Tip # 1: Treat Your Self Right
No matter what theory of psychology you might read about, a healthy “self” is always mentioned as the most important element for happiness and well-being. The self is the core of who you are, the experience of unity that ties together all elements of your experiences and your personality. The concept of “self-actualization,” often discussed in psychological circles, is about helping you—your “self” to evolve to its fullest potential. Treating yourself right is about learning to balance your needs for emotional security and growth; and giving yourself permission to pursue your natural talents in ways that make you a productive human being. Here are several ideas about how to do this.
Believe in Your Right to Put Yourself First
Perhaps you are the nurturer, the people-pleaser, or the person who is ready to sacrifice your own needs at the drop of a hat, in order to do someone else a favor. But when was the last time you made your own needs more important than the requests of others? If you have not done so lately, start practicing the “no” word and use it whenever you find yourself agreeing to something that feels tiring or draining to you. The guilt you may feel initially will eventually subside on its own as you practice declaring yourself important to YOU.
Ultimately, people don’t love you any more for jumping to their needs, and they won’t love you any less for telling them a polite but firm “ no”, because you have something already scheduled. That something is “you time”, and you can chose to do with it what you please. Take a bath, settle in with a good book, go for a manicure, a walk along the beach. Putting yourself first once in a while, is not the same thing as being selfish, it is a way to replenish what you give out to others, and it is the only message that sends a signal to yourself as well as others, that you are consider yourself worth nurturing.
Set Clear Personal Boundaries
Most of us know what it feels like to be taken advantage of—whether let it happen consciously or not. Often we find ourselves stuck with relationships that suck the life out of us gradually and almost imperceptibly—until we suddenly realize we are giving everything and getting nothing back—other than put downs, criticisms, and unreasonable demands. Whether it is your partner, your child, or your friend, it is impossible to respect yourself if you don’t teach others to respect you, too. How do you do that? By setting clear, personal boundaries. First, clarify on paper what you will and will not accept or tolerate from the relationships in question. Your goal is to disengage from treatment that doesn’t feel right to you. Then the next time it happens, calmly let that person know that you care about them but that you are no longer willing to ____________; or will no longer listen to their (criticisms, put-downs, gossip, etc). Often you can salvage the important relationships in your life by simply setting these personal boundaries of self-esteem, which you do not allow anyone to cross, ever. At first it may seem strange or uncomfortable to be assertive (which is not the same thing as being aggressive or loud). You might be afraid you are hurting the other person’s feelings, or you will make them angry. But if you approach them with calm caring and gentle firmness, and stick to your position, it takes very little time for boundary- setting to become second nature, and you will begin to feel great about having the courage it takes to defend yourself.
Tend to Your Health
Overeating and under exercising are two habits that can wreak havoc with your health, and often both can be triggered by emotions. Any kind of extreme emotional state–sadness, anxiety, boredom, anger, or even happiness often trigger the eating of sweets, junk food, and drinking more alcohol than usual, and before long we begin skipping our exercise routines, too. The next time you’re about to overeat or start convincing yourself not to exercise, think of it as an assault on your body to do so. Remind yourself that nothing is more important than your health, and plan out strategies to deal with your emotions that don’t involve food and that distract you for 5 minutes until the urge for junk food passes. Argue back with yourself when you find you’re finding reasons not to exercise. Instead mentally list all the reasons why you should—the least of which is that exercise helps you ward off diseases caused by sedentary living, and live longer, too.
Declare a YOU Day!
And why not? This is not the same as a once-a-year birthday, but a more regular once-a-month day, that you put aside to indulge yourself in positive, life-affirming pleasures. If you are a more social being, you don’t have to go it alone, although some of us find a day of solitude and meditation to be quite restorative. Others love to have special people around, for no other reason than to have fun, or stimulating conversation. Why not organize a simple tea party with a few of your best friends and decide in advance on a theme—like gratitude, or spirituality? Or how about a movie Friday once a month with a close friend with whom go for a bite to eat afterwards to discuss? However you want your “You Day” to be, remember you are the creator. Declaring one day a month to do whatever you want sends a subconscious message that you value yourself, which in turn increases self-esteem.
Buy Yourself a Gift for No Reason
I’m not talking about large expensive gifts that plummet you into credit card debt, but small meaningful gifts; that are more thoughtful than costly–the type you would consider a sign of love if you got it from a special partner. Is there some new music you’ve wanted to try? Buy yourself that CD. Is there a face cream, a perfume, or a pair of artisan earrings you’ve been admiring from the craftsman who sits on the city corner stringing beads together? Thoughtful gifts, as opposed to additional clutter, can make subtle positive changes to your life, and open up new doors. Also, when you treat yourself like a wonderful friend; that is exactly the energy you will attract from others.
Learn Something New
The old adage “knowledge is power” is absolutely true. You can open up new doors for yourself, and meet interesting new people by simply being open to learning a new skill. Take an adult learning class on how to write a novel, how to sell on Ebay, how to draw portraits—just pick something you have never done before, and may not even thought you’d have an interest in. That is the point of “new” knowledge. You will begin to think in new ways, and see the world from a different perspective. It is also an investment in your social life, as you become an even more interesting person to know!
Fill in Your Basic Knowledge
Filling in our knowledge gaps is about being able to be a better conversationalist in the culture you live in. The sad truth is, most of what we learn in school is forgotten even minutes after we leave class. Think about how much we lose over the years, as time passes! I recently found the old classic “A Catcher in the Rye” in my son’s book collection from school, and decided to reread it. Never have I been so delighted to appreciate it in a whole new way. The writing was marvelous and just remembering the story line filled in one of my knowledge gaps that makes me, I think a much more interesting writer and speaker. That started me on a whole new venture of rereading the American literature classics. Where are your knowledge gaps? List them, and then list fun ways to fill them in.
Make a List of Favorites
Personal preferences are an important part of our individuality. I was recently interviewed for a writer’s newsletter, and asked about my favorite food, favorite restaurant, favorite author, etc. To my surprise, I really had to think about it before coming up with the answers! How often do we get so busy living life that we don’t make the time to clarify the specifics that give us pleasure? Needless to say I went right to work on making a journal page of my all time favorites—my favorite movie, non fiction book, novel, exercise routine, wine, snack food—you get the idea. It is about taking the time to know yourself better, and as you do, the essence of who you really are becomes stronger. Becoming more aware of your favorite experiences and people, also increases the likelihood you will give them more space in your life.
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