Can I Love Myself Even Though…

My new favorite mantra is, “can I love myself even though…” I fill in the blank with whatever I’m struggling with or judging myself for at the time. It has been a huge shift in perspective for me. It gives me that perspective which allows me to refocus and consider what the goal of this life truly is. Even though it’s extremely hard for me, my main goal in life is to love myself and others and be a positive force in the world. Love is the greatest gift that we have been given, and there is no greater way to express our gratitude for this miraculous capacity for love than to let that love light shine bright enough to encompass our whole being and those around us. It’s more fun to imagine life as a game than a test. It’s not a game of aggression and struggle against forces trying to destroy us either. It’s a casual game like the ones I enjoy most of all. It’s simply about exploring, being curious, and having fun, seeing what wonderous things we can create along the way.

It’s easy to become distracted by all the negatives we’ve been conditioned, and to a certain extent, designed to focus our attention on. We are constantly trying to find happiness and self-acceptance by changing external circumstances. If only I was skinnier. If only I was smarter. If only I was less anxious. If only, if only, if only. Now when I notice myself getting upset about these rather trivial imperfections, I’ll say to myself, “can I love myself even though I’m imperfect?” Then I listen to that opening feeling in my heart answering back with a resounding, emphatic, “YES!” If my initial reaction is a stubborn “no”, (as it sometimes is) then I’ll ask myself to give it a try anyway. I’ll look at it as a challenge to work with and overcome. It doesn’t have to be so serious. It’s all a part of the game. Looking at it this way keeps me from judging myself for judging myself, which is obviously counterproductive. Instead I become curious and excited to tackle this new challenge.

We are all born full of love and acceptance. I see the truth of this in the faces of the children I work with every day. It’s only as we grow older that we begin to close our hearts to the world and to ourselves out of fear. And when you stop and think about it, this fear or anxiety we feel is an instinctual act of self love. We have these feelings so that we are able to recognize danger and protect ourselves. You aren’t broken. You mind and body are just doing their best to keep you safe. It’s up to us to use our higher consciousness to teach our minds and bodies that it’s okay to relax. The more we practice opening again, the easier it becomes. Sometimes when I’m having a particularly difficult time, I’ll remind myself of that. Even though it seems impossible to practice self love and self care right now, I know that it will only get easier and easier if I keep trying anyway, if I forgive myself for all the hiccups and hard days along the way.

This mantra doesn’t always have to be directed at self-criticism either. For example, sometimes I get overwhelmed with how much I want to do around my house. In that scenario, I’ll ask myself, “can I love myself even though my house is a bit messy or not exactly the way I’d like it to be?” Then rather than ruminating on all I’ve got to do, I’ll instead focus my energy on the fact that I can love myself anyway. It really takes a lot of the pressure off and reminds me of what’s truly important.

As you go through your day today, I encourage you to try this mantra out for yourself. Notice how different our “problems” feel after reaffirming our love for ourselves. When we give ourselves the love we seek, everything else starts to feel a little less important, less scary, less urgent. There is nothing for us to fear, no suffering that can touch us, when we truly practice self love and self compassion each and every day, when we love ourselves even though…

Self Love with ADHD: The Big Heart Approach

Relationship Standards

I was watching an advice show where someone wrote in to ask about how not to bring old relationship baggage into a new relationship. This person was feeling anxious about similarities in behavior between her past and present partner and wanted a way to ease her mind and stop worrying about being dumped by her new partner. I don’t know what I expected to hear, but I was a little disappointed that this person’s situation wasn’t more comparable to my own. Because I was hoping to get some advice or insight for myself.

My problem is almost the exact opposite. I can’t seem to find anyone that is similar enough to my old partner. I know I shouldn’t be comparing them to him in the first place, but I can’t help myself. Yet there are so many factors I have to consider while I’m doing so that I wonder if it’s really the other person falling short or me. Now, I’m trying to be fair here. I don’t expect them to be perfect, or a carbon copy of someone from my past. I am just looking for that same sense of connection.

On paper, it probably wouldn’t look like there was anything too remarkable about my last relationship. But there was this ineffable vibe that this person gave me. I don’t know what it is exactly. It’s not just that person either. My best friend is one of those people. My coworkers seem to be of that kind as well. I even randomly met someone the other day who has been in my mind since then. Just from that brief conversation I could tell they were potentially one of these special people as well. I’ll try my best to explain what exactly this quality is I am searching for in others.

It feels like when most people look at you, they aren’t really looking at you. They are seeing you distorted through all of their expectations and assumptions. They are seeing the person they want you to be. When you speak to these people you get the sense that they didn’t really take the time to hear you. These special people of mine are different. They really see me. And somehow they accept me anyway, love me anyway. What could be more beautiful?

Now don’t get me wrong, I certainly don’t consider myself a great listener or someone who is open to letting people be whoever they are and accepting that. I don’t know if the people in my life that are like that with me are even like that with everyone. Perhaps there are just invisible threads that connect some of us in that special way. But even though I’m not always open and loving, something about being seen lets me be. It is a vulnerable, thrilling place to be. It makes me feel truly alive again to be near these types of people.

The problem is there don’t seem to be very many of these people. I’ve only met a handful my entire life. When I start talking to someone new, I really try to give them a fair chance. Even though I can usually tell if someone has that vibe or not right away. Meeting through the internet makes it kind of hard to be sure. These people are always conversationalists though. They are as good at talking as they are at listening. They ask lots of good questions and have interesting opinions and perspective on things.

It is quite emotionally exhausting to sift through the population trying to find these people. I feel guilty every time I have to break things off with someone for seemingly no reason. Most of the people I’ve met were perfectly fine, but they just weren’t right. I wasn’t feeling that connection. They weren’t really seeing me.

This is where I start to doubt myself though. Is this all in my head? Am I projecting all of this onto the people around me? Am I just looking for excuses to keep carrying this torch for someone who couldn’t care less about me now? Is this some kind of complex defense mechanism to keep people away?

Occasionally I’ll push forward with a new relationship long past when I’ve basically decided it isn’t going to work for me. Just to see if the person just needs more of a chance, if they’ll grow on me. I always end up just feeling guilty in the end for leading them on and wasting both of our time. I’m not someone who would ever “settle.” That has never been an option for me. I much prefer being on my own to being with someone I don’t absolutely adore. I guess I’ll just keep looking and trusting this one sliver of intuition that still speaks to me.

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A Life with No Resistance

I have been thinking a lot lately about how I create my own suffering. I have been so fortunate in this life. I really have not ever experienced any true suffering. I have always had food, water, shelter, family, and friends to support me. I got a free education all the way through college. I have been healthy and so have my loved ones for the most part. I have basically wanted for nothing in my life. And I am truly grateful for that.

I so often lose sight of all of that though. Somehow I still manage to find reasons to suffer. The mind seems to always be looking for problems, for ways to fix things. Even when changing the situation is useless or even impossible. Internally we rise up against so many little aspects of our day. We wrestle with our own discomfort and rejection of reality. In the end nothing is as bad as our resistance makes it seem.

I read a metaphor that sums this idea up perfectly. Imagine a leaf landing on the still mirror-like surface of a pond. It is going to create ripples. Maybe we don’t like these ripples. Maybe we were staring at the reflections in the water. So we try to remove the disturbance, resist it. But in the process of trying to get rid of the leaf’s ripples, we end up creating even more disturbance in the water. Now it will take even longer to return to stillness.

There will be things that come along in life that are truly unpleasant, but even those problems are best accepted and allowed to pass through you. The brain seems to think the best way of preparing for the future is to “protect” ourselves from anything we dislike and lock ourselves away, closing off our heart. But in reality all of these small, daily, disturbances are gifts. They are opportunities to practice releasing, allowing, letting go. I want to use these minor moments as training to learn to live each moment with more ease and less resistance.

I try to think of this practice as a game. After all, I have always taken life too seriously. But this game is more challenging than I thought. I find myself getting easily frustrated with myself. After years of building up a strong tendency to resist every moment, it is incredibly difficult to learn to release and let things pass through you instead.

My mind is quite crafty and persuasive when it wants to be. It throws out endless reasons why we must resist. It jumps from one thought to the next, stirring up my fears and anxieties, encouraging me to close my heart, to seal myself off, to “protect” myself. But what I’m really trying to protect myself from is my own internal dialogue. What happens if I decide not to defend against it? It cannot hurt me. All it can do is talk and rustle around inside my head. I don’t have to let it touch me or let my heart close because of what it says.

So far, I don’t think I’ve been very successful at this game of releasing and allowing. But I am not going to give up. I am going to keep trying until my heart is perpetually open. Even though I am already impatient to achieve peace within myself, I know that this is the work of a life time. I’ll have to be patient and gentle with myself as I continue along on this new journey.

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