I'm a perfectionist, and I don't like to trouble other people with my problems. As a result, I'm sometimes quite hard on myself. Recently, I found myself in quite a jam, and I had no choice but to call a friend for help. I braced myself for her reaction. Rather than judge me, she was gentle and kind.
Her generosity, compassion and kindness were a wake-up call to me. I was shocked--not by her behavior, but by my reaction. And I vowed to go easier on myself.
A few nights later, I was reading the Pema Chodron book "Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion." I seem to stumble upon Pema's teachings when I am most in need of guidance. That night I reread teaching #15, Not Causing Harm. This excerpt is what seemed prophetic:"It's a lifetime's journey to relate honestly to the immediacy of our experience and to respect ourselves not to judge it. As we become more wholehearted in this journey of gentle honesty, it comes as a shock to realize how much we've blinded ourselves to the ways in which we cause harm." (Emphasis mine.)
I read that passage several times, each time pausing to reflect on how I do this in my life. In an effort to be a more mindful person, I qualified and judged myself rather than employing gentle honesty.
Since then I've made a concerted effort to go easier on myself, to observe rather than judge my actions, and to treat myself the way my friend treated me, and the way I treat those I love: with gentle honesty.
As we prepare to celebrate the day that we traditionally express love to others, let us take the time to express our love for ourselves. After all, the relationship we have with ourselves is our most valuable yet the one to which many of us devote the least amount of effort.
Today, write yourself a love letter. Write yourself a Valentine. Praise yourself. Apply all those cheesy clichés about love to yourself.
Here's a template to get you started (with a version you can save and print for yourself at the bottom):
Today is Valentine's Day. Since you are the most important person in my life, I wanted to write you a letter. Thank you for always ____________.
I respect you because _______. What I love most about you is ____.
I know sometimes I can be hard on you, forget to thank you for all you do, and even treat you poorly, but please know that I love you. I promise to _______.
Each time I drag you out of bed early for a workout, make you skip that second helping, or ask you to please get off the couch and get moving, know that I do it out of love. I want us to be around for a long time, and I want those years to be memorable and full of adventure.
Each day I get to spend with you, living this life to the fullest, is a true gift. You are my one true love, and I will always respect and care for you.
Go ahead. Write yourself a letter. You can be funny, serious, sarcastic, or sappy--just be honest. You don't have to share it with anyone else. Just make sure that you know that you love you, and that you say it often--and mean it.
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