Let me tell you a story about something that happens in my life. I’ll be talking with a friend and as they’re sharing their problems or life challenges with me, I immediately feel like I have to solve their issues. There’s this weight that I immediately take on as I think through their particular situation and it’s as if I feel I HAVE to come up with a solution or I’m not good at what I do. I attach too much of my worth to solving problems that aren’t meant for me to solve and often times, my friends just need someone to talk to.
Every man has a little boy inside of him that desires to be seen for who he is and to hear that he is enough. Likewise, every woman has a little girl inside of her that wants to be seen for who she truly is and deemed beautiful. I believe this. No amount of success, fame, sex, makeup, plastic surgery, cocaine, alcohol, money, recognition, travel, gambling, porn, reading, or knowledge will convince you that you are enough or that you are valued or that you are loved if you don’t value and love yourself. It just won’t. As John Eldredge wrote, “It’s like asking a pearl to give you a buffalo. It’s like asking a field of wildflowers to give you a ’57 Chevy.” It’s not going to happen
You just won’t believe it and therefore it will never be enough. The man that tells you you’re beautiful over and over again won’t be enough if you don’t believe deep in your heart that you are beautiful. If the little girl within you doesn’t accept that and believe it she will come up with the most ridiculous ways in which the man in her life will have to prove it. And then when he does prove it by jumping through an assortment of hoops and running the emotional obstacle course… she’ll just come up with a new one. Because she doesn’t believe it.
In the same way, no matter what kind of success a man has in his career or how much ‘stuff’ he has, he will always want for more if the little boy inside him doesn’t believe that he has what it takes or that he is enough just the way he is. He will continually keep accumulating cars, employees, sexual encounters, etc., with an insatiable appetite because he’s always trying to prove that to himself.
But when you believe that you are enough, that you have nothing to prove to yourself, you gain a sense of freedom that is empowering. It frees you to pursue those purposes that you were created for. It’s a different kind of ‘drive’ and a different way of being. And you can always recognize the person who accepts themself with two very distinct characteristics.
First, they aren’t always trying to win an argument. They don’t care so much about arguments because they are content with the truth that they’ve realized. They aren’t compelled to win because they are right. They are more interested in connecting with other human beings on a deep level and they are all about doing the work they’ve been called to do. Creating is extremely important to them and they’d rather do that than argue with someone. Secondly, their work produces value that benefits others. It doesn’t matter if their work is creating music, repairing cars, or styling hair. It’s done in such a fashion and with such passion that other’s lives are made better because of it.
If you don’t believe that you’re worth being ‘seen’, no amount of overtures will convince you otherwise.. People will break themselves against you trying to convince you that you are loved for who you are. If you don’t believe that you are enough, that you have what it takes, nothing you do or accumulate will prove it to you. You will always feel a sense of emptiness that you seemingly just can’t put your finger on.
Do you have that haunting emptiness? Have your choices repeatedly left you wondering why you do what you do, compulsively at times? Consider that a shift may need to occur where you begin accepting and loving yourself just the way you were created. Give that little girl or boy the greatest gift you possibly could… a little bit of grace.
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"To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance." - Oscar Wilde
"When a woman becomes her own best friend life is easier." - Diane Von Furstenberg
"And above all things, never think that you're not good enough yourself. A man should never think that. My belief is that in life people will take you at your own reckoning." - Isaac Asimov
"It's not vanity to feel you have a right to be beautiful. Women are taught to feel we're not good enough, that we must live up to someone else's standards. But my aim is to cherish myself as I am." - Elle Macpherson
The five words that changed my life. Ironically, I was the one who uttered them to myself. That’s right, I talk to myself. So do you. My story is a familiar one. I didn’t have the first clue about valuing myself or loving myself and for the longest time, I had no idea that was a problem. I had a great childhood. I still have the most incredible parents when it comes to feeling loved and cared for. In very concrete ways they expressed their love for me since before I can remember. I’ve always just known their love. I grew up in an incredible community and was involved with some wonderful people through my entire childhood and into college. I share that so you can be aware that even people with the healthiest of upbringings have major struggles with insecurities and negative thought patterns. I used to think that I was the only one. Now I know I’m like every other person on the planet. Several years ago, when I hired a mentor, I knew that there were things in life that I wasn’t able to figure out and I knew I needed help. Insecurities and limiting beliefs, attached to things like fear of loneliness, finances, my own sense of worth, and intelligence, had been haunting me since I was an adolescent. But I didn’t know how to deal with them. So I found a mentor I trusted and that I knew had turned things around in his own life. His name is Mastin Kipp. I had taken a couple courses from Mastin online and I had quickly begun to build a rapport with him. We had similar stories, which helped with my trust.
When I first starting working with Mastin, he began describing exercises intended to help with learning to love myself. At first I thought they were absurd. Mirror work. Self-affirmation sentences. Telling myself that I loved myself whenever I felt a sense of shame for making a mistake. One morning while I was alone and practicing these exercises, I said out loud, with a heavy dose of jaded arrogance, “this is TOTAL HOGWASH!” (ok maybe I used a stronger description). What I said to myself next surprised me.
“How’s that working for you?” I was stunned. I couldn’t remember the last time I was content. Thinking the way I had been thinking for so many years had led me to this point. How was that working for me? Not well at all. I realized that I needed to make some major changes, but I didn’t know what. So, even though it went against everything within me, I decided to give these exercises a chance. Slowly, after practicing these exercises, I began to notice a difference in my overall thought patterns and demeanor. I had once prided myself on being an over-analytical perfectionist and cynic. But along the way, I stopped identifying with those characteristics. I didn’t know how it worked scientifically, but I saw the evidence. As my friend Mike told me, “you don’t have to know how an engine and transmission work in order to drive your car.” Mike's one of the most intelligent people I know and so I asked him to explain it to me. He's great at breaking down complex matter into laymen's terminology. So he did.
The most ancient part of the human brain is the limbic system. Our feelings of fear, anger, and aggression originate there. The limbic system is fast and ruthless, and we’ve used it for survival for as long as we’ve been around. Thanks to its speed and efficiency, the limbic system can make judgments and decisions much faster than the newer hardware in our heads. Our brains are like a muscle–what we use most gets strongest. Negative, critical, fearful or aggressive thinking tends to strengthen the response of our limbic system in our daily living.
More recent structures in human brains like the neocortex and the anterior cingulate cortex are the parts of our brains that produce love, compassion, and empathy. If you focus on those types of thoughts, you will enhance the neural circuits in the prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex and it encourages your brain to support that way of thinking. Intentional focus toward these kinds of thoughts has been clearly demonstrated to have helpful physiological and psychological benefits. You can actually begin to find your identity in those thoughts and feelings.
Why do I tell you all of this? Simple. Maybe you’re like me. Maybe my story resonates with you on some level. Maybe you’re tired of being cynical, judgmental, critical of yourself, and influenced in major ways by your insecurities. Maybe you know you need to value yourself and love yourself more but you just don't know how. Maybe when you hear me always talking about loving yourself, accepting yourself, and sharing practical ways to begin to do this, you are skeptical. Maybe you also think that doing any kind of ‘positive’ mental and emotional exercise is too ‘Stuart Smalley-ish’ for you. Maybe you think that is too 'touchy feely' could never work. Maybe you’re thinking, ‘I’ll just stick with what I know.’
Well let me ask you, with the most sincere and humble of intentions, how’s that working for you?
Yes, I do believe that one of the single most effective and powerful things we can do to participate in the Divine’s transformation of our own lives is to learn to love ourselves more. Time and time again, as I work with people, when we get to the core of the problem, be it limiting belief, addiction, etc., it is a lack of self-love. The thing that’s behind the thing that’s behind the thing is that they have placed a very low value on their life and don’t believe they deserve to be happy. It is the most messed up thing of all and most people are barely aware of it. I genuinely think people want to be happy. Yet deep down in places they haven’t explored often, they don’t believe they deserve to be happy or are worth it. It’s the most devious trick in humanity. Somewhere in our life we were told that we aren’t worth it. We either were treated that way by those who were supposed to love and protect us when we were young and vulnerable, or because of decisions we made in the past, mistakes, we buy into the lie that we don’t have value and we aren’t worth being loved. And yet we can spend our whole lives trying to prove that we are worth being loved and go to incredible lengths to try to show everyone that we are of value.
But you don’t have to prove anything. Let me say it again. You have nothing to prove. The fact that God created you is enough. That oxygen flows in and out of your lungs, bringing life to your blood cells, is enough. What if instead of constantly trying to prove ourselves to ourselves and everyone around us, we just acknowledged that because we are alive and loved by the Divine, that we are enough.
Tomorrow is the one day self-love challenge. Now if you just read that sentence and rolled your eyes a little, I understand. I used to respond in the same manner. And then I realized that being a control freak and a perfectionist, and being harder on myself than anyone else hadn’t really gotten me the things in life I want… peace, happiness, self-control, etc. Has the way you’ve been living your life taken you to the heights of your dreams? So why not take one day and commit to loving yourself? Why not take one day to be completely and utterly gracious with yourself? Why not take one day and instead of criticizing yourself for making a mistake, simply affirm that you love yourself anyways, just the way you are? Here are a few places to start...
1. Make the commitment to love yourself for 1 day: Make the commitment and choose love for yourself. Do it now. If love is the greatest gift we have to give, what could be possibly wrong with loving yourself for one day in all your thoughts and actions? Go ahead and literally write it out right now or type it in an email to yourself or send it as a text to yourself. "Tomorrow I will commit my entire day to practicing self love."
2. Affirm yourself verbally throughout the day: Think of the most loving thing you could say to yourself, and repeat regularly throughout the day. Get up and repeat it OUT LOUD to yourself first thing. Write it on a post it note and stick it on your bathroom mirror before you go to bed tonight. If you are having trouble coming up with something loving to say to yourself, try starting here.
3. Forgive yourself immediately after any intentional or unintentional mistake: So you just screwed up and maybe no one else knows it, but you do. Immediately forgive yourself. If it helps, you can allow yourself to feel your remorse and then say... "I totally and completely forgive myself for ____________________ and I release myself of all my anger and all my disappointment." Try it. Forgiveness is incredibly powerful and it is the one of the most freeing things to experience. In fact, maybe you want to start your day by forgiving yourself for everything you've done that you have yet to forgive yourself for.
4. Give yourself a gift: Choose one thing to do for yourself that you know brings you life and you know cares for your soul and heart. Maybe you love going for a run but haven't had time lately. Maybe there is a good book you just haven't allowed yourself to read lately because you haven't had time. Read it. Maybe there is a friend that always brings you life that you haven't spent time with or talk to lately. Ask them to hang out or simply call them and just talk.
Taking the one day self-love challenge is a gift that you can give to yourself with no strings attached. It's only one day. How bad could it possibly be? A better question and motivation is, how incredible might it be? What if you discover some things about yourself? Wouldn't it be worth it?
If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to email me via the website and I will be glad to get back to you before you wake up tomorrow. What do you say? ARE YOU WORTH IT?
“The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.” - C.G. Jung
"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
"Well-ordered self-love is right and natural." - Thomas Aquinas
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I’m about to tell you something that you already know and may already practice. It is going to be the simplest advice I’ve ever given. But I’m going to share it anyways. You can never over estimate the power of reaching out to a friend. Reach out now to someone you trust. No matter where you are in life today or what you are up against, reaching out to a friend will add incredible value to your life. Not just anyone mind you. Someone you trust. Someone that you’re pretty certain will embrace you regardless of the situation you’re in. Reach out to that friend that you know isn’t full of trite quotes and pithy clichés. The one that usually makes your day feel lighter after you’ve talked to them.
You might say, Brad, I don’t really reach out to friends. I don’t really need them that much and I don’t feel comfortable sharing or being vulnerable. If that’s the case then it really must suck to be you. How’s that working for you by the way?
You might say, Brad, I don’t connect with people as easily as you do. Well, that might be true. But that doesn’t mean that you won’t benefit greatly in the next 5 minutes by reaching out to a friend on the phone, sharing a bit of your heart, and feeling a bit more connected to humanity. I’ve said it before. If you can feel a bit more connected to humanity, you can feel a bit more connected to the Divine. Or whatever it is that you particularly put your trust in for resource and Love
It’s not a secret that when we are accepted and loved by others we tend to feel more gracious with ourselves, with others, and more alive in general. There is this beautiful thing that happens when we are our authentic selves and we connect with a loved one. I only have crude letters and words, placed together to form sentences in an attempt to describe this beauty. But it’s that overwhelming sense that there is more to life than just our narrow perspective and view. It’s the recognition of how valuable and precious it is to not be alone and to have the ability to share this journey with others.
written by Mike McHargue Have you ever heard the story of Jonah? He's a prophet in the first part of the Bible, and God told him to go talk to people in a city called Nineveh. He didn't want to go, so he got on a boat and sailed the other direction. The story tells us a storm came, and Jonah ended up in the belly of a fish for three days. This experience convinces Jonah to follow God's directions, and he's freed from the fish's stomach.
Jonah walks into Nineveh and announces the city will be destroyed by God in 40 days. The story takes an amazing turn here because the people of Ninevah accept this prophecy. They go into mourning, and they change their ways. God responds by holding back his judgement.
I was talking to some friends a couple of weeks ago about this story. My friend Cathi was talking about how that story changed for her over time. As a kid, she was captivated by the idea of Jonah sitting in the belly of a fish for three days. As she grew, the story became less about a fish and more about listening to God and following his directions. I had a similar growth in understanding about the story of Jonah. Unlike me, Cathi's understanding of this story grew deeper.
Jonah's story is also about prejudice. Jonah gets angry after God spares Nineveh. In fact, Jonah tells God that he's so angry he could die. In his anger, Jonah explains that he didn't want to go to Nineveh because he knew God would redeem the people there.
Jonah hated Nineveh. He didn't want them to be saved.
There is this idea of in-group bias In neuropsychology. Humans are hard-wired to identify their tribe. Incredible favoritism sets once that tribe is identified. The in-group has a flip side: for there to be an in-group, there must be an out-group. We see this manifest itself in a lot of ways, but the most recognizable example in modern society is racism. In people who were not exposed to racial diversity as a child, the brain responds differently to people of different races. It's quick, and we certainly have the power to overcome that reaction.
God teaches Jonah that this group of people Jonah despises are loved by God. Jonah's natural, completely human reaction is, "us versus them." Jonah's "them" was the people of Ninevah. Jonah didn't want his "them" to be redeemed. He didn't want "them" to be near to God like he was.
Who's your them?
Who is the people group you can't accept, and that you deem unworthy of God's grace and mercy?
Is it black people? Asian people? White people?
Republicans? Democrats? Both?
Lesbians? Gays? Homophobes?
Atheists? Evangelicals? Muslims?
Hypocrites? Felons? Child Molesters?
Gun nuts? Gun control advocates?
Maybe your them is the guy who cut you off in traffic this morning, or your boss, or someone who hurt you very deeply.
Is there a person or people in your life that make you angry when they come to mind? Someone who you deem unworthy of God's love?
Jonah's story ends with God saying, "You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?"
Who's your "them"? It may be on you to tell them of God's love.
Mike McHargue is a writer, technologist, and CTO of the Zimmerman Agency.
Mike explores "how science, technology and faith work together to smash conventional wisdom."
Why all the talk about loving yourself? Because I firmly believe that until you learn to love yourself, you will always be limited in your ability to receive love from others and give love as well. Now I’m not talking about selfishness. And I’m not talking about narcissism either. Acting in selfish and narcissistic ways are not truly loving to one’s self. Spoiling the inner ‘brat’ that cries and whines and always wants it selfish little ways is not the path to growth, peace, love, joy, etc. So please don’t get confused as we talk about loving self.
I’m speaking of actual love. Pure love for yourself. The kind of love that is gracious and kind. The kind of love that reaches in and accepts you just the way you are. The kind of love that motivates us to become better people, not out of ‘shame’ or ‘should’ or ‘ought’… but out of kindness and compassion. The kind of love that extends second, third, and fourth changes (and in some cases 107th chances).
Many religious people (and I’m talking about several world religions) mistakenly believe that their faith calls them to dislike or even hate themselves. At the very least, they mistakenly believe that they must never think of themselves under any circumstances. However, I just don’t find that to be a sustainable faith. In fact, I believe that the more we love ourselves the more we are able to accept the love of the Divine. The more we love ourselves, the more we see our own value and worth. And the more we see our own value and worth, accepting love for ourselves, the more we are able to truly see the value and worth in others. And of course, the more we see the value and worth in others, the more we are able to give to them from a wealth that is Divine.
The other side of that is if you don’t love and accept yourself, it will be extremely difficult to receive love from others and even from the Divine. Why? Because if you aren’t actively loving yourself, you won’t feel like you are worth the love of the Divine. The coolest thing about God is that sometimes God breaks into our lives and allows us to actually feel Divine love. Often times, this is the only thing that can help us to shift our perspective on loving ourselves.
So how can you begin to actively love yourself more today? What are active ways that you show yourself that you love yourself? Is there a self-destructive habit that you are addicted to that you can give up? Is there a way you can affirm your health and thereby actively show yourself love? Are there thought patterns that need to be addressed? Is there an area of your life where you could apply some grace and stop beating yourself up? Could you forgive yourself for something you've done or taken the blame for? Could you just simply accept your body, just as it is?
It only takes the tiniest actions of self-love to start a bit of an avalanche. And that’s one chain reaction worth setting in motion.
Today I choose to love myself. I will extend myself grace and acceptance when otherwise I would normally choose criticism and shame. Today I will choose to make at least one decision that actively shows myself love.