“Love yourself—accept yourself—forgive yourself—and be good to yourself, because without you the rest of us are without a source of many wonderful things.” ~Leo F. Buscaglia
You mean I am a source of many wonderful things?
Yes. Actually you are. Own up to it.
Leo has it right.
1. Love yourself.
Despite all the things that you think may be terribly wrong with you, love yourself. Love yourself.
Tattoo it on your brain.
I can think of so many reasons why you should love yourself, but here’s just one: It is incredibly dull and uninspiring to be around people who do not love themselves.
I spent many years being anorexic and feeling like I was a monster. I’m sure I was not much fun to be around and I also know that I didn't book any of the acting jobs I was trying to land. It is very challenging to hire someone or love someone who fights you by holding up a mirror of hatred toward themselves.
Here’s my challenge for you today: Take a picture of your face and remember that in 10 years time you will be amazed at how gorgeous you were. Be amazed now.
Identify something about you that you may not adore and find a way to at least laugh at it or like it, even a little bit.
I have profound hearing loss; in fact, I am almost deaf and wear hearing aids. I have ringing in my ears 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Does it drive me mad most days? Yes. However, it is here to stay, and I have learned that I can make light of it or sit home and feel sorry for myself because I am missing out on what feels like everything.
Either way the choice is mine to make. I have also learned that because of my hearing loss, my other senses are highly attuned. I am more compassionate because of it. I am a healer.
I have turned something I don’t necessarily “love” having into another piece in the puzzle of me, and part of why I love that puzzle.
Instead of thinking “I am an incomplete human being because I can’t hear perfectly,” I think “I am an incredible human being with a profound sense of touch and understanding and a huge capacity for love. I am also awesome at reading lips. So there.”
What can you love about yourself today that you may have struggled with before?
Can you find a way to cultivate the opposite? According to Pantajali’s Yoga Sutra 2.33, “When the mind is disturbed by improper thoughts constant pondering over the opposites is the remedy.”
2. Forgive yourself.
I lead a meditation in my workshops on forgiveness, and every time, without fail, people start crying. Almost everyone in the room will have at least shed a tear. This leads me to believe that we are all indeed connected, a union—which is what the word Yoga means.
The human experience is so similar, and yes, I know the details are vastly different, and that the devil lies in the details, but we still share the same weight on our shoulders. That weight would be diminished if we chose to forgive instead of harboring guilt or anger.
People cry most in my workshops when we do the meditation on forgiving yourself. Most likely it’s because we are hardest on ourselves.
What can you forgive yourself for today?
I forgive myself for saying “I hate you” to my father right before he died when I was eight years old. I carried it around for many years and let it color my life a dark airless color.
I forgive myself for not being perfect.
This shift occurred was when I was finally able to let go of my eating disorder. We often hold ourselves to impossible standards and end up feeling bad.
Ask yourself honestly, “What can I forgive myself for?”
Sometimes it takes simply saying it aloud or writing it down to realize that you actually no longer need to bear the brunt of it.
3. Be good to yourself. Do things that you inspire you daily.
Make a list. Grab your iPad or your notepad or even your hand and draw up a list of things you can do today to make you feel good.
Keep adding to the list. Forgive yourself if you skip a couple and love yourself no matter how long or short the list is and how much you accomplish on it.
You will not be graded or tested on this list.
My list involves a lot of laughing. My “Feel Good” list also has: my yoga practice, teaching yoga classes, writing, a long leisurely dinner with friends, having a great glass of wine, staying up all night reading a book I cannot put down, being with kids who have special needs and teaching them yoga, poetry, Modern Family, skyping with my nephews, and the list goes on.
Do something every single day that makes you feel good, whether it is changing your thought patterns or taking a bath while reading a magazine in the tub.
Maybe it’s getting an extra hour of sleep or staying up late and watching Pretty Woman for the 50th time.
Pleasure and joy are highly underrated and beating ourselves, up highly overrated. Flip it! Cultivate the opposite.
One of my main rules as a yoga teacher is that if you fall, you must laugh and take down your neighbor, which cultivates a sense of humor, and hopefully a little joy. You need at least a little joy daily. Sprinkle it on your cereal, slip it in your downward facing dog, add it to your pinot noir.
Accept that you are indeed the source of many wonderful things. If you need help remembering what they are from time to time, keep making your feel good lists. Keep coming back to the love that is inherently yours. It is your birthright. And so it is.
Whatever it takes. Just do it.
A student told me after she returned from my July Ojai retreat that she wanted to live her life every day as if she was still on the retreat. And why shouldn’t she? What a revelation! What a revolution of the mind.
Be good to yourself. You will train other people to do the same.
And guess what? If they aren’t good to you, you will still have your old standby who is always good to you: YOU. Pretty much what matters most at the end of the day. You being good to you. The rest will follow.
Remember the 90’s En Vogue song, with the lyrics “Free your mind, the rest will follow”?
It will. So get up and dance.
Photo by allyaubry