Self Love is not Selfish!
What would be your response to the question, ‘How much do you love yourself?’
Would it be a slightly embarrassed internal chuckle before thinking of something else? Would you think it is a silly question which you haven’t got time for? Maybe an awkward sense that loving yourself is a rather selfish thing to do or maybe even an outright ‘I don’t love me, I’m a mess. why would anyone love me?’
It may have been a bit of a mixture of all those or something entirely different, but in truth our love for our self is the most important start we can make in improving how we experience life and other people.
When I was little I was taken to church regularly each Sunday. As I grew old enough to sit quietly through the sermon I would be in a pew with my friends listening with half an ear to the preacher whilst contemplating my Sunday roast dinner, and one bible verse used to stick in my mind. Jesus told his disciples to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’. This was one I really struggled with. Not because I didn’t think loving others was a good thing but because I thought loving myself was rather selfish. It implied that I would think I was wonderful and beautiful and important and precious and all that was very prideful and conceited. In reality I didn’t love myself very much at all - I hated my bitten nails; I hated that I wore glasses; I hated that I was not fashionable and didn’t ‘fit in’ with people...the list went on - but you get the idea. If I was only going to love others that much then I was not going to be very good at it!!
In the business of day to day life you may well think that you don’t have time to love yourself. You may be too busy with work, looking after family (young or old), keeping in touch with friends, doing DIY, shopping, cooking. The list is endless. How often do you even have time to think about yourself kindly, let alone to spend time on you? Life just gets in the way... But you know, the lower down the list you put yourself the lower you feel; the more of yourself you give out, the more depleted you become.
There is a saying - ‘You cannot pour from an empty vessel’. How many times have you felt that? Empty! Exhausted! All used up and as if you are only hanging on by a thread...If one more thing goes wrong you are going to fall apart and you are scared that you might not be able to put yourself back together again.
It is a horrifying and terrifying place to be and yet many people get to just that point!
There comes a time when you have to stop and make time to look after you.
I can almost hear some of you now - about to start your response with an excuse...’but the children....’ ‘but work...’
We have to make time in our lives to learn to love ourselves. It can start small - an uninterrupted bath or shower (can be a miracle in some busy lives); 5 minutes of peace and silence; a 20 minute walk in fresh air. All little steps to help you to recharge you batteries.
Ultimately though, these things are tiny steps on a journey where you learn to treat yourself with kindness. Not listening to that critical voice in your mind that tells you you are not good enough; cutting yourself some slack in your busy life; realising that you really are wonderful and beautiful and important and precious. If in doubt in a situation ask yourself what you would say to a friend and then say it to yourself. It is unlikely that you would tell them they are useless or stupid or deserve to struggle! No, you would be encouraging, offer help, be gentle, support them...so do the same for yourself.
Take a moment today to write yourself a list of things you could do to show yourself some love, a self-love menu - it could be anything from a quiet cup of tea to half an hour with a favourite book; a relaxing bubble bath, time to do a guided meditation or listen to your favourite music. Then having written the list try to do one thing from the list each day for a week. Learn to show yourself some love - allow yourself time to get past feeling awkward or selfish for doing something just for you. You will be surprised how much easier it becomes to love others too, how much more peace comes into your life and how much less time you will have to spend worrying.
You really are wonderful, beautiful, important and precious...just look and see...
It’s all going wrong! 5 steps to help you get back on track.
Do you ever have days when it seems as though you can’t do anything right? No matter how well laid your plans are things just aren’t going the way they should?
It is surprising how quickly that negative voice in our heads speaks up isn’t it?
“What is everyone going to think of you?... You should have got up straight away instead of snoozing the alarm!... You are stupid - fancy not remembering to plug your phone in to charge!...What a numpty leaving your purse at home like that!..I can’t believe you forgot your coat...”
On and on it goes until a simple mistake defines you as a complete failure! We end up feeling so stressed that there is no way we can redeem the situation in our minds and we just feel as though we need a complete do-over. In fact can we just roll back time and do the whole day again please?
So - here are some steps to help you get through...
Step 1 - Breathe!
Yes, I know you ‘haven’t got time for that’. But is rushing around, stressed, impatient, shoulders up by your ears and a tense expression really going to achieve anything apart from a major headache and bad temper? NO...So take a moment to take 3 really deep slow belly breaths, on each exhale roll and lower your shoulders and let go of the tension. Focus your whole mind on those breaths and now on to...
Step 2 - Say No!
All those stressed and unkind things you are saying to yourself about how stupid you are for forgetting x,y or z. All those angry things you may be thinking about another person who you think might have caused these problem. Anything about how this always happens to you and your life is terrible...Stop! You might even need to say ‘NO’ out loud and hold up a hand to break into that noise in your head. If you are going to get back on track you haven’t got time or energy for beating yourself up or blaming others, there are better and more positive things to think about.
Step 3 - Back to reality.
Ok, so now it is time to see reality. Not the rubbish your thoughts have been throwing at you, but reality. Accept what is real; you may have missed a train; got stuck on the motorway; got an injury that stops you going to the gym; forgotten to take your purse with you; lost your phone. The list is endless, but this is just the way it is. Getting flustered and frustrated is not going to turn back time. Once you look at the real situation, then you can think about an action plan of what to do next. You can think positively and calmly. There is space between what has happened and what your action will be...space to think and breath, to plan and to make good decisions based on thought and not panic.
Step 4 - Be kind!
So now you are breathing, calmer, quieter in your mind, be kind to yourself. If your friend was in the situation that you are in would you tell them how stupid they are? Would you tell them they are useless? Would you refuse to help? I’m guessing your answer to those has been ‘no’. You would be only too willing to help out in any way you could. Remember that people around you are willing to help - they are just waiting for you to ask. From time to time teachers that I worked with would get stuck on the motorway on the way to work...Did the rest of us give them a hard time when they arrived? Laugh at them? Leave them to struggle? No! We looked after their class for them, made sure they were ok, gave them time to get organised, maybe make a cup of tea, told them not to worry. So remember to be just as kind to yourself. Ask for the help you need and trust that others are happy to be there for you what ever the problem, just as you would be there for them.
Step 5 - Take time to remember who you are...
The final step is often forgotten. It is just such a relief to have ‘caught up’ or got through the situation in one piece that we fall into bed glad it is over. This final step is the key to calming the negative voices and panic more quickly next time. Take a moment to look inside at who you really are; a good way to do this is to think about all those little things that you are grateful for. The people you love, a roof over your head, food, that you got through the day. Take a moment to be silent and focus on the feeling of love. Love is a powerful tool for showing us who we really are, it can be a gateway to our inner mind, the us within. The self that is constant...
Finally - if you think of someone you love or care about...Do you love them less or care for them less if they make a mistake? I’m guessing not - because you know that they are not that mistake, they are so much more.
The same is true of us all.
5 Mini Moments of Mindfulness
Yesterday a friend mentioned how often we hear people around us but don’t really listen and it set me thinking...
Our experience of the physical world around us comes to us through our five senses; the things we see; conversations with our friends and listening to what they say; the food that we eat and drink; the smell of the neighbour’s barbecue and the things we touch. All these send information to our brain - we mix in our own interpretations and meanings, emotions are generated and our reality is created.
I love the smell of smoke on bonfire night as it brings back happy memories from childhood of watching a display in a local park and going home to eat jacket potatoes and mounds of cheese. Another person may hate the smell - for them unhappy memories may be triggered. It is not the smell that is different, just the realities we each create.
So, if our reality is created from our physical senses what sort of reality are we creating? How many times have you been so busy thinking of what response to give to someone in a conversation that you don’t actually hear what they say? How many times today have you looked at something and not actually seen it...properly seen it? Have you eaten of drunk something today without really noticing the flavours? Have you registered a scent in the air and appreciated what the source might be? Have you touched something - maybe even held a hand and really felt it?
How much of life are we really experiencing and how much are we missing because our minds are otherwise occupied? Is our reality really based on reality, or just on the chatter in our heads?
I have far too many days when I drive somewhere and suddenly realise that part of the journey is a blank. I was physically driving, looking at the road, handling the controls, but my mind had taken me off somewhere else. You know - round the supermarket thinking about what might be nice for dinner, or when I was teaching, into my classroom thinking about what the children might enjoy doing. Our minds, with their endless chatter and distraction can take us far away from what we are actually looking at, touching etc.
Mindfulness is about being ‘in the moment’, here, now, in this instant, and this one. Listening to a friend and not just hearing them; savouring a mouthful not just eating in a rush; taking a moment to hear the birdsong, smell the flowers and really feel the hand we hold. So why not try these 5 Mini Moments of Mindfulness today, maybe everyday and see if your experience of reality changes?
1. A Moment to Taste
Make yourself a cup of tea or another drink. Smell the tea in its container first, note its intensity is it sweet? Citrus? Floral? Be deliberate as you make it focusing on the movements of your hands and the scent of the vapour as you pour the hot water in. Watch it change colour as you add milk or lemon. Feel the warmth of the cup in your hands. You might blow on it to cool it - watch the patterns and ripples on the surface, the way they catch the light. Take a tiny sip and hold it in your mouth a second before you swallow and feel the warmth inside you
2. A Moment to Listen
Next time you have a conversation with someone really focus on what they are saying. Try not to be thinking about forming a reply; not looking at your phone or the TV; not comparing their experience or viewpoint to your own but instead focusing on them. Allowing a moment of silence before your rush to reply - they may be trying to say more than they can articulate in words.
3. A Moment to See
This works well in nature, choosing a flower, tree, butterfly, blue sky (or grey) spend a few moments really looking at it in detail, the colours, textures, movements, shape. Breathe deeply and feel yourself relax into the experience. You might be gazing at your sleeping child, looking into someones eyes, but take time to really see.
4. A Moment to Feel
For this you just need anything to hold or touch. A dog, a hand, a cuddly toy, a flower, a crystal or stone, anything. Focus all your attention on your hands, your finger tips, your palm and the sensations of the object you are touching. You may find closing your eyes helps the concentration so that you can really feel.
5. A Moment to Smell
This could be time for another cup of tea, or glass of wine, alternatively a spritz of scent, a wander into a flower shop or even a bowl of soup. Take a moment to close you eyes again and really focus on the scent. Is it sweet, citrus, smokey, floral? What do you notice about how it makes you feel? What associations does it bring?
If we can take a moment to really experience our world fully through each of our senses our whole experience of life will be richer, slower, more vivid, more empathic and we will be able to find a space within that we can step into more easily to calm the chatter in our minds and build a more real and mindful experience. We can really experience life rather than drive through it going through the motions but missing the joy of the journey.
Clouds and Blue Sky
Do you ever have those days when everything just feels 'bleh'..? Hate using words like that, but some days that's how it feels.
Nothing is really wrong, but nothing is really right either. It is as though someone just threw a heavy blanket over your feelings; your get up and go has got up and gone off somewhere more exciting and you are left in a hole. Today was a day like that until a few minutes ago when I sat outside on the garden bench and looked up. Where clouds have lingered all day there is now a beautiful, blue sky; heavy white blossoms cover a tree in my small garden and as the sun shone on the flowers they were so bright against the blue. I also have a bit of a thing for daffodils at the moment they seem so full of joy.
All this reminded me that within me, within all of us, is a well of being that we can't always see. That part of you that appreciates flowers, blossom and blue sky; that seems to bubble up on a beautiful day...That well of being that shares laughter with a friend; relishes a long hug; rejoices in a win for your team or smiles at a baby's chuckle is there all the time. Like the blue sky behind the clouds.
I was struggling to remember that this morning - my world was grey but after a few minutes outside now I can see the blue sky above my worries. The life in all things that I can tap into to find my inner well of being...wellbeing. It is not some mystical place or thing outside of us. It is inside us all waiting to be discovered and set free, waiting to wash away our fears, worries and burdens and show us a way to breathe.
The funny thing is that just knowing it is there helps...
Troubles don’t seem so big once we know they will not be here for ever. We can watch them drift past like the inevitable clouds. I guess the same could even be said of a thunderstorm! They are fierce, loud, terrifying and spectacular events. I love to stand out in them and marvel at the lightning. But they pass too. Even the most difficult events in life will pass eventually, we remember them but we don’t have to stand in them for ever. So I am going to focus on the blue, acknowledge the clouds of today and allow them to drift away..
Our Inner Voice
In the busyness of our everyday lives it is sometimes hard to hear our inner voice of intuition. It is too easy just to keep going; to tell ourselves that we don't have time to be still; that we don't have time to listen to what our heart is saying. It is easy to hide from the pain, fear, insecurities, grief or anxiety that we carry.
Feelings like these - as with all feelings - are temporary. The more they are ignored, the more they become like annoying hounds, snapping at our heels and wanting attention, becoming louder and more persistent as we ignore them.
If we turn and acknowledge them; sit down for a moment with them and give them the attention they need, they will settle and quieten down in our minds.
If something is weighing on your heart today, if a feeling is causing you to struggle; try to take a few minutes to sit quietly...try to acknowledge and name the emotion you are feeling.
Take some slow deep breaths in and out and allow yourself to relax.
You could maybe imagine standing under a shower and allowing the feel of the water to wash each of those feelings away down your body and into the drain...(You could even do this in reality whilst having a shower).
Moments of stillness help us to hear our hearts and heal our hurts.