Life Principal: You were created to be whole, happy and well. It’s your choice to live life as you do – and your choice to change it. The power of happiness lies inside you….Everything that you need is inside you.
In the past two articles, we have taken an inventory of our basic needs and basic fears that relate to nearly every human life on the planet. Given some latitude for culture, social and economic conditions in that context and to some degree, the process of self actualization, these needs and fears play heavily into our daily life.
What is “self actualization” that it ranks as highly as culture and context? To make it simple, it is easily defined as your awareness of yourself as a person, a unique and individual soul walking the face of the earth at this time. It is an awareness of faults and failures without conviction; of strengths and abilities without ego. To hold yourself in high esteem is important to the human psyche, but in a healthy and balanced way. A self actualized person doesn’t lose their peace in times of turmoil, and remains true to who and what they are above all else. It is in being who you are created to be that your personal power and happiness lay. Why is self actualization I important?
Life principal: If you are not growing, you’re dying.
How do we begin the process of actualization, becoming a whole and healthy person? First, try this simple exercise. Take out a piece of paper and very quickly, write the top then things that you love about yourself. Anything is fine – but it has to be about you. Are you beautiful inside and out? Are you a good dancer, a good kisser, a good speaker? Do you genuinely care about people, animals or the environment? Stop reading for a moment and write the list. Think of the top ten things that you would want read out loud at your own funeral.
The top five on my list? I am a very loving person. By this I mean that I embrace 1 Corinthians 13 in the Bible all the way. I don’t care which faith you practice, this passage is universal truth. This is the most important quality I have, to love others as I love myself. Let’s ask your list a few questions.
- Was it difficult for you to articulate what is impressive about you?
- Did you find ten personal qualities that you admire? What do they have in common?
- How do the things that you value about yourself work in your life?
- What would you need to change about yourself or your space to feel whole and happy?
- What leaves you feeling as though one quality or need is unfulfilled?
There are no right answers, only awareness of where you are, and where you truly want to be. When I have counseling clients write this list, they are often unable to come up with more than two or three things. Really reach inside if this is you. What do you really love about yourself? More things from my own list include honestly caring for people and their pain, and a soul deep desire to be in a helping profession. I love the environment and work to make my own footprint less, especially when hiking and camping. I adore my daughters, and truly pray for them constantly. I am full – overflowing, even – with intensity, curiosity and playfulness that are borne from loving God with all my heart and mind. Those aren’t in any particular order because what I focus on changes from day to say. Rest assured, each of those impact my daily life…and they are why I act like I do. I am driven by the love that I give away, the ability to give into others until I run the risk of having nothing left inside. So if you’re like me and you will give until your internally poverty stricken, how do you learn to refill your own emotional wellspring? It’s there in the list.
I know myself…the good, the bad and the beautiful or ugly parts. It was not too long ago that it was hard for me to look myself in the eye because I was not being honest to my own boundaries and values – but I learned a really important lesson from it. You can never love another until you truly love yourself in a healthy way.
As I cried my tears and raged against myself, I also discovered that I had given the power of being me to another person. I lost myself and my self respect because I was living a life that didn’t meet my needs. It looked perfect from the outside, and I was constantly busy with “do good” stuff. Still, I was empty inside. I had given away my dreams and hopes, locked them in a box on the shelf and had done “the right thing” for my family and, to some extent, for the meeting of societal obligations of what I “should” do.
Life Principal: When you hear yourself say the words ”I Should” it is almost always someone else’s rules in your life that you cannot even accept as your own – or you would use the term “must.”
You have to make a choice to take your power back into yourself. To regain what I freely gave away, I first held myself accountable – to me. That was tough and required some much appreciated outside intervention from friends and family, in addition to much time in prayer and mediation. You might be surprised who your real support system is. When the stuff hit the fan, it was surprising who bowed out and who stepped up. I became 100% transparent and accountable to the two people who love me most in the world – the hubster and the best friend, D. They responded in kind by being 100% transparent with me, and helping me with coping skills and understanding all along the way. In fact when you involve other people in your process of self discovery, you might find that it strengthens and deepens your bond. My best friend D lost her identical twin sister nearly a year ago – and has suffered terribly in the past three years as the sister succumbed to cancer. D had no single self identify growing up as an identical – and she’s learning self love right this moment with me. It was hard for both she and I to articulate “I am infinitely worth loving as a whole, independent person” when we had assigned so much of our value in other people. She chose not to live the rest of her life in mourning; although she loves her twin more than life….she loves her enough to live a full and happy life.
Life principal: Until you truly love yourself, you will not truly love anyone else. You cannot give away what you do not have.
In these first moments of finding out that you’re worth loving, you might need the help of a life coach or a therapist. Given that I am to start my graduate work in counseling psych after completing a master’s in Divinity this May, I am going to be true to myself and tell you that I honestly believe in the healthy parts of talk therapy – but not to wallow in the grief points. I have a life coach because I want someone who pushes me on to peak performance relentlessly. Tim has a practice built on this if you’re up for the challenge.
This article only has one point; get to know the most important person in your life. You. You’re going to be in there every day of your life. Like your heartbeat, your presence is totally required. Embrace the whole of who you are, and be honest about your needs, your desires, what you want in life – and articulate them in a healthy way. Did you know that it’s okay that you’re not perfect? None of us are. The greatest gift you could give yourself is to wrap both arms around yourself and hug. As long as you love you, that first fear will never be realized…you always have the love that you give yourself. Look yourself in the mirror and say it out loud – I love you. I love you. I love you.
The real question of self actualization comes when you see that to have something, you must give it away. Be true to yourself, in love without ego – and let hope flood your person. It’s not about the tangible things of life, or possessions that you accrue along the way. Life is about the times of play, making memories, the moments that swell in your mind like a seed rooting into a full bloom flower. It’s about those magical, mystical moments of love and intensity that you poured yourself into…and imagine for your future. Love yourself with great abandon, and trust yourself to consider and weigh your decisions. Don’t look to the past full of fear and heartache, because the past is behind you. It has no power that you don’t assign to it. You are free of it inside…now let yourself act in the freedom of peace and love.
Today is the gift. Make every second count for all it can be. Remember, self….I love you, I love you, I love you.