Do you want to love yourself better? The truth is, loving ourselves is hard. As wives, moms, caretakers, homemakers, friends and everyday do-ers…life is full. Full of people, things, responsibilities, conflicting demands, need-tos and want-tos. Full of expectations, should-dos, wish-I-could-bes, and never-measure-ups.
If we’re honest, we’re pretty hard on ourselves. It’s not about setting goals or dreams, that’s the good stuff. It’s the expectation. But you can learn, or at least make time, to love yourself better.
In every dream there is space to grow. For things to shift and change, permission to wander off track, get lost and course correct. Expectation, however, is not free. It keeps us in chains, tied to our past and hindered from our future. It keeps us from growing and loving ourselves well.
Just as anything in life, there are no magic answers. But I think loving ourselves better is, perhaps, our life work.
Here are a few little ways I am learning to love myself better right now:
1. Trust yourself.
In my experience, my greatest times of self-doubt arose in the times I wasn’t trusting my own still small voice. The spirit within me telling me either to wait on God or push forward with conviction. When I’ve doubted the spirit in me and acted instead on the thoughts and advice of another, I’ve found myself growing further away from my own truth. I’m learning to trust in my own voice. Intuition. That still small voice that lives in each of our us, offering to kindly, gently guide our path. We are all on a different journey and your advice may not suit my situation or my heart, and vice versa. We have the right to take our power back and make decisions that are right for us. Be brave and courageous and believe the voice that lives in you.
2. Cultivate quiet.
Cultivating quiet time is critical to loving myself well. Up until my early twenties I was terrified to be alone. I thought being alone meant no one wanted to be with me. But life and love and heartbreak forced me to set out on my own path and begin to discover who I really was. It changed everything. A once-thought flailing extrovert, I now know a woman who is actually much more of an introvert; a woman who finds comfort and meaning in a small groups that go deep. Being alone doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, it’s the only place you can hope to hear the still small voice of your heart. These days I can’t seem to find enough quiet! But that’s an entirely different issue! You can read my story in which I learned how to be alone without feeling lonely here.
3. Practice gratitude.
Whenever I start to doubt or fear I try to remember to look for something to be grateful for. Something bigger than myself. This practice typically involves nature, creation, or simply remembering Jesus. Sometimes His name is humbling enough. For me it’s always the little things. Simple things: finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. A sunrise, a gently falling snowflake, the full sleeping lips of my precious boys, or snuggling in a blanket under the stars. The moment I begin practicing gratitude I see Him. I see beauty, grace and a life of peace. When I practice gratitude my fear fades into the background, and I am able to be present in the moment. Appreciating all that is makes me realize it is all that I want it to be. Even in hard times, I realize they are mine. Mine to choose whether I grow bitter or better, resentful or refined. Every heartache and heartbreak is a gift if we choose to see it that way.
4. Give yourself permission to be imperfect.
I think one of the biggest challenges we face as women is comparing ourselves with other women. Whether we’re comparing ourselves to a friend with a similar ambition or talent, an acquaintance, or a role or expectation we see played out in the media culture. The minute we start comparing ourselves to someone else we fall prey to the lie that there isn’t enough for all of us. That someone else’s success means there is somehow less for us. Or there’s one right way to do anything at all. This leads to an elusive quest after an illusion of perfection. Believe me, I know it well. We believe that if we do it perfectly we’ll be enough; or at least we will be safe from criticism, judgment, ridicule or rejection. It just isn’t true. None of it. Aristotle said: The only way to avoid criticism is to do nothing. Say nothing. Be nothing.
Perfection is a trap that gets in front of your gifts, stops your growth, and keeps you small. Give yourself permission to be imperfect, knowing there is more than enough for all of us. How much more interesting, alluring and beautiful is that?
Brene Brown’s work has me convinced that happiness is highly related to creativity and play, and the truth is I’m not great at it. If I’m honest, I usually reserve play for when all the work is done. Which, if you’re like any normal person on the planet: means never. However, creativity can be sneaky. Writing is a creative process for me. Words, images and design all come together in a way that allows me to express myself. I also love to sing, although these days that happens mostly in the shower!
What makes you come alive? What makes you lose track of time and brings you right into the heart of living in the moment? I know this means something for you. Whether that is singing, writing, painting, drawing, composing, playing, scrapbooking, dancing, acting, dreaming, or living it OUT LOUD!
Trust yourself. Cultivate quiet so you can hear that still small voice inside you. Practice gratitude. No matter what mountain rises up in front of you, it is yours. And your life has perfectly prepared you to summit it. Who cares if you fall? Release yourself from the trap of perfection and choose real instead. It’s far more beautiful. And then finally, I wonder: what is your art? Would you bring it out to play?
How do you love yourself better?