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Monday, February 25, 2019

Self-Love Isn't Selfish

Are you constantly trying to improve yourself?


Courtesy of National Geographic Kids


Do most of your thoughts revolve around how you can become the ideal person you long to be?
  • You want to be thinner, more fit, more healthy.
  • You want to be prettier, with better skin, better hair, better nails, better boobs.
  • You want your clothes to not only fit and flatter, but also tell the world how stylish you are.
  • You want to be more successful in your career, respected and better paid.
  • At home, you want to be a great cook, a talented decorator, a fun hostess, perfectly organized.
  • You want a better relationship with your partner, full of intimate communication, great sex, and complete equality when it comes to money and chores.
  • You want to be the wisest, most loved and trusted parent, and you want your children to be smart, confident, kind, and successful in every way.

I could go on, but I think you're already nodding in agreement.  In every facet of your life, you want to improve, do more, have more, achieve more.

A desire for self-improvement is both a blessing and a curse.  Many people accomplish great things because of their desire to be better, to be more.  It is a natural human desire to grow, evolve, and thrive.

But this quest can also make you very unhappy.


The desire to be all you can be also fuels discontent.  I know you've felt it, when everything you've already done or acquired isn't enough.  You're always trying to improve yourself, your wardrobe, your job, your home, your marriage, but either you don't succeed or it's never enough.  Even if you achieve one goal, there's always another, larger one to strive for.  And as long as you feel dissatisfied, you can never be happy.

In your head you know perfection isn't possible, but in your heart you measure yourself against an impossible ideal.

Perfection will make you compare yourself unfavorably with others, and keep you searching for things or experiences to compensate for your perceived inadequacies.  You can try to gain significance through
  • clothes
  • jewelry
  • liposuction
  • a new car
  • a remodeled kitchen
  • a diploma from an elite college
  • a promotion and a prestigious title
  • exotic travel

But every one of those items will eventually become background noise, things you don't really notice or appreciate any more, part of what you have to clean, store, insure, repair, work at, or continue to pay for.  Then you'll need something new to bring back that "wow factor."

The quest for perfection will keep you exhausted and stressed as if you are running a never-ending race.  It can make you second-guess every decision and kill your self-esteem, as you continually tell yourself you haven't yet measured up and you probably never will.  You may even decide you don't have much value, so you don't deserve love and respect.

This belief is deadly.

You need to change your self-talk.  It might be difficult to stop criticizing yourself, because you've done it for a long time.  Your habitual thoughts might include "I'm so uncreative...so lazy...so stupid...so boring...so hopeless...."  I tend to think "I'm too old...too fat...stuck in bad habits...."  Things I wouldn't say aloud to a stranger, let alone someone I cared about.

Stop yourself.  Rephrase.  Self-love isn't selfish, it's motivating and inspiring.

Instead of all-or-nothing perfectionism, say "I'll start small.  It's an experiment.  Just begin.  A mistake can teach me something.  Every step moves me in the right direction.  I'll learn by doing."

Don't worry that by behaving kindly toward yourself you'll somehow become a lump that never accomplishes anything.  Think about the teacher who always pointed out what you had done well, who showed you your potential and praised you for your effort and your abilities.  This person probably acknowledged your mistakes, but forgave you and lovingly steered you in the right direction.  Did that make you more or less inclined to do your best or attempt something new?

When you treat yourself with compassion, you don't need comfort food.  You don't need retail therapy.  You don't need to be a critical snob to feel self respect.  You don't need to be a complaining martyr to get sympathy.  You don't need to run yourself ragged to feel important and necessary.

You are enough.  You do enough.  You have enough.

You don't have to be caught in an unrewarding quest for perfection.  Minimalism can reduce the background noise of clutter in your home and schedule so you can gain clarity about your true wishes.  It can help you focus on the achievements and experiences that are most important to you, while enabling you to let go of things that add clutter and stress and steal your time, money, and attention.

Minimalism is a tool you can use to eliminate the unimportant and maximize what matters.  A minimalist life can help you find lasting satisfaction.




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