Being There for Yourself in Times of Pain

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I notice a tightness in my chest and an empty feeling in my abdomen. It’s uncomfortable. I am able to identify these sensations as signaling feelings of sadness and anger for me. I remind myself to accept these feelings as I’ve learned from both professional training and spiritual teachings. I am able to sit with the feeling for a moment or two and then my mind is off and running. Coming up with explanations about why I feel this way. Blaming someone who I think is at fault for me feeling this way. Blaming myself. Thinking of things to help me feel better. Maybe if I listen to a spiritual teaching, eat some chocolate, or drink some wine I’ll fee better. Maybe if I get some reassurance or affirmation, I’ll feel better. This usually continues for a few minutes and then in a moment of space between thoughts I am able to step back and gently remind myself to just feel it. To welcome these painful feelings like a cute puppy and to offer the feelings and myself some comfort. This is hard. I know I’m progressing in this area because my awareness of what is happening has increased. But this awareness has made it easier to see how much my mind tries to help me escape these feelings with strategies that would probably help me to feel good in the moment but ultimately don’t allow me to process and release what I’m experiencing. Continue reading “Being There for Yourself in Times of Pain”

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“You Can Never Love Anybody if You are Unable to Love Yourself”

smiling-black-woman“One of the best guides to how to be self-loving is to give ourselves the love we are often dreaming about receiving from others. There was a time when I felt lousy about my over-forty body, saw myself as too fat, too this, or too that. Yet I fantasized about finding a lover who would give me the gift of being loved as I am. It is silly, isn’t it, that I would dream of someone else offering to me the acceptance and affirmation I was withholding from myself. This was a moment when the maxim ‘You can never love anybody if you are unable to love yourself’ made clear sense. And I add, ‘Do not expect to receive the love from someone else you do not give yourself.’ – bell hooks (All About Love: New Visions)

For as long as I can remember up until a couple of years ago I was searching, searching for a partner to fill the empty spaces within me. I had this worry that I was not good enough, that I was not lovable. I wash harsh and judgmental with myself when I made mistakes. During this time, I wished for someone else to love me unconditionally. I longed for a partner to provide me with the comfort and encouragement that I rarely offered myself. When I was in relationships I could barely tolerate any indication that my boyfriends might not think I was wonderful. I was overly sensitive to any sign of rejection, sometimes experiencing intense anxiety and starting conflict in response to feeling rejected. While I still struggle with being sensitive to rejection, I look back on my teens and twenties and can see that my challenges in romantic relationships were in part due to the problems in my relationship with myself. As my relationship with myself has healed, my relationships with others have also improved.

In the quote at the beginning of this post, bell hooks encourages us to offer ourselves the love that we dream of. To be our own lover. This is essential, not only for the health of any romantic relationship we might engage in but to feel fulfilled when we are single and to have healthy relationships with family members and friends. When we stop outsourcing what can give ourselves our life and relationships become so much better. In this post I will share my suggestions for ways to begin to improve your relationship with yourself. Continue reading ““You Can Never Love Anybody if You are Unable to Love Yourself””

You Are Enough

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You are enough. Right now, right in this moment, you are enough. You are worthy of life, of love, of joy. If you never change anything about yourself, you are enough. If you wear your hair natural or straight, if your skin is light or dark, if your clothes are never in style, you are enough. If you are too thin, if you are overweight, if you haven’t lost the baby weight, if you have an unhealthy relationship with food, you are enough. If you didn’t finish school, if you failed in school, if you only got one degree, if you have a few letters behind your name, you are enough. If you lost your job, if you were laid off, if you didn’t make that 30 under 30 or 40 under 40 list, you are enough. If you are living pay check to pay check, if you are struggling to pay your rent, if you moved back home because of debt, you are enough.  If you are single, if your relationship doesn’t work out, if you never get married, if your marriage falls apart, you are enough. If you had children as a teenager, if your kids throw tantrums in public and struggle in school, if you’re struggling to get pregnant, if you can’t have children, if you don’t want children, you are enough. If you’ve never had sex, if you’ve been raped, if you’ve been abused, if you have an STD, you are enough. If you’re questioning your sexual identity, if you’re transitioning, if you’re coming out, you are enough. If you get angry and yell, if you cry, if you shut down, you are enough. If you are estranged from your family, if your family is taking over your life, you are enough. Right now, in this moment, just as you are, you are enough. Continue reading “You Are Enough”

The Gifts of 30: Learning to Love Yourself

30th Birthday

As my 30th year comes to a close, I have been reflecting on why 30 has been my favorite age thus far. The year has certainly included challenges and disappointments but overall I have felt more at home and secure with myself than ever before. After turning 30 last June, I felt a shift from an underlying feeling that I was not good enough or needed to get better in some fundamental way, to believing that I am worthy and good enough just as I am. I settled into myself. I began fully embracing my weird, quirky, silly, generous, anxiety-prone, outspoken self and it feels wonderful. When I was younger I had many personal life goals (e.g. getting married, having kids, etc.) that I wanted to accomplish before turning 30 and they have not happened yet.  I am thankful that I have experienced this level of groundedness and contentment without reaching those goals. It has enabled me to understand that I don’t need to get everything I want in order to be happy. What follows are the key things that have helped me to love myself during my 30th year. Continue reading “The Gifts of 30: Learning to Love Yourself”