I thought marriage would save me. I believed all my problems would go away. Not just the external ones, but the internal ones too. Problems like insecurity, loneliness, and lack of love for myself. I couldn’t have been more wrong and I’m not the only one. People make this mistake all the time. Problems don’t just ‘go away’. You must deal with them.
I remember the day my first dog died. Her name was ‘Lady’, of course. She had wandered onto our property when I was about one year old and despite our efforts to find her owner, no one ever claimed her. I can’t recall my childhood without including her because she was with me for the first 14 years of my life. On that day when we finally put her to sleep, I remember shutting down in an effort to avoid the pain.
My most memorable wrestling match in high school was against the toughest kid I had ever met. This guy had muscles growing on top of his muscles. Before the match, he was across the gymnasium, mouthing curse words that I hadn’t even heard before. I was intimidated. But something in me snapped in that moment and I realized that there was every possibility in the world that my best was good enough.
Being completely present means that I have to let people experience the totality of me. It’s easier to say a half truth than it is to let people see all the way through me. What if they don’t like what they see? What if I don’t like what I think they see?
Q: Brad, I just wanted to say that I loved your post today, 'a boy and a girl.' I think it's really relevant for my own struggles and anxieties. But something I've always struggled with when it comes to valuing myself and being okay with myself, is how do I do that when there is still so much room for improvement? Where's the line between complacency and that freedom with loving yourself for who you are? I’m asked some variation of this question more than any other. The question goes something like this, "But if I love and accept myself just as I am, what would motivate me to change and continue to better myself?" The answer is within the question itself: nothing will motivate us to change more than the love we have for ourselves. If we love ourselves we want the best for ourselves. We will begin to make decisions that are healthy for us because we believe we deserve to live a higher quality of life. We care more about our long-term well being than instant gratification. We don't become arrogant because we know that leads to all kinds of problems and isn’t a loving attitude towards our selves or others. Also, our desire to help others increases because we know that there is some type of peace that only comes from giving of ourselves to others. When we have abundance from God within ourselves and we care for ourselves, we actually have more to offer others.
Conversely, if we don't love ourselves, we won't be able to love others all that well. Take Jesus' famous words in Matthew 25... "love your neighbor as yourself." If you don't love yourself well, then to love your neighbor as you love yourself will result in poor and unhealthy gestures. We see this all the time in unhealthy codependent relationships.
Or, this example: how many people do you know that are just kind of mean; they don't treat people well and they consistently are selfish? If you look closely you'll see that deep down, they despise themselves. If you look often enough at these types of people, it becomes obvious who does and doesn't care for themselves all that much.
The father that beats his wife and children, that guy totally hates himself but often feels powerless over his compulsion to take it out on others, or worse, isn't even aware that he despises himself.
Or, the people who really hate gay people, the ones who spew vitriol publicly against them. It’s funny how sometimes we find out that they were having closet homosexual encounters all along. They hated something about themselves and publicly took it out on others.
But if you love yourself, I mean truly accept yourself just where you are, you feel compelled to grow.
Finally, I believe we are called to become more like the Divine... to love like the Divine loves. The next logical conclusion then is that we should also love ourselves the way God loves us. That's a love that accepts us no matter how many times we return to ______________. (whatever self destructive behavior we feel powerless to rid ourselves of).
The Divine loves us right where we are... and that often moves us so deeply that we want to respond with love and healthy choices.
In short, love for our selves rarely leaves room for complacency. Love for your self has more motivational power than shame, guilt, or despising your self. That’s why white-knuckling addiction isn’t sustainable. You have to love yourself past the point of thinking you deserve a miserable life.
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
Last week we talked about those times when our growth means that we have to let go of certain people. Not because we don’t care about them, but because they’ve chosen to stay put… stagnant. Our action was a reflection, for them, of their inaction and they continued to act out against our better choices. But the other side of that coin is remarkable. Your choice to move forward and grow will attract like-willed people. When you endeavor and dare to live an extraordinary life, people of higher caliber who are seeking the same will suddenly show up beside you. It's amazing to have friends walking next to you on an extraordinary path, parallel to yours, because they’ve chosen to answer their own life’s calling. This is a necessary component to your growth and you won’t have to look that hard to find these people. This is because people who dare to do great things with their life recognize that quality within others. You’re at a conference and you can see it shining within the eye of a passing stranger. You hear it in their tone of voice when they are giving a presentation or simply talking about a project over dinner and drinks. You sense it in the way they treat those around them, particularly the way they treat the waiter, bartender and the young lady behind the airline ticket counter.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to these people, they want you to! They want to have the same type of connection and support that you crave. Imagine having a cohort or three that you know you can call when you get ‘stuck’ in the creative process. Someone or ‘some-ones’ (yes I make up words, go with it) who understand what it’s like to encounter resistance on a particular project and understand without you even having to explain. Yet they’ll force you to express your frustrations because they know that when you get that ‘stuff’ out in the open it will no longer own you.
These remarkable people are trustworthy. They value you and your mission and purpose in life. They know that you have great intentions, but they care too much to stand by and say or do nothing when its obvious that you’ve been stuck in a rut and dealing with something that seems to be holding you back. These are the people that are aware of their own shame and welcome you to share yours because they know that nothing works better against the grip of shame than bringing light to it. They won’t talk to you condescendingly and they can keep a tight lip because they have experienced that themselves and know how carefully what you share needs to be held.
One of the coolest aspects of having cohorts in your life is that when they share their passion and describe a project and their process it will inevitably stir something within you in regards to something you’re working on. The two projects may not even be related in the least, but your hearts for creativity most certainly are alike. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to a cohort share about a project so completely unrelated to my life and yet standing next to their fire somehow sparks were ignited within me.
When you do find yourself journeying next to these people, give freely. What you give to them without emotional, financial or spiritual strings attached will return to you with the same intensity with which you gave it.
So how exactly do you ‘reach out’ to these people? Keep doing what you’re doing, but lift your head up from time to time and take a look around you to see who else is moving in the same direction. Then summon the courage to ask a simple question. “I’m interested in what you’re working on these days, would you take a moment to share your experience with me?” If they say no, don’t take it personally, because it isn’t personal. Just try it again… and again… and again until someone bursts at the seams in response. Trust me, people love to talk about their passions and processes. Brene Brown says, “One of the greatest barriers to connection is the cultural importance we place on ‘going it alone.’ Somehow we’ve come to equate success with not needing anyone.” No one cares if you made it on your own. Because those who have had a moderate amount of success are already aware that it isn't possible alone. It doesn't work that way.
Someday you may find that a cohort’s passions and yours intersect on a particular project. Should that be the case, you will find that you are one of the most blessed people on the planet. When that wave comes along you just may have one of the most enjoyable experiences of your creative life. Ride that wave for all it’s worth.
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"My friends have made the story of my life. In a thousand ways they have turned my limitations into beautiful privileges and enabled me to walk serene and happy in the shadow cast by my desperation." - Helen Keller
"When a match has equal partners then I fear not." - Aeschylus
"I love acting with kids, cause they're great acting partners. They're totally present. Even when they're acting, they're still available and you can crack them up or something weird will happen and they'll go with it." - Mark Ruffalo
Sometimes people say that “youth is wasted on the young.” I don’t know that I agree with that, but I can tell you that youth is wasted on the drugged-up young: I was one of them. I lived a very different life when I was in my mid twenties. I blinded my heart and dulled my emotions with substance abuse on a daily basis. Getting high wasn’t about the high. The only place I sought to find my value and worth was with validation from women. Cocaine gave me the energy I needed to be at the party, no matter how long the party lasted. I believed that if somebody wanted to be with me, even if for only a night, it was better than not being wanted at all. And if I could say "at least she wants to be with me right now" (whoever she was that I ended up with that night)... well that meant something. A lot of people don’t realize how much money you can make dealing drugs. Managing that money well, however, is a completely different story. I did work in several bars, which enabled me to sell more drugs and hang out with my friends at the same time.
Believe it or not, I was working on my Masters of Divinity at the time. I was the rare combination… Drug Dealer and Seminary Student. You don’t see a lot of people selling coke and working on a Masters of Divinity together, and for good reason. It doesn’t work. Even as I studied scripture and theology, I lied, cheated and stole. This powerful hypocrisy lead me to hurt the people I cared about most in my life.
I was completely disconnected from my God, I had no sense of worth or value, and I was as lost in depression as I could ever possibly be. And the shame that came along with knowing that I was where I was in life because of the choices I made was like walking around with the rotting carcass of a two ton elephant strapped to my back.
Interestingly enough, this behavior is not uncommon. It’s almost cliché, except for the fact that it was my life and for the most part, I felt like I could not escape. I don't tell you this to glamorize my life story, far from it. I believed I was a loser, that I deserved that life, and that I would be dead by thirty. One afternoon while I was taking a shower I collapsed to the bottom of my bathtub, weeping and crying out to my God for help. When I emerged from the water and steam filled bathroom, I was determined to come up with a plan and execute it at any cost. Four months later I sold everything, except what I could fit into my Toyota Camry, and drove across the country to crash at my parents house for about a year.
What I wasn’t aware of at the time was that I had the choice to change my life, every moment of every day. Even though I was in a living hell, the fear of change was more powerful than the pain that I had created… until it wasn’t. However, even after months of the brilliant clarity that came with sobriety, there were days that I wanted to return to that lifestyle because it was comfortable. I may have been messed up and completely self-destructive, but at least I knew how to handle life in that mode. As a sober person, everything was new and brought with it a sense of intense fear. The simplest of tasks, like scheduling appointments on a calendar seemed like it took the energy of escaping the Earth’s gravitational pull.
Every day was a choice. Connect with my God, get centered, and choose a new way, or return to where I had come from. Sixteen years later and I don’t know how to express in writing how rewarding it is to have stayed the course. The only thing that comes to mind is to say the names of my two little girls and maybe you might be able to recognize what is wrapped up in this imagery. Life.
Today I value myself; connect with the Divine hourly; have deep and meaningful relationships with the most rewarding friends a guy could have; and know my purpose, as my life and income are wed to helping others make their own changes, discover work that matters and learn to love themselves. I still make mistakes, but I’ve learned how to process through them in a healthy manner. Living an extraordinary life isn’t a one time decision. It’s a choice that’s made every single morning followed by action steps that back up that choice like powerful punches landing on the jaw of ‘the comfortable’.
Maybe you want someone else to make you feel better about yourself. Maybe you are at the end of your rope and feel like you don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell. You do. Today you have the most power you will ever have… the power of a choice. Maybe you begin exercising the power of that choice with a simple prayer asking for help.
It could be that you’ve never been to those depths, but at some point you decided that you wanted a better life for yourself, one with purpose and meaning that energizes and compels you. Now you’re wondering why things haven’t changed yet. Is it possible that you’ve forgotten that living a meaningful life is a choice one must make everyday? It doesn’t take a new year to make changes, just a choice.
When you woke up this morning, what did you choose? If it wasn’t clear, concise, and followed by actions, chances are high that it wasn’t an empowering choice. Here’s another cliché for you… thinking you’re not making a choice is most certainly a choice.
If you are interested in subscribing to the mailing list and receiving these via email, simply click under ‘subscribe to the mailing list’. _______________________________________________________________________________________ "The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time." - Abraham Lincoln
"This is as true in everyday life as it is in battle: we are given one life and the decision is ours whether to wait for circumstances to make up our mind, or whether to act, and in acting, to live." - Omar Bradley
"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." - Viktor Frankl
Special thanks to Mike McHargue for an open conversation and help in refining this piece
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?
There was a time in my life that I was so wrapped up in doing what was ‘required’ of me that I was rarely present with people. When I say ‘required’ I mean those things that I knew I needed to do or those ways that I knew I needed to be (or act) so that people around me would be happy with me or satisfied. My nose was pressed so far up against that routine and I was so concerned with satisfying the people in my life that I wasn’t free to actually give the gift of myself to people. It was a paradox really. On a deep level I wanted to add value to people’s lives. But instead of doing that, I would focus on making sure people weren’t unhappy or dissatisfied with me. Either at work, at home, or in the community. It just became my default mode of operation. It was selfish actually. And the result was that when I was always doing just enough for people to not be dissatisfied, I was rarely actually adding value to the lives of those I cared about most.
A large part of it had to do with my fear of change. It used to feel like so much work to me to have to change what I was already comfortable with. I like routine. Routine is consistent. Routine helps me avoid the unknown. The biggest problem I had with change is that it meant that I would have to make hard and difficult decisions and actually give more of myself as opposed to keeping everything ‘status quo’.
Here’s the brick wall we all run into though. Change is inevitable. People change. Organizations change. Governments change. People change their minds, their preferences, their wants, their needs, their perspectives, their ___________. You can try to resist change, but you’ll be left behind. Even more tragic, you will not be adding value to this world.
This world needs you. We need your heart. We need your mind. We need you to be present and to bring yourself to the table. When someone close to you is dealing with a death, illness, loneliness, depression, or anything of the sort, they don’t need your routine. They need you. The essence of you.
They need you to sit with them. They need you to listen. They need to look in someones eyes and feel connected to humanity and even the Divine. If we are so fearful of change and anything out of the routine, not only will we not be able to give the gift of ourselves, we won’t even realize that the walking wounded are all around us.
Adding value to the world by being present means that we give up feeling threatened by change. It means we operate on a whole different level of honesty. It means having difficult conversations with people when we disagree with them or when they’ve let us down. What if doing the right thing wasn’t threatened by the concern of what people thought about us? What if we were empowered to tell people things they don’t want to hear when they need to hear it because we are more concerned about being present with them than what they think of us. It means not trying to get people to like us, but connecting with them and giving them ourselves. It means dropping the games. No spin. No misdirection or misleading. It means we stop trying to paint ourselves in a better light. It means being less about impressing or mitigating and more about connecting. It means being vulnerable even if we get shot down or lose our job, reputation, or pride.
How much better would the world be if we gave of ourselves regardless of the outcome? What kind of world we have to experience for ourselves if we made the choice to be more present and embrace the change?
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."
A couple of months ago I mentioned a trip to Laguna Beach with several forward thinking, open hearted, inspirational people. 50 of them to be exact. It was such an incredible time and space for connecting with humanity, conversing about social and theological dynamics, and exploring futurist topics and trends. The people that showed up there were highly intellectual and creatively charged folks. Or as we say in Boston, “these peeps are wicked smaht”. I remember spending most of my time dealing with a running inner dialogue. That guy is so much smarter than me. That girl is so much more creative than me. He writes so much better than I do. She is such a better orator than I am. I’m not as wealthy as that guy. She is such a better organizational person than I am. He is so much more deep than me. And on and on. My inner dialogue quickly lead me to one conclusion… “I don’t belong with these people.” Fortunately the love I felt from them destroyed that conclusion.
You know this inner dialogue don’t you? I wish I was as good looking as that guy. I wish my body was as toned and petite as hers. I wish my bank account looked like theirs. I could never be as smart as them. I wasn’t blessed with his charm. This inner dialogue is one of the most ungrateful and limiting dialogues you can participate in. These kind of negative, limiting beliefs can send us into a holding pattern for months, years, even decades. If we don’t process our way out of it, we will literally never grow past it.
But during one of our sessions, our leader made a profound statement. He said… “Who you aren’t, isn’t interesting”. No one is interested in hearing about who I am not. So why would I be interested in it? I decided right then that of critical importance to my growth was to stop listening to this inner dialogue. How did I do that? It’s taken some time. I’ve read many books. I’ve noticed right away when that dialogue starts and try to identify the triggers that cause it. Then I stop listening. But one more thing has worked extremely well for me. I’d like to share that with you.
I’ve stayed in contact with those remarkable people and I just spent the last few days in Denver with them. We’ve conversed together, eaten together, laughed together, opened our hearts to each other, listened to each other, cried together, and had our minds blown apart by some pretty heavy conversations and ideas. We’ve welcomed some new people into our family and we’ve loved together. And not one time did I even hear the beginning of that inner dialogue. Not one time did I begin to think that I wasn’t smart enough, creative enough, interesting enough, __________ enough, or that I didn't belong.
Do you know why? First, many months ago I decided that I wanted to rid myself of that inner dialogue and limiting beliefs and I sought out how to do that. Secondly, and more powerfully, I was too busy loving with these people. I literally shared and received so much love over the last few days that I had no room for comparing myself to them. Or comparing myself with anyone for that matter. The love came in all forms. Particularly being transferred through all the ways I spoke of in the previous paragraph.
I am convinced that love is saving the world and will continue to. That’s a whole other post. But for now I am glad to say that love has saved me. Love for myself to decide to make changes, Love for the people that I spent my time with, and Love from those people who aren’t looking to get anything out of me. They just are loving people. I type these words with tears in my eyes because of the great depths that love has moved me.
Are you constantly comparing yourself to others? Are you way to interested in who you aren’t? When was the last time you stopped and were grateful for who you are? You are a wonderful, unique, inspirational person. You are filled with so much of the Divine that you can change the world. You can Love. Get loving.
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.
Our quality of life is dependent on many things. Amazingly enough, our quality of life is not dependent on the circumstances of our world. It isn’t dependent upon your spouse or significant other. It isn’t dependent upon how well our children behave or if they meet our expectations. Our quality of life isn’t dependent up on our job or our income. I believe our quality of life is determined by how we respond to life circumstances and the meanings we attach to what is happening in our life. I’m not talking about being a ‘glass is half full’ kind of person. I’m talking about attaching real meaning to what occurs in life and choosing to respond in a way that helps us live the kind of life we want to live.
What kind of life do you want? How often do you think about what kind of life you want? The question isn’t ‘what kind of life did you parents want for you?’ or your friends, or the culture you’ve been surrounded with or the particular faith tribe or political affiliations you have. The question is ‘what kind of life do YOU want?’ Only you can answer that question. And your answer to that question will determine your quality of life.
Lets say you’re in a job that leaves you completely unsatisfied. Maybe you hate it or maybe you’re simply… unsatisfied. You could spend the next 5 years (which would be way too long) complaining, wishing, hoping for a new job. One that aligns closer to your purposes and the intentions you have for life. If you’ve spent a fair amount of time and work, thinking about, meditating and praying about what kind of life you want to live, then the direction forward will be much more clear to you and you will be 10 steps closer to landing the kind of job you feel is aligned with your purpose on the planet (Full disclosure: I believe everyone’s purpose involves adding value to the lives as others).
Discovering what kind of life we want isn’t impossible. Those answers are lying there deep within us. At first we may just have some general ideas. I want to feel loved, I want to feel connected, I want to feel freedom, etc. But as we do the work and process and dig to the core of who we are, these general ideas will get more and more specific. Doing this work often times will reveal a road map, so to speak, of how we move towards the kind of life we want.
Some of you reading this are saying, ‘duh’ Brad. That’s a no brainer. But some reading this have had vague ideas of what they want, but have never clarified and done the work to get clear on what kind of life they want to live.
Some of you may be saying, ‘that’s too much focus on me’. Well that’s a whole other issue. But suffice it to say, if you can’t focus on what you want in life, you’ll only be able to give to others at a fraction of your potential.
So I ask you… what kind of life do you want?
Today I will take the time to begin to do the work to get clear on what kind of life I want. I will carve time out of my schedule and get silent, meditate, pray, do the things that make me come alive, so that I can get in touch with my core, my heart. The answer to this question lies within me and I am capable of getting clear on what kind of life I want.
We’ve all been wronged. We’ve all been taken advantage of and hurt. We all know that we will have to forgive that person that hurt us at some point. Most of us are self aware enough to know that if we don’t learn to forgive those who wrong us, it will eventually eat us up inside and cause more harm. So, often we make the decision to forgive someone before we actually ‘feel’ like forgiving them. Then, eventually, after we continue to choose forgiveness for that person over and over again, we begin to feel like forgiving them. I know I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. But what I have found is that there is almost always one person we don’t forgive. In most cases we don’t forgive this person because we don’t even think about forgiving them. We may not even be aware that we are angry with, disappointed with, or disgusted with that person. But we usually are, and that person needs forgiveness too. I’m talking about forgiving ourselves.
When we’ve done wrong or we feel like we are responsible for harm or pain, emotionally or physically, that has come to someone else, we rarely extend ourselves the grace we would extend to others. We feel like everyone else deserves a second chance or forgiveness but us. We feel somehow like the things we’ve done just don’t deserve forgiveness. But you do deserve it. You deserve it for all the reasons why everyone else deserves it. Because there is no healthy way to move forward from hurt and pain or wrong doing until forgiveness is extended.
It’s amazing to me the amount of grace we are willing to extend to other people, yet we aren’t willing to extend it to ourselves. We don’t like to talk about it in those terms. So instead we say things like, “I’m just a perfectionist” or “there are just some things I can’t accept from myself, like failure”. Some of us even wear the term ‘perfectionist’ like a badge of honor, not realizing the perfectionism isn’t possible and only leads to a downward spiral of the psyche and our emotions.
Maybe you’ve made some mistakes. Maybe people have even been emotionally or physically hurt by your mistakes. Maybe you meant to or maybe it was completely unintentional. Maybe you believe that what you’ve done is beyond forgiveness and that you don’t deserve a second chance. Maybe you’re just becoming aware yourself that you have strong negative feelings toward yourself. Whatever the case may be, I know a way forward. Choose to forgive yourself. You don’t have to feel like it. You don’t have even have to want to do it. Simply choose that you’re going to forgive yourself. And maybe as you choose to forgive yourself over and over again, you’ll one day FEEL like forgiving yourself. It’s a start down a wonderful path.
Today I choose to forgive myself for anyone I may have intentionally or unintentionally hurt. I release myself of any and all anger or disappointment that I have with myself. I deserve forgiveness.
There is so much to be said and written about concerning having the courage to be honest with ourselves. Navigating the path of being present with our own feelings and owning them. There is so much more to be explored on the topic of staring fear and pain directly in the eye of our own soul and not flinching or closing off to it. For some this is much easier than for others. Some of us have been formed and trained from the time we were tiny babies to face reality and to be present with all emotions. But most of us, if we are honest, would rather not face our fears and pain head on. We have learned over time to close ourselves off from pain and fear. We text, we skype, we chat, we drink, we smoke, we enter relationships, we exit relationships, we shop, we consume, we eat, we facebook, we do anything we can do in order to stop feeling pain as soon as we recognize it in our life (yes I recognize a run-on sentence when I see one too). This is what addiction is all about. Avoiding pain and fear. Unfortunately, when we minimize the pain in our lives we also minimize the joy and elation as well. As researcher Brene Brown has so eloquently and poignantly expressed in ‘The Gift of Imperfection’, we cannot mitigate some emotions and stay open to others. We are either suppressing all of our emotions/feelings or we are embracing all of emotions/feelings.
It is not possible to hide from pain and fear and yet at the same time embrace Joy and Love. It cannot be done because it doesn’t work that way. If we want to be filled with Joy and Love, we must be willing to go to our pain and to our fears. We must beg for the courage to look our pains and fears directly in the eye and not blink. We must be willing to sit with that pain and fear and grow comfortable with it.
This is not easy. If you try this and you aren’t used to it, you will quickly feel overwhelmed and have the sensation of a hot white fire rising up deep from within your chest. You will probably believe that you’re going to have a meltdown. Maybe you should back off at that point… just for a little while. Maybe you need to find a good friend or professional to help you through this process. But we must return to those things that we have shut ourselves off from for so long or they will forever be embedded in us. We’ll wonder why we do the things that we don’t want to do. Why we hurt the people we don’t want to hurt.
Acknowledging our pain, sitting with it, and then working through and past the pain is the only way to move forward. And if this thought makes you sick to your stomach or seems ridiculous to you… you probably have some pain to acknowledge.
“We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.”
"Owning our story can be hard, but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy--the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
Full disclosure... I am unmistakably a believer. In this space I often use the term 'The Divine' to refer to the Higher Power. Please allow yourself to replace 'The Divine' with how you've come to know and understand God. ______________________________________________________________________________________
The world has a funny way of bumping into us and completely changing our inner state of being. One moment we’re happy and content, going through our day, and then BAM! Someone that we really don’t feel good being around runs into us with the kind of passing comment that can immediately derail us. We end up having 4 or 5 different conversations with that person in our head for the rest of the day. Maybe we tell them off. Maybe we logically box them into a corner and then knock them out with the tremendously practiced words we’ve worked so hard to come up with. All in our head of course, but knock them out none the less. The problem with this is that it takes up a tremendous amount of energy and time throughout the day! Also, we rarely end up having a conversation with the person, let alone along the vein of what we’ve rehearsed in our minds. There is another way, a way that doesn’t take our entire day hostage.
As painful and uncomfortable moments arise during our day, and they most certainly will, we must be aware that we are experiencing those feelings. Don’t engage them or try to change the world around you in order to make yourself feel more comfortable. Don’t spend your energy immediately, trying to do whatever it takes to make those feelings and pain go away. Instead, sit in rest and relaxation, being fully present with those feelings and allowing the old, hidden, suppressed pain that rises up to come up fully and release itself. This will take a tremendous amount of faith in the Divine. Faith that the Divine won’t allow us to be swallowed up by that pain. Faith that the Divine will provide for us emotionally what we need at that time.
When someone or some circumstance bumps into you and makes you extraordinarily uncomfortable, ask yourself… What is it I’m feeling? Inadequacy? Insecurity? Fear? What is behind that feeling? More of the same? Or something different. Let yourself be purified and healed as you allow yourself to go through the uncomfortable moments of fully recognizing your pain and discomfort emotionally, instead of suppressing those experiences and hiding from the truth. The Divine will care for you in those moments, even when its painful. You will come out the other side with great clarity and confidence of the Divine within your heart. It is only after you have been fully present with your discomfort and pain and that it has passed by without you being wrapped up in it, that you will have the clarity to decide what it is, if anything, that you want to change in your life. Maybe you just needed to have those emotions come up so that you could be fully present with them and allow those emotions to slip away. Or maybe when life bumped into me they came up to show me things about myself that I would like to change on a deep level.
One thing is for sure, if you spend your energy trying to keep yourself comfortable all of the time, you will be left with an empty life that is full of busy work and controlling/manipulative behavior… completely unaware of what is truly going on deep within your own heart. NO THANK YOU!
Today I will allow myself to have the courage to trust The Divine and relax as problems arise throughout my day. I won't hide from the discomfort or the pain that bump into me today. Instead, I will take a deep breathe, sit with my discomfort and ask myself... what is being revealed within me? Why is this so uncomfortable? How can I move forward? I will trust The Divine will provide the way for me.