive self-esteem school campaign. At its worst, everybody got an award certificate, whether they had done the work or not! The general consensus by the experts? That didn’t work.

Why? A proper sense of self must be based in part on real accomplishments. Remember: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love yourself and don’t love your neighbor, and you’ve got some kind of nasty form of selfishness and ego-centrism. It will rot the self.

Why do we feed ourselves? So we can feed others. Why do we need to get comfortable with ourselves? So we can be comfortable with others, so we will know how to help them be comfortable with themselves.

Last week I watched a woman giving away food. She glowed! Last week I saw a man pray for another man. They were living deeply in that moment. Last week, I saw a lady pick up a child and kiss it. It doesn’t get any better than that.

It is self-loving to love others. We all must end with this. We are a self to love another self.

Want to really make progress in self-respect? Go do something worthy of self-respect.

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