“Your outlook on life is a direct reflection on how much you like yourself.” ~Lululemon
Several months ago I wrote an article that sat for months without being published. A few weeks ago the editor emailed me to say how pleased she was with it and that it would post the following week.
Since I hadn’t thought about it in a while (and she’d sent me the preview link), I figured I’d check out her edits and re-read the post. As I sat back and took in what I wrote, I was genuinely astonished at how well done it was. I wrote that? It was amazing!
I remember being nervous at the time to send it in. Then, not hearing back for a while made me even more anxious. But after taking a few months away from it, I could see that yes, I was a very talented writer.
Sometimes it takes getting farther away from something to see it for what it really is. It’s that whole forest-for-the-trees thing. The same is true when it comes to how we see ourselves.
Sometimes we need a little distance to help us see things as they really are. (Because really, you’re wonderful.)
This got me thinking: How do you get farther away from yourself? As I’ve journaled and worked through my days, that question has been answered for me.
Doesn’t this seem like it’s the answer to everything? It does for me these days. Any problem I have seems to be solved by patience, and getting some distance is no exception.
My ego is usually the part of me that doesn’t want me to take risks and see myself for the star that I am. It wants to keep me from submitting my writing or taking that rock climbing class because if I fail, how embarrassing and horrible would that be?
Not all that terrible, it turns out. But only if you’re willing to sit around and wait for the response. It can be painful to hear other people’s criticisms, no matter how constructive, and sometimes, even compliments make us uneasy, but it’s even worse sitting around and waiting for it. My ego just wants to run the other way.
By practicing patience I am able to make it less about me and more about the task, which (surprise!) isn’t really about me at all. An article, a photo, a presentation, even cooking dinner can become an extension of myself if I’m not careful to sit within myself.
This helps me to understand that those are simply creations that have happened through my body, my vessel. With patience I am able to see those things for what they really are and appreciate them with detachment. It also makes criticism a heck of a lot easier too.
When I get into service mode, I really learn how to see my life as it truly is. It’s about a change in perspective. After I served homeless families Christmas dinners for a few years, the petty problems my family had didn’t seem to matter.
It also made me see how great my family dinners actually are. We’ve got a roof over our heads. We can take a nap on the couch if we ate too much. Life is beautiful and simple.
But this doesn’t just happen with big gestures. It’s all the tiny things too. My friend was filling up her tank the other day and I knew she wouldn’t take my cash, so I snuck it into her purse.
I imagined her later opening up her wallet. Maybe she’d notice it, or maybe it wouldn’t even register. That part didn’t matter. It was about me seeing through her eyes. And that change of perspective helps me to see a part of myself that wasn’t in focus before.
When we extend a hand, no matter how big or small, it offers us the chance to step outside ourselves for a minute and understand more of the big picture. And when we can do that, we see our role in it more clearly and are able to appreciate that (and ourselves) more readily.
Embrace other points of view.
Much like helping other people, seeing a different side to a story can help you see yourself more clearly. I remember speaking with a close friend about suicide when I was younger. I was lamenting how terrible and selfish it was when she spoke up that perhaps that soul just wasn’t ready for this world.
Instead of immediately discarding her point, I was struck by how it had never occurred to me. While I marinated on it for the next few days I really got a chance to consider myself from a different angle. Was I compassionate toward myself and give myself permission to have differing, sometimes even contradicting opinions? Did I encourage myself to open up like my friend did?
I could see that yes, sometimes I did, and I congratulated myself for that in a way that I couldn’t have done before. But beyond seeing myself in a different light, it also opened me up to the fact that I can have more than one feeling about something and that that was okay.
In fact, it showed me that it’s important to honor all parts of myself. I felt more whole and free after that.
We can all benefit from listening and considering other points of view. Even if we don’t agree, it can give us a chance to consider if we’re honoring all parts of ourselves. And that is truly a blessing.
Live in the moment.
This sort of seemed like a contradiction to me at first. If we’re living in the moment, in our bodies, how on earth can we see ourselves more clearly? How exactly are we getting farther away? I realized, however, that when I’m truly present with what I’m doing and in my body, that I am much more connected to the world and those around me than when I’m multitasking and running around like a headless chicken.
For instance, the other day I was listening to a class and trying to do some home improvement at the same time. I dropped what I was trying to hang on the wall and started feeling sorry for myself. Now I had to stop and fix everything and replay the part of the class I missed. I was so completely stuck in my own world that I couldn’t see that I was getting in my own way.
On the other hand, I was raking the yard last weekend and was making an attempt to be in the moment. When I realized that I needed to water the trees and flowers as well, I stopped. I told myself I could do that after I finished putting the leaves in the compost because they’d get wet if I didn’t. Because I was present in my body, I could see what was around me and was able to make better decisions.
When we're not present, we're on autopilot. We make choices without even realizing we're affecting our futures. If you can try to stay present, you're able to see those choices you're about to make and slow them down. This helps you see yourself differently.
That autopilot choice to pull into the fast food joint: Is that really what my body wants or am I choosing what has been put in front of me? That mindless judgment you've made about someone in line at the coffee shop: Is this really how you feel or are you masking emotions like jealousy or anger?
Most of us struggle with seeing things from a different perspective. And many of us have to really work to view ourselves in a new light or give ourselves positive feedback. I know I do.
I hope that considering a few of these tactics will make it easier for you to pat yourself on the back and widen your horizons. It certainly has for me.
Photo by Justin Scott Campbell