I Love Me: Self Worth (Part 3: Courage)
“The key to success is for you to make a habit throughout your life of doing the things you fear.”
Once you learn who you are authentically and accept yourself for who you are, you've gotten on the path to self worth and love. To fortify your feelings of value and respect, you can then try to work on consolidating confidence in yourself by doing things that challenge you to be your best. I was listening to a podcast the other day, Oprah's Supersoul Conversations, and she had a 2-part interview with her mentor Dr. Maya Angelou. After a discussion about how much her mom influenced her to develop a sense of confidence, Oprah recounts an event where she had witnessed Dr. Angelou stand up to someone who had been making racist and homophobic jokes in her home.
Oprah pointed out that this is a difficult thing to do. Most people would feel uncomfortable with that behavior but might feel it would be too awkward to say anything. So she asked, "how did you develop the inner strength to stop them?" Dr. Angelou stated, "You don't stop it by doing it immediately, you develop courage; courage is the most important of virtues, because without courage we cannot practice any other virtue consistently..." But, to do that you must start in small ways. If you wanted to pick up a 100 pound weight, you would have to start with 5 pounds, then 10 pounds, and so forth. That's the same way you do with courage. You do a courageous thing, a small one, and you like yourself, so then you do another 2 or 3. Then you like yourself better, and then, before you know it you are able to say "excuse me, not in my house you don't..." This anecdote, small as it may seem, outlines the seeds of how to grow in confidence and self worth. You must decide for yourself to challenge yourself with things that seem hard to do. Slowly but surely, you will build the confidence you need to always act out your authenticity.
Related- I Love Me Part 1- Authenticity
Key is understanding that self worth is an inside out job. Growing in confidence requires a committed inner gardener/nurturer, one who lovingly tills and cares for the soil of your authenticity, and plants seeds of confidence, and nourishes you with water (healthy daily habits), and sunshine (healthy environment) for you to flourish. Having a strong sense of self worth is helped by having a loving co-nurturer to help along the way, like Dr. Angelou's mother. However, if this is not the case for you, you can choose to either seek out a loving figure who can help nurture you, or you can become your own gardener. This might sound unfortunate, but you must realize that sooner or later we will all become our own nurturers; therefore, we receive that opportunity to get a head start on how to care for ourselves.
I CAN DO HARD THINGS
After my bout of depression, I developed a deep fear and low level anxiety about my ability to take things on, for fear that I might break again. I could hardly bear to go back to that place. I retold myself the narratives of all the times I had failed before and how all my actions prior to that had led to my depression. I was convinced that the reason I "broke" was because I had taken on too much. I had been presumptuous of my own abilities, and my depression was my due reward. After much therapy I unlearned those thinking patterns, and then I realized that depression had nothing to do with how much was on my to do list, but instead, who I prioritized on my to do list. It was not because I believed in myself too much; it was in fact that I cared for myself too little. I was living in fear of what others thought of me. I was trying to live up to expectations, and make myself small, "humble," so as not seem... "too much".
I have since come to realize that I needed to develop the courage to do hard things. Funnily, it's not the things that are traditionally seen as tough that I struggled with, it was the simple things. It was the courage to speak my mind, prioritize myself, and to keep pushing when others looked at me sideways. It was the courage to believe in myself and my journey to trust my own gut over others' opinion.
I trust me
Looking back I can see many ways I surrendered myself to others because I had no faith in myself. I had somehow come to believe that I didn't really know anything, that my opinion was invalid. I always second-guessed myself; if I decided on something, I needed the opinion of at least 3 more people. I had to have a bipartisan debate on everything. How could I possibly decide what dessert to choose without coming to a bilateral consensus? I was operating my life as though I was a democratic republic and failing to realize that the only citizen of the country of me, was me. I was allowed to cast my singular ballot and decide for myself the course of my life. When you are unfamiliar with the fact that you are a sovereign to yourself, you begin to feel like you must negotiate everything in your life, for fear of a nuclear war.
If I decided to go jogging instead of walking, it will not cause Kim Jong Un to launch a nuclear missile. And even if it does, so what? I'd have died, doing what I believed in. And isn't that why we honor heroes, for being willing to die for what they believe in? We have the chance to be our own superhero, if only we let ourselves live fully in our beliefs. When we let our authenticity become our only electorate, we are able to make decisions that we can stand on. If we happen to be wrong, we can take the blame ourselves and adjust for the future, instead of being victims of those we chose to trust.
That doesn't work for me
No means no. We hear it often in the context of sexual assault, but do we ever realize how much we respect our own no's? We often rationalize and compromise ourselves out of fear of being seen as uncaring or difficult, but it's important to understand that you are the only one who knows your capacity. When we find ourselves in situations that we are uneasy about, we owe it to ourselves and to our authenticity to listen. Take heed to your inner voice, place value on your voice above anyone else's irritation or persistence. Let your no be no! "No, I do not want to spend more time." "No, I don't want to go on a second date." "No, I am not available to take on that project." "No, I'm sorry but I can't make it to that potluck, but thanks for the invite". Our words are the most powerful tool we have to express ourselves. If we allow our words to betray what we do or do not want, we are doing a disservice to ourselves and diminishing our value to ourselves, which others notice and act on. By standing up for ourselves in these ways, we develop the ultimate comfort in knowing we were true to ourselves and that increases our sense of value for ourselves. And for others, let people value you for who you are. Give people the chance to decide how they feel about who you truly are rather than letting them "love" a facade.
I love me
Going against others' opinion is almost always hard; at least it was for me. It always felt like if I did the opposite of what someone happened to say I'd be somehow disrespecting them. Or, I would feel that I'd have to justify my choice. Why? Because I hadn't developed the principle of self care and love for who I was. I had been taught that it is best to put others in front of myself. Otherwise, it would make me appear rude, selfish, stuck up, inconsiderate or other terms of non-endearment. Caring for yourself is clearly a selfish thing to do, right? No, there is a difference between purposefully and spitefully seeking your interest in a way that diminishes someone else vs. allowing you to make you and your family the first priority of your life. Others who seek for us to place ourselves behind them, especially if they try to guilt trip us into doing so, are in fact being selfish.
In understanding our value and being authentic to ourselves, we must have the courage to be persistent in taking care of ourselves, despite the criticism we might face or the negative self talk that creeps into our minds. We must ask ourselves to be courageous enough to secure our own oxygen mask first before entertaining anyone else. The discomfort of this requires us to challenge the voices that tell us that we should not value ourselves that much, but we must realize that unless we do, we will not properly value anyone else either. Pushing past our comfort zones in this way allows us to be free of hidden resentments and pent up anger about how our lives are turning out. When we love ourselves, we extinguish negativity in our lives of all kinds and free ourselves to face life's challenges from a place of fullness and strength. We no longer feel fearful of breaking or feeling incapable of handling life's hard situations because we will have developed a habit of doing hard things over and over again, so that our muscles are strengthened and toned. We will then be better able to manage the challenges of life and even take on challenges that we once thought were impossible.
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