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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Loving Yourself- The Biggest Key to Living a Simple Life

If you do nothing else on your quest towards simplicity in this life, learn to love yourself. That is not as easy as it sounds. It doesn't mean that you love everything you do & it also doesn't mean you never accept correction. In fact, when you love & are confident in yourself, then you're able to accept constructive criticism in a positive way. You can use it to make the you that's already lovable an even better being. You can never truly love others in a healthy, balanced manner if you don't first love & accept yourself. I say this not only to women but to every single person on the planet. Men suffer from self-hatred, too, and it isn't just about the body. Lots of issues can lead to self-hatred. It's often an attitude picked up early on in life & becomes an unconscious habit. A lack of self-love is the reason behind our most destructive relationships with others. It causes friction because you'll take every little critique too personally- loving yourself doesn't allow for insecurity, you see. It leads you to accept abuse & mistreatment that you don't deserve. It keeps you from moving forward because you won't believe you're good enough to get improvement in your life. You will be uncertain about accepting great opportunities because your confidence is non-existent. It causes procrastination, fear, loss & sadness. It's a lose-lose proposition to hate yourself.

If you're like me, you know all too well that you'll be working until you go to your grave to become a better person. Joyce Meyer, a television preacher whom I consider to be a spiritual mother to me (though I've never met her), has said that God hasn't stopped working on her yet, and she's around seventy years old. This has nothing to do with religion, though I think when you're on a spiritual journey of any sort, you answer the call of self-improvement more easily. However...the work of self-improvement cannot be done without excessive mental stress unless there first exists love for oneself. This love has to stand firmly in place regardless of the weight, size, age, hair color, eye color, skin tone, race or anything else that you possess. It has to be there whether you're in a great romantic relationship, single, widowed, looking for love but haven't yet found it or in any other love life scenario. Self-love has to exist in the midst of any failings which you believe that you have. It must stay steady when the house is dirty, the beds are unmade, you feel dull & listless, when you're depressed or anxious. Self-love helps you get past the bad feelings & move on fast. You'll say, "Well, the house is dirty now, but in two hours, I'll have it gleaming." "The beds aren't made this moment, but I'll get them done & in ten minutes the bedrooms will all look lovely again." "I may feel a little blue today, but it's just a mood. I'll get over it. I'm going for a walk to look at the beauty of nature & get out of this funk." "In a year I won't even be able to recall what I'm worrying about now. The best days of my life are yet to come!" Self-love eliminates wallowing in self-pity! You recognize that there are times you'll feel down on yourself, but because you've made a decision to love yourself, you will purposely find something within you that's good to look at. You focus on that goodness, always building on your strengths while attempting to minimize your weaknesses. It can't just exist when you feel you've met a certain level of standards. It has to carry you through both your darkest hours & your brightest.

My own self-love has existed through job loss, financial problems, physical disability, all kinds of severe pain, weight gain, weight loss, romantic loss, friendship issues- you name it. I take blows & feel sorrow just like anyone else. I know that if I lose everything else, I will not lose the belief that I'm lovable JUST AS I AM. This love isn't based on what I do for a living, how I look or the amount of money in my bank account. I know sometimes I'm solely to blame for my problems & then I have to accept the consequences of my actions. But no matter what is going on, I'm always glad to be myself. I may not have a figure which people covet, but I have a lovely face, so I make the best of that. I wear clothes that flatter my Nordic coloring & hourglass-shaped full figure. I get my thick hair cut in a nice style every other month. I wear pretty jewelry. I paint my nails when I need a pick-me-up. I put on makeup & see what lovely blue eyes I have. Now I could say, "I hate myself! I have a body people think is ugly, and therefore that means I'm completely ugly! I'll never be beautiful! I'm worthless. I'm not good enough for a decent man, a good job or love to come along until I get to my perfect size. I have to work out every single day & get this weight off, or I'll never be happy!" It sounds kind of stupid in writing, doesn't it? Yet day after day, I meet people with this exact attitude. They have chosen self-hatred as their way of life. They think they're ugly, so they usually do nothing to make themselves look beautiful. They only see their flaws. Even if they have a beautiful feature, they're blind to it. This is tragic. It can & often does create addictions and/or illnesses. Addiction to speed, alcohol or other drugs can stem from this hatred. Anorexia, bulimia & depression are common reactions for the decision to despise oneself. Sadly doctors, Hollywood celebrities & unhelpful family members can just exacerbate the situation. Without self-love, you'll only agree with their derision & continue the cycle of destruction. Let me make myself clear- you can either love yourself or you can hate yourself, but you can't do both. Fence-sitting on this issue isn't possible. I may sometimes wish I was thinner, taller or richer, but I never want to be anyone else but myself.

I ultimately know that someday this body of mine will be nothing but ashes or bones sitting in a coffin some day. It's a vehicle to get around in & I'm grateful to have it, flaws & all. If I was to spend all my time trying just to improve this body, hating any perceived flaws on it, what a terrible waste of time that would be. I've said for years, I may have fat legs- but I sure am glad I've got legs at all. I'm grateful to be able to walk. Not everyone is so lucky. There are people in this world who'd give all they own to have a leg or legs again. Think about this the next time you get critical about your body or something else you have that's imperfect in your eyes. Maybe you hate your abs. But do your internal organs in the abdominal region work well together, sitting in your gastrointestinal system? Are you free of disease in that area? If so, say a prayer of thanks for this. There are people with cancer, for example, who are not so fortunate. My legacy is not in my body size, shape or weight. It may be a feature people remember about me, but I pray it won't be the only thing they remember. It's up to you whether you make self-love your legacy, something people will remark on when you die or not. I guarantee you that self-hatred is a waste of time, it often puts people in an early grave & can set a dangerous example for others. It makes people shake their head in sadness for you. I believe that when I face my Maker at the end of my life, He isn't going to care about the dress size I wore. He'll ask me if I loved others as I loved myself. He'll ask me if I taught people how to love or if I taught them how to hate. He'll call me to account for the knowledge I had but did or did not share. He'll ask me if I spent a life gaining wisdom & showing love, or if I spent a self-centered existence with my face constantly focused on my reflection in a mirror. I may not have a Heaven to go to. But I'm not taking any chances. I want to be able to look God in the face & say, "Father, I'm flawed, but I kept getting back up & tried to do my best to be excellent. I loved myself, I loved others & I tried to teach them about love. I know I'm sometimes wrong & wasn't always a perfect teacher, but I tried to reach out & help others achieve their best life while gaining peace of mind."   

Self-love isn't built overnight. It's a decision you must make, a conscious one that you must make & then choose to keep building on over the years. Self-love is what picks you back up when you've fallen. It's a lifestyle choice, to be honest. You must be willing to love yourself even when other people are telling you (in one way or another) that you're not lovable just as you are. This can be people you know, or more commonly, you'll read disparaging remarks about certain characteristics people have in magazines. I'm not talking about characteristics which can be changed & are really harmful to others, like gossiping. I'm speaking about characteristics such as having a body shape, size or weight that's not in vogue (and which cannot easily be changed). It's amazing what people will say in print, things that they'd never have the nerve to say in public, isn't it? It's also astounding how often these things are written without a second thought by that writer of whose feelings might be hurt by casual, snide comments.

On the other end of the spectrum, self-love involves being willing to make changes when they're needed. We all have issues that we need to work on. Maybe we're self-centered & dominate conversations too often. Perhaps we get up too late every day for work & rarely show up on time to the job. You get my drift. Self-love means you're pressing on towards excellence at all times & in all places. It doesn't mean striving for perfection, but you are striving to do what you know in your heart to be right. You make the decision to do the ethical thing even when the unethical choice would be easier or "get you in" with a person you want a favor from. You do nice things for others even when you realize they won't notice & you'll get no praise from anyone for it at all. You decide you're going to make changes to your lifestyle so that you can get up in time & show up for work when you are scheduled to- even when it's hard & even when no one is looking. Whatever your particular flaws or changes are, you continually work in love to make yourself just a little bit better. Self-love encourages one to seek out wisdom & knowledge. People with low self-esteem are often afraid of gaining knowledge because they don't have a firm foundation within themselves that allows them to absorb this learning. It may be a paradox, but you have to be confident in who you are already (and act like it) while knowing you must keep alert to self-improvement opportunities. Listen to the language you use regarding yourself around others. If you say you're lazy, chances are you will be. I've often shaken my head at how many people I've heard say, "I'm so fat/ugly/crazy/bad/stupid", and then wonder why they don't feel good about themselves! Logic in, logic out. If you nasty things about yourself, you are probably dead-wrong, but you may start to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. How many people feel badly about themselves in error, then add to their troubles by stopping their regular grooming, for example? People get told they're fat & ugly by one idiotic person, so they get depressed. In extreme cases, they stop washing their hair, their face, their body. They stop putting on makeup, nail polish, jewelry or nice clothing. When people say good things about them, they refute it. Even if they have the money, they won't spend it on a salon service or item they need for themselves. This is a tragedy! Never let somebody steal your joy from you in this way. Life is too short- we will all be in our graves before we know it. As we get older, most of us say the years just keep going by faster & faster. Don't let those precious years slip away from you due to self-hatred! Whatever or whomever made you feel this way, they're not worth it. This much I can promise you.

What does this have to do with simplicity? Self-love is simpler to live with than self-hatred. It's just that basic. There are many forms of self-hatred beyond what I've discussed here, but this is applicable regardless of the source of the problem. Self-love creates peace in the mind. It makes one easier to get along with. Others don't have to tiptoe around you when you're not insecure. This one lifestyle choice impacts every interaction you will ever have with other human beings. Self-hatred is the biggest thief of happiness. It destroys the soul, poisons the mind & rots the tongue. Self-hatred soon spreads to hating others. It's inevitable. I'm no fool- I know I can't reach every single reader & teach them to love themselves. But if I reach just one of you by this blog, then I'm happy. I hope more than anything that you'll make it your life's mission to love yourself, love others & if you believe in Him, to love God. If you aren't religious, it still doesn't affect my message. Love is the easier path every time. It may seem harder at first (especially if you're used to self-hatred), but it's an example of a "tortoise and the hare" situation at work. Love always reaches the finish line- hatred never can. Hatred may work hard & quickly for awhile all right, but it'll never win any prize. The finish line in this case is a life well-lived, full of joy, full of compassion, full of giving. Hatred is incapable of such things. A simple life leaves no room for that which is despicable, including envy & greed. At your grave, do you want a group of people standing there to say about you, "They were so critical of themselves. They were always putting themselves down. They were never happy with themselves & never happy with others. How much joy they missed out on. They just couldn't appreciate the blessings given to them. How incredibly sad..." I doubt that you want this to become your future if you're reading this. Choose today for it not to become your reality. Make self-love your legacy today & every day to come.

Here's to being a well-loved organized minimalist,

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