Life Gets Easier When You Love
And Respect Yourself
by Anne Hartley
When I was younger I mistook self indulgence for self-love. I would give myself massages or buy myself something that made me feel good and I genuinely believed I was loving myself. While it is nice to treat ourselves to luxuries, we need to understand that is all they are. At another life stage I thought self-love was being able to speak up for myself and handle confrontation. This is a great skill to acquire and is a part of loving ourselves, but we need to do more.
Like most people I grew up with mixed messages. My father valued himself and did a lot for others but always knew where to draw the line. Mum was also able to set boundaries with other people, but she did so much for her own family that her own needs usually came last. I followed her example.
I have never been a doormat, I have never been abused, my problem has been knowing where to draw the line between caring for others and caring for myself. When I first started monitoring my moods, I was shocked to discover how often I slipped into resentment over simple things. I honestly didn't realize how many times I held back saying what I really thought, I was so used to accommodating others.
One day when I was working with my gardener, I asked him to plant some seedlings for me. He agreed and continued with what he was doing, obviously expecting to get to it later. Ten minutes later he said that he would take the rubbish to the tip and that's when I recognised resentment building within me. My internal dialogue went something like this, 'Great, now I have to wait for him to come back from the tip and that's going to take more time. Meanwhile I can't finish up until I show him where I want the plants to go and I can't do what I really want to do'. I immediately stopped those thoughts and asked Dave if he could put the plants in before he went to the tip, which he was quite happy to do.
This simple incident made me realize how unnecessary it was for me to feel that way, and how I was actually making life harder for myself. As I continued monitoring my moods and my internal dialogue, I was surprised to discover how many times I felt this way over simple, insignificant things. If my girls left a mess in the living area I would find myself thinking...Typical leave everything for me to do. Any time I found myself thinking this way, I would immediately change the thoughts and say what I was really thinking. Then I looked for ways to make my life easier. In the living area of our home I have two baskets on a shelf and anything left in that room that doesn't belong gets thrown into a basket. It works so well.
To help myself with this I created steps within steps, so that I could love and respect myself in a way that matches my values.
Step 1 - You love and respect yourself by being honest with yourself
When you lie to yourself you expend so much energy pushing emotions down, trying to please others, even blaming others, that there's not enough energy left over to create the reality you really desire.
You start being honest by making the decision to be. Then you follow through by asking yourself what you are really feeling every time you experience low energy emotions. The answer may not come to you immediately but if you keep asking, awareness will eventually dawn.
You need to deal with these emotions and you do this by allowing yourself to feel your feelings.
Step 2 - You love and respect yourself by saying what you really think
When you have become accustomed to going along with other people's wishes then you need to make a conscious effort to say what you really think. This might mean refusing someone's request, or asking someone to do something for you and it is not always easy to do when you have not had much practice.
There may be times when you don't need to say anything; you just need to act differently. I now measure all of my choices by how I feel.
Step 3 - You love and respect yourself by taking responsibility for fulfilling your own needs
You are ultimately responsible for meeting your needs and achieving your goals. That responsibility doesn't shift onto your husband or wife if you are married. It doesn't change just because you have children. All of life is about choice and sometimes you set priorities and decide you are prepared to wait for what you want, but that doesn't mean you abdicate responsibility or give up on your dreams.
The irony is that when you take responsibility for fulfilling your own needs, others usually support you as well.
Step 4 - You love and respect yourself by setting standards
You have probably heard the expression, 'We teach people how to treat us'. We do this by putting up with behaviour we find unacceptable. I had quite a problem with this step and I attracted some wonderful teachers into my life who pushed my buttons and took advantage of me, just so I could learn this valuable lesson.
Whenever anyone asks me to do something I say, “Let me think about it.” This gives me time to reflect on whether I really want to do it and this one simple habit has made my life so much easier.
You may decide that you would like to be treated with respect. This also means that you need to treat others with respect. Ask yourself what does being treated with respect mean to you. You need to know this if you are going to enforce it. Then you need to look at the people in your life. Will they be willing to change the way they treat you? If not, what are you prepared to do about it? This could mean reassessing people you spend your time with as well as reassessing where you work.
Step 5 - You love and respect yourself by enforcing your standards
If you are not accustomed to saying what you want then you have probably breathed a sigh of relief when you have said what you think, only to find the other person has completely ignored you. So you need to be prepared. What are you prepared to do if someone ignores the standards you set?
Step 6 - You love and respect yourself by spending time with people who make you happy
Life becomes a whole lot easier when you understand human nature and accept people for who they are. I choose to spend the majority of the time with people who make me feel good. If I continually feel the need to complain about or criticize someone in any way after spending time with them, then I know this is not a relationship that serves them or me.
Step 7 - You love and respect yourself by trusting yourself
You need to be able to trust yourself, before you can trust someone else.
Trust is the foundation of all good relationships but that does not mean that you trust people who are untrustworthy. You need to be discerning and you do that by taking your time. You become trust neutral until you know someone well enough to be sure you can trust them. I used to jump into relationships and assume that if someone had the same interests as me they must have the same values and many times, this wasn't always the case. Now I just take my time getting to know someone before I place my trust in them.
The good news is that as you learn to love, respect and trust yourself you attract to you people who are trustworthy, and that's because people come into your life to help you learn. When you learn the lesson you attract a different type of person.
You don't have to be perfect to have what you want. It is more important to accept yourself as you are, and that means flaws and all. Sometimes we have issues that take longer than we prefer to master and that's okay. It is better to love and accept yourself exactly as you are right now than to place conditions on self-love.
Life is merely a process of forgetting and remembering, over and over again until you learn the lesson.
About the Author
Anne Hartley is the author of four books. Anne also works as a life coach and trains others to be life coaches using her values-based approach. If you would like to receive her free newsletter you can visit Anne's website at http:/www.hartlifecoaching.com.au