100,000 Ways To Love Yourself

100,000 Ways To Love Yourself

I used to be quite good at letting myself down. Promises and commitments made to others were always easier to keep than the promises and commitments I would make to myself. 

I’ve often heard that you can’t love others until you learn how to love yourself. Yet some of the kindest, most compassionate and loving people I know often struggle with treating themselves the way they so instinctively treat others.

Much of this stems from a distorted sense of worth and self-image. For those, we see them so differently from the way they see themselves. It feels like something a great many have quietly struggled with in differing degrees. I know I’ve had my challenges. We know who we really are, we tell ourself, and often we struggle showering the person who we tell ourselves we are with the same kindness and compassion we freely give away to others.

For me, not keeping commitments to myself was one of my ways of not showing myself the love. It was my way of subconsciously me keeping me more like I’ve always been. Setting goals and actually accomplishing them would make me a different person, different from the person I’ve always accepted myself to be. Letting myself down was just my way of self-regulating and keeping me who it was I told myself I was.

Five years ago I presented myself with a challenge. A challenge of commitment. A challenge of commitment to myself. Something simple. Something I would always have time to do. Something I knew I could perform which meant that the only reason why didn’t do it was because I chose not to.

Push ups.

Every day.

Equal in number to my age.

For five years.

100,000 push ups.

I wasn’t good at push ups. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do 50+ push ups all at once. I’d certainly have to break it up into several sessions per day. But this was the challenge I presented myself with. I called myself out. If I couldn’t find the time to do my push ups every day, why would I think I’d be able to keep any other more meaningful and significant commitments in my life? Like, Pete, if you can’t do this, don’t waste any more time thinking that you’ll ever be anything more than you already are. 

And with that, I started. It wasn’t easy at first, but I kept with it. I kept track of my progress on the whiteboard I have at home. The number of consecutive days and the total number of push ups completed. The entire family knew of my commitment and now they could graphically see if I was actually keeping my commitment to myself.

It was a significant test for me to learn about keeping commitments made to myself. A test that would tell me about who I really was. A test that would tell my family about who I really was.

Five years later? 100,000 push ups completed. The only thing that temporarily interrupted my consecutive days streak was a debilitating case of sciatica which rendered me physically useless. I’d accomplished 1,438 consecutive days of push ups before my injury. But I was back at it as soon as I was able to move again, doing extra push ups each day to get me back on track.

Sure, there were days I didn’t feel like doing them. There were days I had gone to bed only to realize I had yet to do my push ups that day. So I got out of bed and hit the floor to do them. Even the day of my knee surgery I made sure I did my push ups before going to the hospital and was able to prop myself up in a manner that allowed me to do them during my recovery. Without missing a day.

Because I promised myself I would.

Commitment and disciple aren’t glamorous. But they are the cornerstone of building anything worth building. Especially when it comes to building a healthier relationship with yourself.

My relationship with me has, in fact, changed. I was quite accomplished at telling myself what I was going to do and never quite actually doing it. Now, there is a much healthier level of self respect. I undertook a five year commitment and completed the task. I kept my word to me, 100,000 times, and with that I learned that I could trust me. With me. Something I had a difficult time doing previously.

It was a significant step in my growing more into who it was I was created to be. Possibilities now feel far more possible.

I still do my daily push ups. It’s simply become a daily habit. It serves as a reminder of the impact taking small consistent steps in your own direction can have in building a new identity about who you believe yourself to be and being worthy of the corresponding self love that comes with it.

That wasn’t my intention.

But that has been the outcome.

What about you? How is your relationship with you? Perhaps there’s one thing you can challenge yourself to do for you to improve your relationship with you?

Emotional Baggage and The Habit Of Self Compassion

Emotional Baggage and The Habit Of Self Compassion

Off come the shoes. And then the belt. Wallet, keys, phone, coins placed in a little tray on the conveyor belt and through the machine they go. I get to walk, shoeless, through my own machine, being scanned just like my personal belongings are. Just to make sure I’m not bringing anything dangerous with me on my journey.

Welcome to the airport.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have such a machine at home? A machine that would scan you as you left the house to start the new day. Scanning you to see if you’re carrying anything dangerous with you into the new day.

Not like a knife, or a gun, or a concealed explosive.

I’m talking about thoughts and emotions.

Which, at times, can also be rather dangerous.

Emotional baggage. The unfortunate carry-on. Often we don’t even know we’re carrying it. Probably because we’ve been carrying it for so long it just feels natural. The anger, the frustration, the narrative. Usually we just mindlessly take it with us as we start the journey of each new day.

For many years I was too angry and too frustrated to notice how angry and frustrated I was. A combination of anger, frustration, fear, doubt, and worry were readily present to some degree. The “feedback” of others was never welcomed, it was simply dismissed because I was the only one who understood my journey which somehow validated the baggage I was carrying.

Until I got past that “logic”, the baggage was never going to be put down. Until I was able to see and understand what was going on inside of me I was never going to own it. Until you own it, you’re never going to try and fix it. Because you don’t think it’s you who is broken.

One of the greatest gifts I’ve ever given myself has been the gift of compassionate self-awareness. The ability to compassionately look into myself and actually notice what I’m carrying with me. Good or bad. And not judging myself for carrying it. Self-awareness is in many ways just like the security screening at the airport. It’s allows me to see the concealed stuff I’m carrying with me, the stuff that could be emotionally dangerous.

Self-awareness isn’t always easy. It’s a process. An intentional process. Often, though, our self discovery is met with a non-compassionate response. How often do we habitually get mad at ourselves for feeling the way that we do? How often does our inner voice simply beat us down for somehow not being better, for us not being able to deal with what we are dealing with?

A more compassionate response? That took me some time to learn, and I’m still learning. It doesn’t change what is, but it changed how I dealt with what is. I now attempt to respond to myself in the same manor I would respond to a good friend. It sounds simple, yet we are often much harder on ourselves than we ever are on our friends.

I can assure you I still at times get caught up in the moments of anger, frustration, fear, doubt, and worry. I’m just now better being able to respond to them when they do arise.

How do you respond to you when life is getting the better of you? Have you ever simply stepped back and noticed how you respond? Is the anger met with more anger? Does the frustration make you more frustrated? Once we know how we respond we can decide how we can choose to respond going forward.

It’s not always easy, this compassionate self-awareness. Changing habits is never easy.

But creating new habits, habits of compassion which serve us instead of hurt us, is something worth working towards.

Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash

Candles, Confessions, & The Art Of Self Forgiveness

Candles, Confessions, & The Art Of Self Forgiveness

It’s been a couple of weeks now since Mom passed. Expected yet unexpected all at the same time. It’s not something you can ever fully prepare for.

Recently, I found myself back in my old hometown and for some reason I felt called to visit the chapel Mom would quite often visit.

Mom was a woman of deep Christian faith, a guiding and comforting source for her throughout her life. Mom was also a prolific candle lighter, and Our Lady’s Chapel was the place she would light them. For family and friends in time of need or distress, Mom lit candles for us all.

It was my turn to light one for her.

After the candle was lit, I found myself sitting in the back pew of the Chapel. Just sitting. Observing. Remembering. Decompressing. A small boy sitting a few rows in front of me wandered away from his Mother and playfully pushed back the curtain to the Confessional located just to my left. His Mom was not at all pleased, but his actions got me to thinking about something I’ve not thought about for quite some time.

Growing up Catholic, I’ve certainly spent my share of time in the Confessional. As a boy, I’d kneel fearfully in darkness awaiting the priest to open the screen and I’d tell him of my sins for the week. Mostly about the number of swear words I’d used that week (I did my best to quantify my transgressions) and the occasional taking the Lord’s name in vain. Then, with nervous anticipation, I’d await my penance which usually involved a great deal of praying in the back of Church.

Spiritually, I’ve meandered a bit over the years. I’ve confessed a great deal over the years, just not in a Confessional.

Confession is the first step in forgiveness. It’s reflecting upon and acknowledging your actions, or, at times, the lack of them, and asking God to absolve you. In the secular space, I, too, have asked for the forgiveness of others for the times I’ve not lived up to my own Higher standard, for the actions I’ve taken or the lack of them.

Others have also occasionally asked for my forgiveness as well. Forgiveness is always granted, as the weight of holding grudges is more weight than I choose to carry, especially as I get older. I know I’m still far from perfect myself and I like to think I afford others the space to be less than perfect as well.

There is one person, though, I’ve often had a difficult time forgiving.

Me.

Funny how it’s often easier for us to forgive others than it is for us to forgive ourselves.

As I reflect about forgiveness, I realize that self-absolution has never been easy for me. The grudges I chose not to hold towards others I would easily hold against myself, mercilessly holding me perpetually accountable for my actions or lack there of.

Maybe you can relate to not giving yourself the space to be imperfect? To allow yourself to reflect and acknowledge the times in your life where you wish you responded differently, or had taken another path, and then forever beating yourself up for it.

Much of this changed for me when I was able to change the most important of all relationships.

The one with me.

The compassion and forgiveness I so easily dispensed to others? I threw a little of that my own way. I cut myself some slack. I accepted that no matter the result, I did the best I could at the time. I compassionately questioned why I’d befriend others yet wouldn’t extend that same level of friendship towards myself.

I stopped emotionally kicking my own ass.

I’m certain my issues with self-forgiveness can be traced back to the self-identity narratives which were created, nurtured, and perpetuated many decades ago. Many of them based in limitation, steeped in unworthiness, rooted in insecurity. What we are willing to accept as true for who we think we are impacts just about everything.

But narratives can be changed, if we are willing to question them.

It’s a conversation worth having.

It’s the most important conversation I’ve ever had.

But What If The Present Moment Sucks?

But What If The Present Moment Sucks?

I’m sure you’ve heard it.

“Be present.”

It’s the only moment we really have, they say. Because if we’re living in our past, we’re re-living the pains and regrets of yesterday, and if we’re living in the future it can be a fearful and worrisome based vision of the uncertainty which lies ahead. The present moment, we’re told, is the sweet spot between the two.

But what if the present moment sucks?

Because sometimes it does.

Then what do we do?

The present moment has been marketed as the safe space between our past and our future. An emotional oasis of sorts. But just because it’s the present moment doesn’t mean it’s always a peaceful moment.

Being aware that the present moment sucks is a good thing. It means you’ve been able to step back from your inner emotional turmoil to assess and determine that, yes, this moment actually sucks. Much like a first responder needs to assess the situation on scene before going forward, our self awareness is the first step for us to move beyond the suck.

Sometimes the suck is just a temporary moment. Sometimes it’s much bigger than that.

Sometimes, though, the best thing you can do in this suck moment is give yourself the time and the space to let the present moment suck.

To accept it as it is.

To allow it to be as it is.

Not beating yourself up because it does.

Not shaming yourself because it does.

Because when the present moment sucks, the last thing you need is to be in an abusive relationship with yourself.

You’ll find a way through.

You always have.

Perhaps The Greatest Gift You’ll Ever Give Yourself

Perhaps The Greatest Gift You’ll Ever Give Yourself

“Dad, there’s something wrong with the lights.”

My daughter came to me in a panic. The bathroom lights suddenly shut off. Couldn’t turn them back on either. After some investigating, apparently the wind driven rain was getting into one of the plugs on the Christmas lights outside causing the GFCI to engage. 

GFCI is a Ground Fault Circuit Interruptor used primarily in wet areas in and around the home. You probably have these in your home, too. Should any moisture be detected within the electrical outlet the GFCI responds in 1/40th of a second and disables the outlet immediately preventing any damage from being done.

Once we fixed the problem outside I hit the reset on the GFCI and the bathroom lights went back on.

The whole key to the GFCI is awareness. Once it knows of the potential danger involved it’s able to prevent a potential catastrophe.

I wish I had one of those in my mind. An emotional circuit breaker which could sense any negative and disempowering thoughts I may have and disable them before doing any damage.

How life changing would that be?

Our thoughts and words are powerful. Often when we are triggered by outside forces we can habitually react in ways which harm us, either by what we may say to others, or equally as important, by what we may say to ourselves. Specifically, it’s the negative self talk and those habitual responses reinforcing limiting beliefs which damage us more than we realize. 

But how do we train ourselves to respond differently?

It all starts with self-awareness.

Unfortunately for me, I’ve never been very good at self-awareness.

With no emotional safety valve in place, challenging situations were always allowed to run their course. For better or worse. And it was usually for the worse. I didn’t know I had the choice to respond any differently than I always had. I just automatically harshly reacted to the difficult and uncomfortable events in my life which simply perpetuated more of what I’ve always done.

My lack of self-awareness meant nothing would change. I wasn’t even aware there was anything to change.

At some point on my life’s path I had heard about the concept of being an observer of your life. Sort of like stepping outside of your physical self and just noticing what life really looked and sounded like. Without judging what was noticed. Just observing.

Eventually, and with very low expectations, I gave it a try. Mostly out of curiosity. As I stepped outside of me I began to notice how I would habitually respond to what showed up in my life. Especially the difficulties. I remember what I saw. The anger and the frustration. The intense bitterness of disappointment. Even, at times, a tendency to blame. Maybe I actually was what people had told me I was. As I was able to develop some sense of self-awareness, the real challenge for me was doing so while not judging or punishing myself for the things I discovered I didn’t like about myself.

We all have the ability to be cruel and unforgiving towards our self, don’t we? I was quite good at that.

Noticing how I was judging and treating myself, though, was in itself an extension of my own self-awareness. I was now aware of my habitual responses and also aware of how I felt about myself for having such responses.

We can only hope to fix the things we know are broken. In my lack of self-awareness world, I was never the one who was broken. But at some point I realized that, in fact, I was, and a more self-aware version of me has done a great deal of work to address it. There is still more work to be done. But subtle changes have lead to anything but subtle positive results.

Simply put, self-awareness has made me better at being me…kinder, gentler, more compassionate, especially when dealing with myself.

Self-awareness has become a vitally important part of who I am these days. It’s become my emotional GFCI allowing me to observe what is going on within me, enabling me to disable and negate the reactions and responses which no longer serve me and replace them with ones which do. I may not respond in 1/40th of a second, but being able to monitor my own emotional state has allowed me to better deal with challenging situations I often find myself in.

What about you? When life squeezes you just a little too tight, how do you habitually respond? Have you ever taken the time to just step back and observe? To simply notice? 

It could be the greatest gift you’ll ever give to yourself.

It’s a great day to be you.

It’s Emotional Amnesty Day

It’s Emotional Amnesty Day

Imaging what life could be like if we could simply stop carrying around our own backpack full of what we think is wrong with us. How much lighter would life feel?

What if they established one day per year where we could take all the things we consistently trash ourselves for and we could simply let them go? Put them down and walk away. To forgive ourselves for what we’ve done or not done, for who we are or who we think we are supposed to be, for what we haven’t yet done with our lives?

You know. Those gnawing feelings we get about ourselves. Those little voices reminding us of who we think we really are. Our short-comings, our failures, our doubts and fears, our thoughts about not being good enough. What if we allowed ourselves the opportunity to simply forgive ourselves and start new?

Amnesty.

Emotional amnesty.

The good news is today is Emotional Amnesty Day. Today can be the day to gather up all the limiting beliefs and self-sabotaging habits you don’t want to carry around with you any longer. The stuff that keeps you feeling stuck physically, spiritually, and emotionally. The guilt. The shame. The unworthiness. Continue reading “It’s Emotional Amnesty Day”

Picking Sunflowers in the North Pole

Picking Sunflowers in the North Pole

There’s a reason you’ve never seen a sunflower plant in any image depicting the North Pole.

Sunflowers don’t grow there.

Plants are at the mercy of their environment. The proper soil, the mix of nutrients, the amount of water, temperature, and sunshine can mean life or death to a plant. So many external variables impact their viability and growth.

And there’s not a single thing a plant can do about it.

As humans, we, too, are greatly impacted by the environments we find ourselves in. Some environments are conducive to growth and thriving, while others will never let us Continue reading “Picking Sunflowers in the North Pole”

Perhaps You’re Just Not Ready To Love Yourself?

Perhaps You’re Just Not Ready To Love Yourself?

It sounds rather simple.

And it should be quite easy.

But in reality it’s often a very difficult thing to do.

Loving yourself.

After all, how could you love you? You know everything about you, the good and the bad. Especially the bad. There are no secrets in your relationship with yourself. And that little voice in your head is always quite good at reminding you of your mistakes, regrets, and shortcomings. How could you possibly love such a person?

Maybe love is too big of a first step.

Good relationships take time, especially if that relationship is between you and you. My Continue reading “Perhaps You’re Just Not Ready To Love Yourself?”

The Duplicitous Nature of Compassion

The Duplicitous Nature of Compassion

What is the one gift we are so willing to give to others yet seldom give to ourselves?

Love.

Most of us would think nothing of offering a kind heart to others in need, especially to those closest to us. We’d readily be available to a distressed friend, offering our unconditional love, support, and encouragement, even if all we could provide was a shoulder to cry on. We’d do whatever we could to help them up.

Would you be willing to treat yourself the same way?

When it comes to ourselves we often create a cruel double standard. Somehow we believe others are more worthy of our love and compassion than we are. We support our friends during their times of emotional need yet when we could really use a friend of our own we are nowhere to be found. Instead of picking ourselves up, how often do we beat ourselves down, reminding ourselves of our own perceived shortcomings and all Continue reading “The Duplicitous Nature of Compassion”

The Two Gifts Only You Can Give To Yourself

The Two Gifts Only You Can Give To Yourself

The road to finding peace and happiness is never straight. At least it wasn’t for me and those I’ve known who’ve spent years of their own meandering on a similar journey.

None of us are born angry, miserable, weak, unworthy, afraid, anxious, or insecure. Those are things we can become. Sometimes you can define the catastrophic moment when the world rose up and took away the peace and happiness you entered this world with. Sometimes, though, we look back and can find no specific reason why the peace and happiness we are looking for ever went away in the first place.

It’s surreal walking through your empty life surrounded by everyone else who have their lives all figured out and are moving forward. That’s what I assumed…everyone else Continue reading “The Two Gifts Only You Can Give To Yourself”