Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Toughen up and start liking yourself.

Life is tough. I hear that all of the time. And sometimes it is. But most times it is not life that is so tough, it that we have become so weak.

And why is that?  From what I observe, it is because most of us do not really like ourselves that much. We compare ourselves to others. We take to heart a meaningless, thoughtless comment made by someone in our past. We allow small things we did in the past to haunt us, years later, after everyone else has forgotten.  We beat ourselves up on a daily basis.  We are just never good enough. No wonder everything seems so hard.  We have beaten ourselves down and many have little left to give after that.

And the answer cannot be found in a therapy session or a pill. We need to toughen up. We need to be tough enough to like ourselves regardless of what someone else has or says or does.

Liking ourselves is hard work. It really is.  But I think that not loving ourselves enough is the basis for much of our sadness with life.

When is the last time you really gave yourself a break? When you said, I really like myself. When you forgave yourself for doing something foolish in the past. When you looked in the mirror and didn't only see the flaws, the weight gain, the wrinkles, the bad hair.  When you smiled.

I can remember years ago when my daughter was about 3. I took her for a haircut at the salon I go to on Newbury Street in Boston.  The stylist washed and cut her blonde hair and gave her a very stylish blow-dry. She looked beautiful. My daughter could not take her eyes off of herself. She preened in that mirror.  Everyone complimented her. She beamed.

But she does not do that anymore, even at age 12. It is sad to see her criticize herself, to not preen over herself anymore, to have outgrown some of  that wonder about herself. Perhaps that is part of growing up.  But I think it stinks. And leads to too much misery, self doubt and self loathing.

And that, in my opinion, is a real problem. And we need to stop it. We do. Because it is simply just bullshit.

So start having a love affair with yourself.  Muster up the strength somehow and just do it.

Today, just for one day, do not criticize yourself.  Think of something you really like about yourself. Make a "me" space and put something there you like to see. Something that sings to you, and only to you.

Stop trying to impress others and just impress yourself.  When you walk into a room, do  not worry if they will like you, wonder insead if you will like them, if they are worthy of your time.

If someone says something negative to you, hug yourself.  They are mean and they hurt your feelings and it is okay to sooth yourself or even to get mad----at them. Don't turn your anger onto yourself. Protect yourself with love for yourself.

Make the most of your looks. Quit beating yourself up over the weight you gained or the wrinkles you see. That is just the way our bodies age. They gain weight and they wrinkle. But that doesn't mean you aren't beautiful. That doesn't mean you should feel diminished. That doesn't mean you shouldn't love yourself.

Show your love for yourself in small ways. Take better care of yourself. Make small changes that add up, like walking more or having a glass of water instead of soda. Take a multivitamin every day. Buy yourself some flowers at the grocery store. Get a book about something that you enjoy at the library. And quit telling yourself that you don't have the time. Set a timer for 5 minutes and see what you can do in that time. You will be surprised.  Let go of the all or nothing thinking. You owe yourself just even 5 minutes of something that makes your heart sing. The other stuff can wait.

The truth is this; You, just YOU, are really all you have and all you will ever have. Sure, you can surround yourself with family and friends and pets and co-workers and that is lovely; but in the end it is just you and yourself . So don't waste your life not loving yourself. Be a good companion to yourself.  Keep yourself always in good company wherever you may go.

You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn't worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.
~~~Louise L. Hay

There is only one you for all time. Fearlessly be yourself.
~~~Anthony Rapp

Never explain--your friends do not need it, and your enemies will not believe you anyway.
~~~Elbert Hubbard

Sunday, August 7, 2011

When the life you live isn't the life you want.

Sometimes life really stinks. It is unfair, unjust, cruel and demanding. There are few smiles, warm feelings, nice people. There is too much suffering, too much illness, too much death.  The rich get richer, the poor get poorer and the people in-between aren't moving anywhere fast.  Sometimes you just want to run away.

The problem is, you can't.

You have a job, a house, some kids, a spouse, a dog. They all depend on you. And you depend on them.  They have jobs, friends and schools they go to. Family may live nearby. It all seems like it should seem nice, but you feel stuck. This isn't what you want even though everyone tells you how lucky you are.

You see friends and family members get divorced, lose close friends, lose jobs, become ill and even die.  You see their children in trouble. You hear their woes each time you talk with them and you are sympathetic, but there is nothing you can do to make it better. You suppose you should go home and count your blessings and appreciate things more.

But you don't.  Because you can't.

I think we all get to this place at one time or another in our lives. Or perhaps we have been this way for so long we don't remember feeling any other way.  We are just not happy. We are disappointed. We are mad. And we wonder, how did we get here in the first place?

We all have had big dreams at some point in our lives. Perhaps they started in grade school or in high school or college. We saw that there was so much more out there than we ever thought possible. And perhaps some of us went on to pursue our dream and made it big. But many who had big dreams had baggage that perhaps held them back.  Naysayers. People saying, "You can never achieve that, don't even try."  So they didn't. Or maybe they just held themselves back or started on their way to a life they thought they wanted but then out grew.

And now they find themselves feeling sad and stuck.

Many people try to find solace in a myriad of ways.  Some may actually up and leave.  Others may become so very empty that they have nothing to give and go through each day like a robot with little feeling.  Still others try to find the answers in exercise, drugs, alcohol, shopping, travel or religion. But they all still find themselves back in the same place after all is said and done. And nothing seems better. Nothing at all.

I wish I had the answer.  Of course I don't. I sometimes feel stuck myself. But I will tell you what gets me through each day and puts a smile on my face and a song in my heart.

It is death.

I know, that sounds so silly. But it is true.  Death has opened my eyes to life. I have seen so much death, so much sadness, so much misery.  Nothing really scares me anymore.  So every day that I am breathing and not in physical pain is a good day to try something new.  To get unstuck. To be happy.

We are all going to die.  Each and every one of us.  And everyone we know as well.  You may say that that is depressing.  But it isn't. It is life affirming. Death sits on our shoulder and speaks to us.  But we hardly ever listen.

It says that the days are already counted. That you need to keep moving forward.  It pushes you. But of course, you resist.  Change is scary. Taking risks?  Even worse. Easier just to do nothing. Just hold tight and wait.

But wait for what?  Another miserable day? Saving up for that long thought of dream that probably never will come to fruition? Telling yourself that now is not the right time? So, when exactly is the right time. Death would tell you that the time is now.

I see so many people who thought they had time to change the direction and focus of their life. I also have seen some who were right smack in the middle of a great thing and said that they had no regrets. But those patients are few and far between.  Most did have regrets and wondered why they never really lived the life they should have, could have; but now, most certainly won't.

So, next time you are feeling bad about your life, make a plan to escape.  A real plan. Then figure out a way to make it happen. It doesn't have to involve moving or winning the lottery or a magic spell.  Sometimes it just means pushing aside your fears and getting out of your own way. And starting small with changes that matter.

You may not get everything you have ever dreamed of, but perhaps you can take some of the sharp edges off of your life and start to reshape it into what you had one day dreamed it could be. So be brave and go. Push yourself. You really have nothing to lose.

Just ask my patients.

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.
~~~Mark Twain

The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.
~~~Paul Valery

Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.
~~~Maria Robinson

People spend a lifetime searching for happiness; looking for peace. They chase idle dreams, addictions, religions, even other people, hoping to fill the emptiness that plagues them. The irony is the only place they ever needed to search was within.
 ~~~Romana L. Anderson

Death whispers to me and says,"live." And so I do.
~~~J. Nelson

Monday, August 1, 2011

Be nice.

Ever had one of those days?  You know, the kind of day when no one seems to be in a good mood?

The clerk at the store was surly.  Your kids grumbled at you in the morning. The guy driving behind you honked and gave you the finger. Your friends seem to be complaining all of the time and the news you hear on TV just seems to be exceedingly bad.

So what is the best remedy for all of this madness?

Just be nice.

I know it is hard. You don't want to be nice.  People don't deserve it. It takes effort. People don't respond in kind.

But it is so worth it.  Because nice matters. It really does.

Nice is rather boring, I know.  All the new "celebrities" popping up on TV tell us that nice is for losers, because they are anything but. Many of the new TV shows that our kids are growing up on celebrate a culture of mean. The popular shows showcase the sarcastic, the wise-cracking and the foul mouthed.  We do live in a rather mean culture. And our kids are growing up thinking this is the norm.

Sad, but true.

So, we have to step up. We need to be the model of nice, not just for our kids, but for everyone that we encounter.

Many of us isolate ourselves with a wall of anger or indifference. We think that we are somehow protected that way.  But I think that just leads to loneliness.  And sadness. And often even despair.

So instead, protect yourself by being nice. Smile at people. Hold the door. Act respectful when someone has a different point of view.  Ask people how they are and actually listen when they respond. Hug your kids and tell them you love them when they growl and roll their eyes at you. Speak softly instead of yelling.

Being nice to people disarms them. Makes them pause. I know it never fails to impress me.

So, go ahead, try it.  Take one 24 hour day and make nice.  See how it makes other's feel. But more importantly, see how it makes you feel.

You may not be able to change the world, but you can change your world. And isn't that really all that matters anyway?

Don't be yourself - be someone a little nicer.  ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic's Notebook, 1966

When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

Don't wait for people to be friendly, show them how. ~Author Unknown

A bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives roses. ~Chinese Proverb