how to love yourselfAs Whitney sang, “Learning to love yourself is the greatest love off all”. But what makes self-love so vital in life? And why is it often so hard to do?


This episode of Life Happens LIVE Paul sheds light on these questions and gives you a practical exercise to nurture the most important relationship you have in your life – the one you have with yourself.

You’ll learn:

  • How your relationship with yourself influences every aspect of your life.
  • Why we resist thinking more highly of ourselves and what that costs us.
  • 3 ways to strengthen your foundation of self-love.

Share the love! If you’ve enjoyed this podcast please share it, tweet it, like it and / or leave a comment below. Thank you

 

 

Whitney Houston sang, “Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.” But why is self-love so important? And why is it the hardest kind of love to master?

“Loving yourself…does not mean being self-absorbed or narcissistic, or disregarding others. Rather it means welcoming yourself as the most honored guest in your own heart, a guest worthy of respect, a lovable companion.” – Margo Anand

Self Love

Imagine that you and I are standing face to face and I proudly tell you, “I love myself”. What would your initial reaction be?

Would you think, “That’s nice, I’m pleased he feels that way”?

Would you think, “Er, OK, that’s a weird thing to share openly”?

Or would you think, “Wow, he’s full of himself. He must have an over-inflated ego”?

Of course, what you think will be in some way based on the existing beliefs and perceptions you already have of me, but interestingly, it will also be (and perhaps more so) indicative of your own comfort level with the topic of self-love.

Virtually all personal growth and spiritual disciplines throughout time point towards the importance of loving and accepting yourself. Psychologists call it ‘positive self regard’. And it is not important just because it feels nice; it’s important because your attitude towards yourself shows up everywhere in your reality.

[pullquote align=”left”]”…there is no shortage of happiness in the world, only a lack of clarity about where it comes from.”[/pullquote]The desire to overcome any problem you have in life is really, at its core, a desire to heal the relationship within. It may not look that way on the outside, but unconsciously you recognise that the world is just a mirror reflecting your self-image right back at you.

As happiness expert, Dr Robert Holden, writes in his book, Loveability, “The quality of your relationship with yourself determines the quality of your relationship with everything else.”

This is the ultimate truth about where authentic lasting happiness really comes from.

The more willing we are to accept and love ourselves just the way we are, the less we go looking for comfort and happiness in the wrong places. I guess one way of looking at it is that there is no shortage of happiness in the world, only a lack of clarity about where it comes from.

No amount of comfort-eating can come close the comfort of self-acceptance.

A credit card transaction can never love you like you can love you.

Judging and proving others wrong will never give you the same inner satisfaction as when you give up judging yourself.

Obsessing that your partner doesn’t love you enough becomes irrelevant when you love yourself enough.

So why is the whole self-love thing so hard?

A lot of it has to do with our conditioning. We want so badly to be accepted by others and to maintain a ‘meaningful’ identity, that the truth about who we really are gets concealed by our glossy personas. Anything we think or feel on the inside that contradicts our socially pleasing outer image becomes a target for our own disrespect.

Self-love gets a bad press, particularly in the western world.

We are taught to value humility and are put off by self-righteousness. We confuse self-love for narcissism and so comply with the social expectation of loving others more than we love ourselves. The irony is that the way we offer our love to them is driven by own capacity for self-love.

[pullquote align=”right”]”The extent to which you find yourself comfortable in your own skin is the extent to which you are willing to accept yourself unconditionally.”[/pullquote]When we say things like, “She really loves herself”, we often don’t mean it in a good way. If we don’t like it in others, we’re certainly not going to like in ourselves. But what we are resisting there is an ‘egotistical’ self regard, which is very different to the more authentic kind of self-love that heals our lives.

I used to have an awful relationship with myself. I had a lot of love to give, but none of it was for me. The mistaken belief I had was that my happiness was dependent on how much other people approved of me.

I had a lot of friends, but I put so much energy into trying to be what I thought they wanted me to be that I was always anxious about being exposed as a fraud. Weirdly, my strategy for finding happiness was the exact same strategy that was making me miserable.

It wasn’t until I learned about the true nature of happiness that I felt brave enough to look my insecurities in the face and see what love could do. What I noticed was as I treated myself with more kindness and compassion, everything in my life got better. I felt happier, healthier, more present, more authentic and more available to others.

If you only ever set one goal in life, make it the goal of loving yourself wholly and completely. It might be the most challenging journey you ever embark on, but no other journey will be as rewarding or have such a vital impact on so many areas of your life. Make it your mission to observe how your relationship with everyone and everything improves as your relationship with yourself improves.

 

HOMEWORK

 

Here are three things you can begin to focus on right now to strengthen your foundations of self-love. Grab yourself a journal, sit somewhere quiet and be generous with the time you spend reflecting openly and honestly on this exercise.

1, Appreciation

List 5 qualities you genuinely appreciate about yourself, exactly as you are, right now. Perhaps its your courage, your caring nature, your parenting skills. Whatever they are, let yourself sink in the feeling of appreciation that these qualities are present in you, and positive difference they make to your life.

2, Forgiveness

It is impossible to truly love yourself and hold onto judgment at the same time. List 5 things you are willing to forgive yourself for. Perhaps its for the times you’ve put yourself down, for past errors in judgement, or for not looking after your physical / emotional wellbeing.

Sometimes self-forgiveness comes easy and sometimes there is resistance. If there are things about yourself you find hard to forgive, please stick with it. The purpose of forgiveness is not to simply make ourselves feel better about the past; it is to restore ourselves to our truest potential, so we can extend our best, most loving selves out into the world.

3, Acceptance

On a spiritual level you are already perfect. There is absolutely nothing wrong with your soul. But on a practical, human level, there are always going to be things that you are good at and things that you are not so good at.

The extent to which you find yourself comfortable in your own skin is the extent to which you are willing to accept yourself unconditionally. This means loving your rough edges too.

List 5 ways you can be more accepting of your whole self. For example, see if you can love your body just the way it is right now? It doesn’t mean you won’t still work at getting into better shape; it just means you don’t have to hate it while you do.

Can you make your peace with not being the most gifted driver, diplomat, artist or intellectual on the planet? None of these abilities have anything to do with your ability to accept and love yourself fully now.

 

I hope you are inspired to focus on you today. Please let me know how helpful this post is to you by dropping a comment in the box below.

With love

signature

 

 

Share the love! If you’ve enjoyed this post please tweet it, like it and / or leave a comment below. Thank you

 

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive; because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman

living a life of purposeI’ve always known that living a life of purpose feels good but I often wondered about what is the purpose of having a purpose! After years of honing my definition, here is my take on what it is all about.

If you have been receiving my coaching tips for a while you may remember an article I sent out called “The Game of Joy”. In this I wrote about why it is your purpose is to experience true happiness through the way you live your life. I talked about joy as being the ultimate goal for everyone regardless of what they do or how they go about it. The real premise of the this is that you are far more likely to find your ‘calling’ if you are already living from a space of love and happiness than if you were to wait for inspiration to strike before experiencing that joyful state.

The feedback and comments I received about that article were amazing! It seems it really struck a chord with a lot you. So much so that I want revisit the subject of living your life’s purpose. I really do feel I could write it forever!

There are so many teachers, philosophies and insights that have inspired me over the years to realise my own life’s purpose but, despite those countless hours of learning, the principle of what a purposeful life constitutes can be summed up in very few words. This is what it means to me:

 Living a life of purpose is to be of service to the world in a way that brings you joy.

I consider myself extremely lucky to have met and been taught by many different people who have been completely connected to a strong sense of purpose in their lives. What captivates me about each and every one of them is their capacity to handle life’s challenges with grace and benevolence. No matter what they encounter they always seem to know just what to do to keep moving. But not only that, they do it with an aura of peace and wisdom. It is not that their lives are necessarily easier or harder than anybody else’s but that when tough times do occur, it is their conviction in their purpose that seems to illuminate an obvious path for them to follow.

I’ve also realised that, on some level, they see life’s challenges as opportunities to reaffirm their connectedness to their purpose. It is as if problems just magnify their feeling of certainty for what they believe in. In other words, when their purpose is put to the test they always find a way of ending up closer to the ultimate goal – experiencing joy.

But perhaps the most fascinating thing about each of these inspiring people that that when we look at what their purpose is based on there is a consistent common theme. The joy they experience is always derived from them being of service in some way. I’ve don’t think I’ve ever met a truly joyful person who hasn’t felt that their actions contribute towards a meaningful difference in the world, be that to other people, animals or the environment.

When Abraham Maslow created ‘The Hierarchy of Needs’ he suggested that everyone is driven by the desire to become a self-actualised individual. This is the ‘state of being’ where all of our physical, social, emotional, moral and intellectual needs are taken care of. What is not so widely publicised though is that even Maslow recognised that once a person has reached a self-actualised state, that is not the end of the story. He considered that self-actualisation is really a platform for giving yourself back to the world. The reason we spend our lives making sure our own needs are catered is so that we are fully equipped to live a life of service to others.

But what does being of service really mean?

Well the good news is that it does not mean sacrificing your own desires to keep others happy. But equally it is not about doing things with the aim of making a material gain for yourself either.

Being of service in relation to your purpose is about the focus of your intention as you go about doing whatever it is that you love to do. It is about shifting your thinking away from “What’s in it for me?” and towards “How can I provide value?”

There is no greater source of connectedness that you can feel than the connection the world makes with you in appreciation of the difference you make.

That does not mean that you have to make monumental contributions every moment of every day, but that when you have the genuine intention to be of service it becomes a thread that runs through just about everything you do and say. In fact, it is the smaller consistent gestures you make that accumulate into a personal environment where your spirit stays lifted and you feel more and more engaged with life.

Some people have wonderfully big aspirations of creating massive positive change in the world, but often feel unfulfilled and frustrated because their day-to-day commitments limit their ability to make that kind of significant impact. You are more likely to have a meaningful and positive presence in the world through your small daily actions than if you wait until you are rich enough, free enough, confident enough or famous enough to make one gargantuan statement.

If your one wish is to put an end to world hunger, the best place to start is to find one hungry child and give her a banana!

What I find extremely exciting is that to start living a service oriented life you don’t really have to change that much. The quickest way to make the shift is to take a look at everything you are already doing – including the role you play in the lives of others – and assess what your intention has been in each of these areas. Have you been looking for what you can gain, or what you can give?

For example, if you secretly know you have been leaning too heavily on your friends or family, hoping that they will somehow come and make your life better for you; ask yourself what you can do to be of service to them:

“What can I do to bring them value in our relationship?” or “What is the kindest way for me to be a positive influence in their life?”

Or, in your job, if you have been feeling like a bit of a ‘wage slave’, what opportunity can you create to give more from your unique talents and personality. Perhaps you can serve others by being that bright spirit that boosts morale. Perhaps you can commit to making one small improvement to a process every day.

If you are an artist, rather than focusing on what you gain personally through the act of creating, connect with how your creations makes a meaningful difference to those who are fortunate enough to experience them. Let this be the WHY of what you do.

Even smiling at someone as you pass them in the street, if done with the intention of brightening their day, is a great demonstration of service based living.

So, if the ultimate goal in life is to experience joy, then the ultimate way of getting there is through the experience of giving yourself back to the world.

I firmly believe that people naturally discover their real purpose when they realise that being of service stems from who they are, rather than what they do.
——————————————————————————–
HOMEWORK
——————————————————————————–

Even if you have yet to decided what you want your purpose in life to be, take some time think about how you would love the world to remember you?

If you knew that history will only record the meaningful differences you made to others and the world, what kind of legacy feels really inspiring to you?

Now think about how that can translate into the essence of how you live you life today.

What does that mean in terms of how you serve in your relationships, your work, your community, etc?

And a final question to ponder: If you were to summarise what that says about you in one word, what word would that be:

* Teacher?
* Healer?
* Leader?
* Caregiver?
* Creator?
* Entertainer?
* Or something else…

Maybe you’re closer to discovering your life’s purpose than you think!!

 

Take great care. Namaste.

 

“Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive – the risk to be alive and express what we really are.” – Don Miguel Ruiz

fearWouldn’t it be wonderful have a fool proof strategy for getting unstuck and moving forward again whenever you find yourself in the grip of fear?

I once had an almost obsessive desire to discover ‘the magic formula’ for overcoming fear in any situation. Not just so I could use it as a coaching tool but more so because I felt I could really do with it in my own life. However, having trawled through countless books, recordings, courses and seminars I finally came to the point of admitting defeat. I was ready to accept that there is no ONE ultimate exercise or intervention for combating all fear.

That was until, by chance, I heard someone use a phrase that literally stopped me in my tracks. In a moment of profound clarity I realised that the absolute antidote to fear could never be found in an exercise or technique, but rather in the acceptance of a simple truth. The phrase I heard was:

“The question is irrelevant; Love is the answer”

(All together now… Ahhhhhh!!)

At any moment in life there are only two spaces we can be operating from – The space or love or the space of fear. That may seem over simplistic, but when you sit with it for a while it is easy to connect with the truth of it. Let’s look at how these two powerful emotions drive us:

 

FEAR

Fear shows up in many forms, from the obvious to the heavily disguised. The obvious side of fear can be recognised by the physical and emotional discomfort we get through being scared, worrying or having a lack of confidence. The less obvious side of fear manifests in us having the desire to change or control our environment and the people in it. This happens when something inside of us feels threatened or insecure about what we perceive is going on in the outside world, because it doesn’t measure up to our ideas of how things are supposed to be. Sometimes this causes us to be protective: “I must control your actions because I couldn’t live with myself if something were to happen to you”, and sometimes it can come out as anger: “You must feel the wrath of my aggression until you feel obliged to comply with my model of the world”. The interesting thing about anger, though, is that it is not an assertion of power; it is a request for power from someone who is feeling powerless – or to put it another way, afraid.

Fear is also present whenever we judge, belittle or deliberately humiliate others, or when we seek their approval by showcasing our nice shiny badges of wealth and success.

 

LOVE

It is important to define what love means in this context. I am not referring to the romantic ‘fluffy bunny’ kind of love (although that does very much have its place!!). Here, I am referring to love as being a genuine acceptance and reverence for all. When we come from a space of love, fear finds itself out on the street. Love and fear cannot occupy the same space. You can alternate between the two, but you’ll never experience both at the same time. Love is what happens when we strip away our expectations of the world and reconnect with the innate wellbeing that is always present within us. Love is having a deep knowing that happiness and joy is an inside job. No matter what happens on the outside, your wellbeing remains intact because it is not dependent on the thoughts and actions of other people or the right kind of circumstances. Coming from a space of love means acting on your natural desire to show kindness and compassion to yourself and others, and to not expect them to adhere to your own personal standards. It is where unconditional really does mean unconditional. And if you want to get all spiritual about it, yes, it is where you feel at one with nature and the universe.
The difficulty in overcoming fear lies in the action of the ‘overcoming’ itself. In order overcome anything you first have to place your attention of the thing you want to get passed and give it permission to have power over you. Of course it is possible to win the battle, but that can take more time and energy than is necessary for you to exert (and there may be many more battles to come before you finally win the war).

Actually, I do have a lot belief in Susan Jeffer’s popular principle of “Feel the Fear and do it Anyway”, but I have certainly found that this is not always the most efficient (or kind) way of getting things done. In my experience, living fearlessly has less to do with ‘overcoming’ and more to do with shifting perspectives.

One of the most powerful questions I have come to rely on for bringing me out of that space of fear is “What would love do?”

Let’s take a couple of examples:

Scenario 1: You have to make an important presentation to a group of highly influential people.

What would fear do? Fear would have you imagining fluffing your lines, making a fool of yourself and being exposed as a fraud. Fear’s strategy to help you through this ordeal might be to picture the audience in their underwear or two feet tall so that you can tower over them and dominate them with your magnificence.

What would love do? Love would remind you that no one wants you fail. You have valuable knowledge that others want to know about and, as long as you remain true to that purpose, nothing can be threatened. Love’s strategy for guiding through this opportunity might be to send thoughts of warmth and well wishes to your audience before and throughout your presentation.
Scenario 2: Someone says something hurtful to you.

What would fear do? Fear would immediately feel the pain of the wound and lash out in defence. Something inside of you may feel broken or betrayed. You might try to redirect the attention toward their shortcomings in an attempt to re-establish a bit of power, or you might just feel you are the victim of some grave injustice.

What would love do? Love would recognise they are coming from a space of their own fear. They must be suffering in some way. When you know someone is suffering you can be compassionate. Even if there is nothing you can do at that time, love can remind you that your own innate wellbeing is not dependent on their thoughts and opinions of you in that moment.


HOMEWORK


Take a moment to be honest with yourself and think about a situation that you have not been handling particularly well lately (I know, I know, you’re perfect… but just humour me ;o). Perhaps you’ve been scared about an upcoming event. Perhaps you have been too controlling or harsh with someone close to you. Whatever that situation may be for you, spend some quality time contemplating these three questions:

“What is it specifically that I have been afraid of?”

Then,

“So, what has been the underlying positive intention of me responding in this way?”

Then,

“What would love do?”

 

Lots of love!!

Take great care. Namaste.

signature

“Joy is a net of love in which you can catch souls.” – Mother Teresa

joyThere are two things that have always astounded me about us Human Beings. The first is just how complex we can be with our thinking and behaviour. The second is that, despite all our complexities, what drives us at a fundamental level is remarkably simple: The desire to be happy.

Extensive research from the field of Positive Psychology has produced evidence for what many great thinkers have known for some time; that the happiest people are those who live in accordance with their highest values and have a sense of purpose and meaning in their life.

If we were to go a bit deeper and ask the question, “How do you know when you are living a meaningful life?” The answer for most people is likely to be a derivative of “When I get a feeling that I am contributing towards something worthy, good and right.”

However, if we were to continue our line of questioning with “…And what’s important about that? … And what’s important about that?”, there is a better than average chance that the final answer will be something along the lines of “Because it makes me happy.”

So, it could be argued that, when all is said and done (and however you choose to get there) the ultimate purpose of life is to experience authentic joy (I also like to refer to this as ‘love in action’).

It’s a romantic thought I know, but I often wonder, if everyone’s purpose is to experience deep joy, what would happen to the World if everyone on it were to successfully live their purpose? (Perhaps we should leave that to an ex-Beatle to right a song about!)

The interesting thing about joy, though, is that we don’t have to wait until we’ve won the Nobel Peace Prize before we experience it. We just need regular reminders to express ourselves in ways that connect us with that joyful place within us. That may be through engaging in fun and inspiring activities, making a positive difference to another person, or simply choosing to mentally and physically put yourself into a happy and joyful state (see my article “How Do You DO Happiness?”)

A lot of people think they cannot access their true joy because they have yet to discover their life’s purpose. The irony is that people do not find their life’s purpose until they have experienced their joy. It would appear that you need to have come alive before you can have a real effect on the World. It would make sense, then, that you’re far more likely to discover your path of purpose and meaning whilst you are busy having fun than when you are miserable and struggling to find answers.

So, I’ve created a game which I’m calling ‘The Game of Joy’. Woo Hoo!!

Objective:
To score maximum points by experiencing as much joy as you can within a 7 day period.

Rules:
1. Must be completed during a ‘normal week’ (going on holiday to a tropical paradise is cheating!)

2. You can introduce as many creative ways as you like to enhance your daily tasks so that they are more fun to perform. E.g. singing at the top of your voice while doing the washing up; completing that report over a cappuccino in a cafe rather than at your desk; getting someone to tell you a joke every 10 minutes; putting up photos of happy events and / or loved ones where you can always see them…

3. You can also include as many extra events into the weekly schedule as you like. E.g. going on a date with your spouse, booking a spa treatment, going to a comedy club, taking up a new hobby, getting involved in a community project, etc.

4. Be completely honest with the scoring.

Scoring:
At the end of every morning, afternoon and evening rate the level of joy you have experienced out of 10 (0 = would rather forget it, 10 = So much joy you need a tranquiliser). So that’s a maximum of 30 points per day. At the end of the 7 days, tot up your total score out of 210:

181 – 210= Living the dream (please share your secret!!)


131 – 180 = Keep it up and enjoy the party


81 – 130 = Doing OK but you might want to question whether you’re on the right track. What would need to happen to put a bigger smile on your face?


Less than 80 = Probably best to take a holiday, evaluate what’s really important to you and plan for a change in direction.


BONUS TIP 1: When you’ve completed the game, play it again for another 7 days and beat your score ;o)

BONUS TIP 2: Review all of the activities that brought you the greatest amount of joy. Write down what it was about those times / events that made them special. What do they all have in common? There’s a good chance your answers will provide inspiration and clues for finding a worthy life purpose.


Take great care. Namaste. 

signature