Sometimes the most difficult person to love in our lives is ourselves.
Several years ago, I was having dinner with a few good friends and we were discussing “self-care” It’s a trending topic these days and we were exploring ideas and concepts that were practical. The usual suspects emerged such as yoga, meditation, massages, spa treatments, etc.
These are all good things and I avail myself of them from time to time and I try to incorporate meditation in my daily life. However, something much more meaningful and profound was revealed.
After these discussions, it occurred to me that if I treated myself half as well as I treat my children, I’d be able to accomplish so much more out of life. For example, when it comes to my kiddos (ages 8 and 10), I make sure that I deliberately encourage them and give them a pep talk at the beginning of the day to do their best to stay positive and be mindful of others.
This generally occurs during that hole in the space-time continuum between breakfast and the time we actually make it to the car to take them to school. At night, just before they go to bed, I always ask them; “What was the most fun thing you did today?”
When they make mistakes, I remind them that they can always just start over and try again. I make a point to look in their eyes and tell them how much I love them multiple times a day, instead of throwing “I love you’s” from across the kitchen.
I make sure that they eat healthy foods, and that they get plenty of exercises (playtime) and I monitor what messages they hear on the radio and TV and work to shield them from negativity or too many messages that are inconsistent with our values.
At the first sign of an illness, I take them to the doctor and engage in myriad preventative health measures such as slathering them from head to toe in sunscreen. I even drive below the speed limit when they are in the car with me (not necessarily something I’m known for doing while driving alone).
When it comes to how I treated myself, however, there was a stark difference.
I rarely started the day by giving myself an encouraging pep talk. I was always too busy rushing about, and I rarely thought to remind myself about what the most fun thing I did that day was while getting ready for bed.
I never looked at myself and said I love you. I mean for real, who does that anyway?! It’s like some hokey SNL skit, right?!
Likewise, when I would make mistakes, I’d tend to dwell on them and how “stupid” I was for making them instead of just starting over and trying again. In fact, no one has ever talked to me as bad as I talked to myself.
I thought about eating healthy, but I wasn’t that intentional about it and I looked at exercise as a burden and not “playtime” that I get to spend having fun.
As far as monitoring what I listened to and watched and shielding myself from negativity, well, let’s just say I have a bit of a cynical side so I can feed on negativity like popcorn at a movie theater.
From a health perspective, I’d let a cough or aches and pains linger on for weeks or months before doing anything about it. I couldn’t tell you whether I was current on my tetanus shot, but I know the date and lot number for all my kiddos shots because they’re nicely organized in a Trello board labeled Children’s Health History.
Peeling back the layers, I had to ask myself, why do I treat my children the way I do? Why do I care for them, nurture them, encourage them, allow them to make mistakes, discipline them, protect them and all the many other loving actions I take? Well, because I love them, and those behaviors are consistent with the love I have for them.
So, if all of those actions and behaviors are consistent with “love” what are my actions and behaviors related to myself consistent with? Yeah, I didn’t like that answer either!
Confronted with these facts, I decided to make some changes and be more mindful about how I was treating myself.
And over the years I’ve decided that I need to continue treating myself like someone I love. Part of that is treating my body better and being intentional about how I feel and look.
Another part of it is also about encouraging myself to look at myself as a beautiful person, inside and out (I know, I know, there’s still a part of me rolling my eyes as I write this but it’s necessary behavior and it works).
Honestly, all I have to do is keep looking at myself the same way I look at my wife and children, no judgment, just love. It’s as simple and as difficult as that.
Make no mistake, this isn’t easy, at least it hasn’t been for me. I was actually surprised at how difficult it can be to treat myself with the same love and respect as I treat my wife and children.
But consistency makes it easier over time and the results have been extremely beneficial for my overall health and well being as well as my attitude towards myself and others.
I can’t say that I could’ve taken this particular journey ten years ago, I just wasn’t ready. But today, I’m on the road and that in itself has meaning.
And if I simply must ‘beat myself up’ over something, today I use a feather instead of a hammer.
To your success!