Self-Love: You’re Kidding, Right?!

I was truly flattered when a respected life coach asked to interview me on the topic of self-love. She explained the interview would be videoed and I went to work compiling as much information as I could. I hadn’t even heard the phrase “self-love” until was in my 40’s. It just seemed way too sappy a concept and too overwhelming a request.

During the interview, I shared that my journey to self-love began when a trauma forced me down inside myself. Until then, my focus had always been outward, doing my best to make sure others loved me—not noticing my own heart. I shared that the lack of self-love affected my ability to make decisions.  Often, before taking a step forward, I would wait for all my ducks to get in a row, but not all ducks do that. From experience, I understood that making the wrong decisions, or making mistakes of any kind, put me at risk of being belittled, discounted and losing the love of others for which I was so desperate.

I shared that before I could love myself, I had to shift my focus inward and just be friends with myself for a while. Because of this shift I learned to speak my truth, most of the time. I began to be gentle with myself, some of the time. I practiced saying “No,” when I felt strong enough and my favorite self-love practices were simple: curling up with a good book, being in nature and journaling.

The interview lasted an hour and as soon as the video stopped recording, the first things out of my mouth were “My hair looked terrible! I used my hands too much! I talked too fast! I sounded awful!”

The women who had interviewed me couldn’t stop laughing. “Didn’t you just spend an hour talking about self-love?!”

Busted! What a fraud! Is it possible to be a star-crossed lover with yourself, almost connecting, but not quite?

Now I focus on a simple, three-step approach to self-love:

1. Practice.

2. Makes lots of mistakes.

3. Laugh as often you can!

Time to Stop Toughing It Out

The following is a guest post by Theresa Nutt.

As I continue my journey of becoming my own beloved, I have noticed something important: a theme that is really standing out for me right now is the topic of toughing it out. Too many of us have learned to ignore our feelings and other parts of our experience that are not considered acceptable (according to who, I wonder?).

Here are a few of the common symptoms of toughing it out:

  • We swallow feelings and let them fester inside.
  • Others treat us poorly and we don’t speak up.
  • Our needs come last after everyone else is “happy” or comfortable (which never happens).
  • We stop pursuing our passions and wait for a magic someday.
  • Our body tries to get our attention and we just keep pushing on because there isn’t enough time. Eventually, something big happens and we suffer as a result.
  • We are exhausted, but afraid to slow down or rest.
  • Instead of living a unique life that speaks to us, we try to fit in and be more like others around us.

Tune In Instead Of Toughing It Out

The obvious remedy is to tune in more deeply to ourselves and our experience. There are times when the most loving thing to do is notice that life is really challenging. Or, that despite our best efforts we can’t seem to make headway.

There are not enough spiritual gymnastics in the world to help us in certain situations. And instead of admitting we are struggling or instead of asking for help when we need it the most, we start beating ourselves up using our inner critic.

What if instead of all the critic’s responses, you found yourself asking what you needed most instead of how can you tough this out?

Help Yourself First Instead of Toughing It Out

Once you tune in, you have the good fortune of knowing what you most need. Is your inner child screaming for your attention in some way? Are you in need of a supportive friend to listen or give you a hand? Do you need some time in Mother Nature to calm your mind and deepen your breathing?

And in the end, if you could just remember that the love, attention, approval, appreciation and every other thing you seek from external sources is a neon sign. The neon sign is reminding you to stop, tune into what is true for you, and love yourself more fiercely than ever before.

Why Do We Resist Forgiving?

The following is a guest post by Mary Hayes Grieco of The Midwest Institute for Forgiveness Training. 

“Forgiveness is releasing an expectation that is causing you to suffer.”
– From “Unconditional Forgiveness” by Mary Hayes Grieco

In the last twenty years, nearly 4,000 new studies in psychology and medicine have proven what we intuitively know is true: forgiveness is good for our health and happiness. Numerous studies make the link between resentments and stress-related illness like heart problems, backaches, chronic pain and sleep problems. Most recently, the chief surgeon at The Cancer Care Centers of America stated that he believes there is a strong link between long held resentments and certain cancers. It seems like our growing awareness about the cost of resentment and unforgiveness will be the next big public health issue.

“Let it go – you’ll feel better” is something your grandma probably told you. Chances are good that you thought about forgiving the offender for about a minute, then dismissed the idea. We really don’t want to. Why is it that even though we know that forgiveness is good for us, we still have so much resistance to it? I think we resist forgiveness because we misunderstand what it is, and we don’t know how to do it. I want to propose that there are some unfortunate myths out there about forgiveness that need to be dispelled in order for the public to embrace forgiveness as a life skill and a good health habit.

Unfortunate myths about forgiveness that create resistance (and keep us stuck)

Myth #1: “Forgive and forget.”
Seriously, did that ever work for anyone? It doesn’t and we intuitively know that, so we don’t want to try and fail. What we actually need to do is forgive and remember and turn our wounds into wisdom. Forgiveness isn’t forgetting, excusing bad behavior or allowing people to continue to hurt us.

As Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them, the first time.” So, forgive them for your freedom, but don’t allow them to harm you again.

Myth #2: Forgiveness is hard and it takes a long time to get there.
In reality, it isn’t any harder than learning how to drive or how to floss your teeth – you must take a little time and be taught how to do it, and practice. And it doesn’t take forever once you know the steps; most of the time, once you’re educated and ready to go, it takes about an hour. See the steps on my website.

Myth#3: You must talk it out
Many believe that forgiveness means you must talk to the other person, make peace, and work things out – someone has to apologize. Nope. Forgiveness is actually a private healing experience which you do to release your pain and gain relief and healthy detachment about the person and the situation. You don’t have to talk to the offender at all or find a common understanding or extract an apology – all that stuff is in the category of “reconciliation,” which is a whole different animal.

Myth #4: There are some things that are unforgiveable.
Do you really want to believe that there are some things from which you will never heal? Everything can heal, eventually. Some things take longer than others, but they will heal if you remain open to the healing process.
Myth #5: You have to be some kind of saint to forgive something really big.
I’ve seen many ordinary people forgive some truly terrible things – human beings are phenomenally resilient!

When one person sincerely and effectively forgives another person, a miracle happens. The stagnant block inside them dissolves and melts away and the light of their soul slides in to replace it.

Being Authentic

The following is a guest post by Michele Rae of The Center Within.

Sometimes I find myself guarded, timid and reluctant to express myself from my inner truth.

What part of me is afraid of being judged? Misunderstood? Rejected? Or even ridiculed? Buried inside I have mistakenly internalized messages from someone or somewhere that I am not good enough or lovable if I radiate from my authentic self. Today I am feeling the invitation to trust the certainty of my inner knowing and live more fully in alignment with my essence.

For me, my authentic self is an internal voice or awareness and informs my sense of self. It is continually evolving as revelations, curiosity, confusion, pain, awe and wonder push me beyond my comfort zone. Life breaks me open to new perspectives about what I know to be true. As I surrender and accept more fully what is, those beliefs that I am not enough are released.

Living an authentic life requires risk, courage and vulnerability. In return, I have more peace, discernment, tolerance and joy.

Expressing myself from this place of truth cultivates everyday miracles and surprises. Anything and everything is possible in the present moment, and I have enough free attention to fully embrace the intuition, synchronicity and insights that arise in my life. As I lay down my neediness for approval and acceptance and trust those in my life will encourage and celebrate my authentic self, my relationships are more real and mutually supportive. My work has more depth, creativity and effectiveness.

It is not always easy, but it is simple. So, the next time someone tells me I am shining too brightly and it makes me bad and wrong, I will send them a blessing and not dismiss myself. Today I more fully embrace my Center Within, my ever-present essential nature, which is fully aligned with the divine. From my authentic self, I can live as presence, navigating life’s conditions and situations from the inside out.

Can I Please Just Be Me?

Written by Theresa Nutt, Transformational Coach

I remember clearly the day I woke up eight years ago and realized that I had lived my life for everyone else. I was 35 years old and had everything the American Dream is all about – a house, a dog, a good job, a husband, etc. It should have been the greatest time in my life, but instead I felt like the walking dead. Along the way I had so completely given myself over to the authority and approval of others that I felt completely lost. Repeating questions with no answers kept running through my mind. Who was I? What did I really want from life? And why did I matter at all?

Looking back, I realize the pattern started when I was quite small. Being so sensitive, bright, and creative I noticed what the adults in my life wanted and I learned how to change and bend to try to make them happy. From a young age I learned to start hiding parts of who I was so that I could feel safe. I learned how to hide my sensitivity, how to dim my light so I didn’t shine too bright, how to hide my feelings of happiness, anger, sadness, and fear, how to hide when I was hungry, and how to hide the ways I experienced the world that made me different than most others in my life. This was a safety mechanism of survival for the frightened one in me. And over time that habit lead me to sacrifice the very best in me to meet the endless demands of “the others” I was trying to make happy.

As a woman in a family that grew up with unspoken messages about the man being the master, I thought that I was doing it all right. I was willing to sacrifice, struggle and go empty day after day no matter what I felt like inside. And I was praised by my parents, husband, and bosses for my willingness to be a work horse and do whatever it took. I swallowed tears, hurt and pain on a daily basis. I secretly waited for the day when someone would finally see all I was doing and applaud me or even better, reciprocate. Little did I know, I was trapped in a cycle that kept me from getting what I wanted most: love and appreciation.

I felt so empty inside, so incredibly lonely, and so full of despair. I wondered when it had all gone so wrong. How was it that the act of making others happy no longer made me happy? Why was I falling apart on the inside while everything looked right on the outside? I had done everything “they” had asked me to do and done it as well as I could. I was a corporate success, responsible in my life, and had a Master’s degree. The truth is, I was a completely buttoned up shell of the person I came into this life to be, and just didn’t know it.

The first shaky step to regain my life was to leave a job that was not serving me. And shortly after that, I left the marriage that had died years before. I cried so much that I thought I would drown in my own tears. I felt so much heartache I had no idea how to survive the pain. I found myself on my knees begging for mercy because I couldn’t remember how to walk on my own. And then I went back to where it all started.

I moved home with my parents and for the first time, my Dad really stepped up and showed up as a man for me. And in the 2 years that followed, we started to heal the relationship that had been filled with so much unspoken anger and hurt for at least 30 years. I started to see that others didn’t need to change for me to be happy. I started to forgive old hurts that were costing me my present happiness. I started to have compassion for the man who didn’t know how to love me the way I needed to be loved. And I came to peace with the fact that he likely never would.

I started working with a couple of gifted healers and counselors who helped me get back in touch with who I was and what I wanted from life. I learned that my marriage with a man who did not know how to love me and my ability to tough out an impossible situation that was emotionally devastating had cost me far more than I had ever imagined. I had let someone program my mind with thoughts that cut me down minute after minute until I had no self-esteem left. The road to recovery was long and arduous. The work took all of my energy and strength. Some days I could barely make it through the day. But, I finally had a name for the compulsion that had made me give up my life to please others; I was codependent.