If you were raised in a culture similar to my own, you were probably taught to put others before yourself, and not give much consideration to your own needs. Self-denial and self-sacrifice were two of the main values taught in my childhood. Those values brought the deep pain of being a martyr, with little understanding of what love really is. Love is more about acceptance than sacrifice.
A few days ago, I was driving with my teenage daughter, discussing relationships with her friends and possibilities of making more friends. There are so many young people wearing masks because they’re afraid of rejection and so desperately want approval. We talked about the analogy of the cup of self-love. I told her that relationships do not mean, going from person to person asking them to fill your cup for you or expecting they will guess what kind of drink you like. Helping others can only happen after we fill our own cup. The self-love that I’m talking about is simple, it shows you that you love and accept yourself, just the way you are. Imperfectly perfect, and worthy of love.
Every toxic belief out there, teaches us fear instead of love and that it's wrong to become too familiar with who we are. As long as we are convinced that we need something from the external, we will always be lacking. If you want to be happy, start appreciating yourself and others instead of expecting perfection from yourself and others. “I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self-indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival” ~Audre Lorde.
The most important relationship you will ever have is the one you have with yourself. You are the only one who will understand and love you for who you really are. You'll never find a mind-reader who can guess exactly what you need and give it to you, even if they wish they could. This means getting to know yourself, the gifts and desires that are uniquely yours and choosing to take care of yourself like a Mom takes care of her young children. Making sure you get enough sleep, healthy food, time outside for fresh air, sunshine and exercise, and a routine that includes free time to do what you enjoy doing. It also includes taking several deep breaths when life gets overwhelming.
To fill your cup every day, means getting in the habit of self-care and being aware of your thoughts instead of have them run on autopilot. Don't believe every thought that travels through your mind. Anxious thoughts can overwhelm your ability to have healthy relationships. Be honest with yourself and others about what you need, instead of sacrificing everything unnecessarily. This means incorporating healthy boundaries to maintain a balance of empathy, compassion and vulnerability.
The concept of becoming your own best friend at first seems foreign, but it feels like coming home. People laugh at the idea of talking to yourself silently, but everyone does it. Thoughts that flow through our minds are not ours, they are just ideas that we’ve been exposed to. The mind does what minds do best, it comes up with random thoughts. We can heal ourselves if we become aware of the negative self-talk of the worrier, the critic, the victim and the perfectionist. The thoughts about ourselves, that we mistakenly believe are ours, are things we would never say to an innocent child. That’s what we are, an innocent child, worthy of love and compassion.
In order to let go of something, you first need to pick it up. Our defenses are trying to protect us and we must identify the voice of the negative thoughts. What is said to a child becomes their inner voice, and in cases of verbal abuse, we have to do the work to reprogram our mind with truth. Finally believing that I’m worthy has been a turning point in my depression, and I've learned the habit of replacing negative thoughts about myself to positive affirmations.
Falling in love with yourself is the best thing you'll ever do. Some people don’t know how it feels to have a full cup of self-love and don’t understand how to fill it. People who struggle with their own worthiness, have a lack of self-love because they find it hard to believe they are deserving of love. Our automatic response to abandonment becomes “was I not good enough for them to stay and love me?” We don’t hold the cards to anyone’s feelings or judgments, if they reject us, that is about them, not us. One of my favorite quotes is: “To let go does not mean to get rid of. To let go means to let be. When we let be with compassion, things come and go on their own” ~ Jack Kornfield.
For as long as I can remember I have been searching for a best friend, for someone else to fill the gaping hole in my heart, to love me no matter how much I mess up. I am the person that I’ve been searching for. I’m not my worst enemy any more. I’ll always be there for me. My thoughts and feelings are not me. I am simply awareness. I watch myself and others with compassion and it brings me inner peace. When I feel down and my first response is to look to someone else to make me feel better, I realize what’s happening and look within instead, I ask myself what I need. I breathe and accept to recharge.
The other person in whatever relationship (family member, friend or lover) needs to feel free, nobody should own another or be owned. We are not a half that needs another half to be complete, we already are complete. Every relationship has give and take and sacrifice but it should never cause us to lose ourselves, to give everything in order to earn the love of another. A person who is afraid of abandonment, eventually turns relationships into a negative, self-fulfilling prophecy. “We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are. ~ Anais Nin.
"The key to life is acceptance. Stop pretending to be someone you're not, you are a vast open ocean of awareness, in which all the movements of life: success and failure, happiness and sadness, joy and pain, certainty and doubt, all of life's energies are all deeply allowed to move through you. In our false self, we've pushed away life's energies and fell into the idea of opposites and reject the negative or dark aspect and only seek the positive. It is so exhausting being at war with half of life. Life is all of those things, good and bad waves. Never forget that depression is an invitation of Deep Rest, remember who you are now, a vast ocean of waves to welcome and accept. Stop the exhaustion of fighting negative feelings and find peace in acceptance. Let it be, accept others choices, accept your thoughts and let them pass through you." ~ Jeff Foster
I’ll leave you with something I learned while grieving the death of my siblings (Aline 1990~2015 from Cystic Fibrosis, and Nathaniel 1994~2016 from Suicide.) It has helped me get and stay out of the dark hole of grief and depression. I imagine sitting at a train station, watching the trains arrive and depart. My awareness is the station and my thoughts and feelings are the trains. If I’m not mindful, I will hop on a train to who knows where. But the moment I realize I am on the train, I choose to leave the train and stay at the station, just watching the thoughts and feelings go by, without judgment, but with compassion and acceptance instead.