Many of the people I work with are like me. They are givers. They sacrifice for others. They support others. They give love. They want to make the world better. But in their attempt to give, they forget to give to the most important person – themselves.
Over the years, I have worked personally on this concept, learning to recognize my needs and give to myself. The theme of giving to myself has taken many forms. First, it was the realization that giving to myself was even an option. I believed it was better to give than to receive. I shunned the idea that it was possible and not selfish to receive. After chipping away my badge of martyrdom I began to identify my needs and accept that I deserved to receive what I needed.
Next, I learned how to receive. For those of us focused on others, the concept of receiving is new. Our kneejerk reaction is to say no, to minimize our needs, because receiving is “taking” from another. The truth is we deny others the gift of giving when we refuse to accept their gift. Eventually I learned to accept with gratitude and joy.
The latest incarnation of learning to receive is on a deeper level. Uncovering my needs and learning to receive are skills. The lesson this time is not a skill but a new way to live; something to experience every day. What I realized was that on the deepest level I was not living what I believed. Daily I tell individuals that to identify, ask for, and receive what they want, they must first love themselves. But I was not.
“Beware of the naked man that offers you a shirt” is an apt African proverb for this situation. Here I was telling my clients to do what I was not doing myself. On the deepest level I was not living self-love. My theme for 2017 is integrity. According to Merriam-Webster, integrity means “the quality or state of being complete or undivided.” My desire is to live in integrity, saying what I mean and meaning what I say, and to live wholly and complete. I vow to fully and entirely walk my talk. I desire to fully embrace and love who I am as I help others do the same.
For the past months, I have been working with Wendy Doman on both my physical and emotional health. She gave me homework, and like many of my clients, I initially refused to do the homework. I knew what she was trying to accomplish and I understood the need cognitively. But understanding was not enough, I needed to act to really make a change.
Wendy told me to 1) look in the mirror every day and find something I love about myself and 2) to look in my own eyes and tell myself I love me. Makes sense right? Here were two easy ways to identify and proclaim self-love. But I didn’t want to do it. Like any important shift, at first I was resistant.
When I finally pushed aside the excuses and looked myself in the eyes, I changed. It was amazing. Not only did I shift emotionally but I shifted physically.
Without self-love we can not give love. Without self-love we are not truly living. Without self-love nothing we do matters. You can’t truly love someone, love life, or be loved, until you first love yourself.
No one can give you love without you first being open to receiving love. You have to gift yourself with love.
No possession, status, or job can give you love.
You have to give yourself the gift of love. Then you can receive more love and you can give more love.
Education is something I always invest in. What you learn you get to keep, no one can steal it. Same with self-love. No one can steal, break, or affect your self-love unless you let them. You own it. It is yours. It is your strength and foundation which, if you can embrace it, no one can tarnish it.
Take a few moments to look yourself in the eyes and embrace your self-love. Then join in my new mantra: “I love myself. I give love. I receive love. I am loved. I am love.” Love is what the world needs more of and it starts with you.