February is Fall in Love Month!
Welcome to Part 1: Let the Courtship Begin…With You!
Falling in Love with Yourself
This is the hardest thing for most of us. I get a chance to work with such amazing people both in my coaching and speaking work, and I’m always amazed at how hard people are on themselves. It’s something I relate to myself. What I notice is how that totally kills off the opportunity to experience our most vibrant selves and live our lives as fully as we would like.
Here are some favorite principles of mine that I find invaluable both in my own personal work, as well as my work with my clients.
1) Move from Criticism to Curiosity
W.C. Fields once wrote, “I never act with kids or animals.” No wonder why, they’re curious about everything and therefore you can’t keep your eyes off of them. You find their curiosity for life utterly compelling. Well guess what? Somewhere down the road, your curiosity got “socialized” into criticism, perhaps trading it in for cynicism, self-condemnation, rational thinking, the list goes on forever (yawn!) and you fall out of love with yourself.
No worries, you can get back on track. Get curious! Just like you’d offer your rapt attention to hearing about a fabulous cruise to Alaska, or the latest gossip in Hollywood, direct that interest to yourself. When we get curious about ourselves, our thoughts, behaviors and actions, we can move forward and grow.
I don’t mean paralysis-analysis or excessive naval gazing. I mean pure curiosity. It’s an expanded state where we open our imagination and enlist the hippocampus, our brain buddy who loves to solve problems and provide solutions. If we are focused on criticism of self and others, the stress hormones (cortisol, for one) have a hay day and our energy plummets. When you have a challenge or a setback rather than criticizing yourself, get curious. I love the key phrases, “Fascinating,” “Curious,” “Interesting.” Just saying them out loud actually frees me up. For example, I had a fair amount of resistance writing today. I had a case of what I call “The Grumbles.” My inner self-talk said, “Grumble, grumble, will anyone read this? Grumble, Grumble. I’ve already put in a full week. Grumble, Grumble.”
Need I go on? If I didn’t get curious, I would have stayed in Excuseville or went down the “whirling dervish of crapdom,” (my client identified that her as her negative spiraling self-talk). Instead I got curious about the Grumbles, even had a little chuckle, visualizing them as little creatures burrowing themselves in my unconscious, not unlike those brilliant animated characters on the Mucinex commercial. I realized that I’m just hitting some resistance as I am working on creating a more active dialogue with my online community. Fifteen minutes of writing later, I am reminded of my love affair with learning and sharing and contributing.
This week’s life work: Take a criticism break this week and whatever comes down the pike, embrace it with a spirit of curiosity with yourself and others (even if that means getting curious about your Itty Bitty Committee, those scrappy self-sabotaging thoughts going on in your mind). Be genuinely interested whether you have a solution or not. Check in with your body, spirit and see how different you feel.
2) I’m not perfect…but some of my parts are excellent!
I saw this on a T-Shirt many moons ago, and it has stayed with me. It’s just too easy to focus on our personal challenges, handicaps and poor habits. This just brings more of the same; self-doubt, condemnation and remaining stuck. Now there’s nothing wrong with working on one’s self and totally striving towards growth and development but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about chronic self-condemnation, or judgment. How do you remedy that? By focusing on what aspects of yourself are quite wonderful and you appreciate.
3) Write a Self-Appreciation Log
While I’m a huge fan of a gratitude list and I do write one almost every day, I say, step it up to a Self-Appreciation Log.
Close your eyes and check in with your energy. Flat, Fired up, or Fried? Then open your eyes, and write a list of 10 things to appreciate yourself for. It could be that you are a good friend, went the extra mile that day for a co-worker, or you finished a project that you’ve been dragging your heels with for 3 months. It doesn’t matter. Write the list, then close your eyes and breathe, and notice how different you feel. You may feel confronted, self-appreciated, or delighted but it will definitely shake things up in a great way.
4) Mindfulness is a must!
I started a practice several years back and it has made a huge difference in my life. I call it my Power Prep, and it is a grab bag of anywhere from 1-7 spiritual/self-care practices that I chose to start my day with. It’s very flexible, and can range from journaling, meditation, spiritual reading, affirmations, dancing, visualizations, gratitude list, etc. I pick which one or a few that speak to me, and don’t make it into a project. When I do my partner Charlie calls out, “Hey you’re making it a project, get on with your day already!”
My favorite motto, “The faster your outer world is, the slower your inner world needs to become” really addresses this. Having some mindfulness practices allows us greater presence and passion in our life, so we can appreciate ourselves.
I find that finding an opportunity to do some form of selfless service with no agenda of reciprocity is extraordinary for not only helping people around us but also shifts how we experience ourselves. If you’re tapped out in the volunteer/advocacy/caretaking realm, don’t sweat it. Do something really simple. Open a door for someone. Help an old person across the street. I have a client who buys several pairs of really reasonable gloves and then hands them out to homeless people.
This week let yourself fall in love with yourself, most likely many people in your life already love you! I would love to hear your thoughts, and comments!