Do unto yourself as you would do unto others. And love yourself as your neighbor.
No, I assure you that’s not a typo.
In working with high achievers, I get to meet amazing people. These are people I admire and look up to. So I’m always surprised to see how hard they can be on themselves.
Like most of the things I write about, this is my story too. My inner critic can get overbearing at times. So one of the things I’ve been working on is to love myself as I love others.
For example, when my husband makes a mistake I forgive him and move on quickly. But when I screw up, it can take days to move on. Recognizing this pattern inspired me to practice the reverse golden rule. It’s been helpful to me so it’s time to share it with you.
The other week I was talking to a friend about relationships. I said, “I don’t think we can be happy in our relationships until we’re happy with ourselves.”
External validation can make us feel secure at the moment, but it doesn’t lead to long-term contentment. Truly feeling good about ourselves and our relationships comes from within.
I continued to think about that conversation for the next few days. While I believe what I said without a doubt, I realized that I wasn’t comfortable with myself until I had been married for close to a decade.
Part of that was age, wisdom, and maturity. But I feel like a big part of my self-acceptance was being loved unconditionally by my husband. Having a safe place where I knew that someone would be there no matter how bad I screwed up, nurtured a sense of belonging. My marriage became a place where I could open up, trust someone, and be myself without the fear of being punished or shamed.
I fully believe that we must love ourselves before we can best love others. But at the same time, we need to be open to letting others love us well. As Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen said, “One moment of unconditional love may call into question a lifetime of feeling unworthy and invalidate it.” We all need to give and get unconditional love.One moment of unconditional love may call into question a lifetime of feeling unworthy and invalidate it. Click To Tweet
After reflecting on my (continuing) journey to self-acceptance, I began to ponder when my inner critic first moved in. Sadly, she’s been there as far back as I can remember.
There are a lot of wonderful things about how I’m naturally wired. There are also some not so wonderful things. For example, I’m naturally a very organized and detailed person. The dark side of those traits is that I’ve always struggled with perfectionism. As a result, I spent most of my life feeling that I was never quite good enough.
Then I became an adolescent and a teenager. Everyone I’ve talked to about these years has shared how awkward they were for them.
So many of us were insecure and projected that onto others through teasing. Most of us were teased ourselves. All of this compounded to make our feelings of not-enough even worse.
Real Girls, Real Pressure: A National Report on the State of Self-Esteem reported that seven in ten girls believed they were not good enough or did not measure up in some way, including their looks, performance in school, and relationships with friends and family members.
This isn’t exclusive to girls. According to a study published in APA’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology®, self-esteem increases during adolescence, then slows in young adulthood, but contrary to popular belief, there is no significant difference between men’s and women’s self-esteem during either of these life phases.
Growing up was hard for all of us. Most of us didn’t have the maturity or tools to deal with these challenges. But as adults, we have so many resources available to us.
So where do we begin?
The Importance of Self-Care
Over the past seven years, as I learned to take care of myself, I learned an important lesson. We can only care for others as much as we care for ourselves. If I’m feeling crappy about myself, I’m much more likely to snap at my husband. If I’m feeling fulfilled and accomplished, I’m much more supportive and encouraging to the people I love.
Caring for ourselves means intentionally setting aside time to nurture our minds, bodies, and souls. That means eating well, moving our bodies, hydrating, and getting enough rest. It also means making space for reading, prayer, meditation, journaling, and connecting with others.
Self-care is the first step to loving yourself well.
Self-Talk and the Reverse Golden Rule
Another thing I realized on my journey is that I would never say some of the things I say to myself to others. Not even to someone I don’t particularly care for. This is where you can use the reverse golden rule.
The first step is to learn to recognize negative self-talk. Then ask yourself if you would say those things to someone else. If the answer is no, do unto yourself as you do unto others. Apologize, give yourself a compliment, and move on.“Friendship with oneself is all important because without it one cannot be friends with anyone else in the world.” – Eleanor Roosevelt Click To Tweet
How comfortable do you feel when you’re alone?
When I look back, I don’t know that I was ever truly alone growing up. I may have felt lonely, but there was always something to fill the quiet voids. Those of us who grew up in the western world had plenty of vices to dull the uneasiness of being alone.
This is especially true today with our technology and smartphones. With the swipe of a finger, we can feel like we’re connected to the entire outside world. This isn’t always a good thing. But it’s a great example of how we avoid feeling alone.
One of the things I sometimes miss about having a real job is traveling and having someone else pay for me to date myself. I miss the sound of complete silence when walking into a hotel room I have all to myself. I miss taking myself out to dinner and enjoying a couple of glasses of wine and a good book.
I’ve been able to replicate those times when my husband’s away on business. I often make myself a nice dinner, enjoy a glass of wine and a good book. Last summer I took it a step further and began a solo quest to visit every state park in Minnesota. That’s when I learned what it really means to be alone.“People are hard to hate close-up. Move in.” – Brene Brown Click To Tweet
You know how when you meet someone new and your feelings for them expand as you spend more time getting to know them? The same is true for yourself. The more time you spend alone, the better you’ll get to know yourself, and the more you’ll like that person you’re with.
Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, I think you’ll benefit from spending time alone. Taking time to withdraw and reflect is vital to our physical, emotional, and spiritual health. This podcast from Rob Bell does an excellent job showing the importance of alone time and self-care.
If you’re not used to being alone, it might feel uncomfortable at first. I remember when I started traveling for work. It felt weird walking into a restaurant and asking for a table for one. Today, I don’t think twice about it. I’ve learned to enjoy this special time.
Set the intention to head out and enjoy some quality alone time each month. Grab dinner and a movie, or go for a hike. Do something you enjoy alone and eventually, it will be something you look forward to.Be alone. Eat alone, take yourself on dates. You will figure out what inspires you, curate your dreams and beliefs. When you meet the person who makes your cells dance, you will be sure of it, because you are sure of yourself. Click To Tweet
Trust the Process and Yourself
You can’t change who you are, where you came from, or past mistakes. Learn to let go and be okay with where you are. All those years of self-criticism haven’t helped you. Maybe you should be kind to yourself instead.
Striving for perfection is futile. It doesn’t exist and the chase never ends.
Be patient with yourself. It took _____ (insert your age) years of listening to your inner critic to get here. We can’t expect things to change overnight. Celebrate your small wins and enjoy the journey.
Don’t worry about what you are not or what you are striving to become. You are perfectly wonderful just as you are. This post has some great resources to guide you on your journey.“There is nothing to prove and nothing to protect. I am who I am and it's enough.” – Richard Rohr Click To Tweet
Learning to love yourself as your neighbor starts by making the choice. Make a conscious effort each day to treat yourself as well as you treat others no matter what. You’ll enjoy a new level of confidence and contentment as you make progress on your journey.
The choice is up to you. You can stay where you are, or learn to love the unique and wonderful you.“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection” ― Sharon Salzberg Click To Tweet