As your official ExecutiveShrink it behooves me, on occasion, to go full touchy-feely (slathered in a sheep-dip of sanitizer, of course) and proffer advice on cultivating love, understanding, and all things utopian.
So yesterday I sent this post out to my weekly email list as a contribution to us all having something more important to focus upon than whatever compelling distractions currently have captured our attentions (insert your favorite rumination that’s jus’no’good for you).
This practice has so many benefits I couldn’t possibly enumerate them all without sounding like an info commercial (“but wait, that’s not all!”).
Instead, here’s a reprint of that email.
(N.b. that über-cute pup won’t make sense till you try the exercise…)
How We Feel About Ourselves Matters
Poet David White speaks of three ‘marriages:’
- To one’s intimate partner
- To one’s work, and
- To one’s self
I’ll be focusing here on the last one; we all are in relationship with ourselves.
If that already seems a strange proposition, know that I mean it literally:
We relate to ourselves in ways very similar to how we relate to others.
Have you ever been disappointed, frustrated, or pleased with yourself?
Have you wished you were different, embarrassed or discovered something uncomfortable about yourself?
Can you look back at a time in your life and wished you had acted differently?
Do you notice you have an inner-dialogue that only you can hear? What does it say to you..?
Have you ever come to your own defense?
If you are answering No to all of these then perhaps I have you all wrong, you’re wired differently.
But if you’re answering Yes to any of the above then read on, because we are going to start working on the premise outlined in the quote I shared with you a few weeks ago:
“Self-esteem is the ability to see yourself as a flawed individual and still hold yourself in high regard.”—Esther Perel
Because we have a relationship with ourselves it matters what the quality of that relationship is. And what if we can improve that connection, what then?
Well, then I’ve just the thing for you.
The advantages of the accompanying practice are numerous and include at least the following:
- When we are suffering we often need something else, something better, to focus upon. Here it is.
- If you have ever wanted a direct way of changing your past (without spending hundreds on a therapist), you’re in luck.
- If our life is a field and the things we leave unresolved in ourselves are the weeds that take resources away from the project of growing the future we prefer, then know we can weed our life.
- The way we treat others is typically limited by the way we relate to ourselves (we treat them better)…
- ‘Ever needed to feel good/better, on the spot?
First, you progress by doing it; like in working a muscle, it gets easier and stronger the more you try.
Secondly, your focus is on the exercise rather than on any real or imagined outcomes of doing it. Let the fruition take care of itself, then it will.
Thirdly, although more of something good is probably better, don’t let perfection be the enemy of good-enough; here, some is definitely better than none at all.
Lastly, specific to this exercise in particular: have you ever just sat yourself down and looked at yourself in the mirror? Surreal wasn’t it? This will be similar. Don’t give up.
This practice is to cultivate self-care, self-affection and -affinity. In fact, self-love.
For those amongst us that balk at such a thing as self-love, I’m with you. Or, at least, I was. The idea always struck me as astoundingly self-absorbed, indulgent.
If that’s your response then I refer you back to my opening comments. If self-loathing is a thing, and I assure you it certainly is, then why not try out something that cultivates it’s opposite, it’s antidote?
And anyway, forget about notions of self-love and consider that what we’re talking about is indeed the essence of self-esteem: to “hold yourself in high regard” while simultaneously seeing your flaws. That’s healthy.
And if you are wanting more context then one place I would send you to it an amazing gem of a booklet, Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It.
Remember to have fun playing with all this (taking it overly seriously won’t help!).