At what point in your life story are you able to truly respect and honor yourself? For some people, it happens early in their lives. For others, it takes a lifetime. For my own part, I have learned that it takes a lot of energy to adapt to other people’s opinions of you, and I find I have less motivation to do so the older I get. Duh. (Thus, the "palm plant" emoji image that accompanies this post!) Why do we continue to give our energy, our precious life’s blood, to what other people want to tell us about OUR lives? How is it that you spend more time absorbing, which is, in a sense honoring , THEIR beliefs about what is true about you, than YOU spend honoring yourself? Doesn’t this seem a bit backwards? Yes, it is. But it takes a lot of inner work to get in touch with, and stay in touch with, what is true for you...and to honor it. Everyone has their own dogma. Or, said more plainly: everyone has a principle or set of principles they live by, and by definition, that at some point were laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true. How boring. And how ultimately utterly self-destructive. I’m not saying that dogma is all bad. I am saying that adopting someone else’s dogmatic way of thinking can be BAD FOR YOU. Dogmatic individuals, as a matter of definition, have many problems in understanding new ideas. They cannot accept reasonable ideas INSTEAD of their own ideas. “MY OPINIONS ARE FACT!” they assert. But wait, if I stop listening and accepting their ideas, am I not doing the same thing? Not really. Not when you are being true to yourself . You can listen politely. But you don’t have to agree. And, you certainly don’t have to adopt their way of thinking. Further, you can set healthy boundaries with those who try to unduly influence you (and your thinking), and you can not only think for yourself, but feel everything, and act with purpose. And live a satisfying life. However “unconventional” that may end up being! Wait, what? Now, I’m not talking about throwing common sense to the wind. Or being reckless. Or rash. Or irresponsible. Or offensive. OR DANGEROUS. (To yourself, or to others.) But what I am talking about is not being afraid to stand up for yourself, and your own ideas. To honor yourself, you must stop listening to others so much, and listen to yourself MORE. It is an active practice of self-love when you learn to trust your gut. You know more about what is good for you than anyone else. Unless you are mentally ill. In fact, I would argue that when you are NOT listening or in tune with your own gut, you can make yourself sick! And that, my friends, CREATES mental illness. How do we learn to let go of self-condemnation? Let go of fear? Let go of unnecessary obligations? (And set healthy boundaries?) Let go of naysayers? Let go of the past? Learn to forgive? And, how do we learn to let go of doubt? And especially, self-doubt? As a life coach, I do not counsel clients about their illnesses; I would have to refer them to a psychotherapist. But I do encourage clients to honor themselves with kindness. By engaging their time and effort into supporting their own dreams. By reinforcing positive beliefs about themselves and others. And by exploring the idea of their own lovability. You may be your own harshest critic. Boy, is it hard to give up this job! I tell you what, though, there are plenty of people in my life, maybe in yours too (presumed “loved ones”) who take on that job with relish. While I have been living and refining my life and purpose, others close to me have believed it is their duty to tell me how to successfully live my life—to tell others how to live is, in effect, their life purpose! I’d much rather help others find their own. Not tell them what it should be… I suppose that’s why I am a Life Coach. And, not an “armchair psychologist.” No one can direct you, make decisions for you, or take action on your behalf as long as you are mentally competent. Don’t let someone make you believe you are mentally incompetent just because you don’t agree with their assessment of you, lol! No one is an expert on someone else’s life. You are the authority on your life. In making decisions, you must first listen to yourself. Then, if you want to, you can reach out to others for their ideas. Or to listen or feed back what they hear you say. A life coach is skilled in listening, asking questions, and letting you find your own answers. A life coach does not give advice. Nor does a life coach impose their opinions on you. There are ways to avoid absorbing others’ negative or maladaptive mindsets, and to learn how to adopt a healthier mindset yourself. I can think of a couple of quick, easy tools that I use when someone else is trying to speak for me, or silence my voice, or convince me I’m wrong, or otherwise dominate my thinking: 1. Take a mental break. “Listening. Not Listening.” One of the quotes I like to remind myself of is: “What you think of me is none of my business.” That helps me listen, but not necessarily automatically take to heart what someone else thinks about me, and may be intent on dumping at my doorstep. Remember, oftentimes criticism is both unwarranted and unnecessary. And, more than that, it can be unwelcome. There is nothing wrong with “listening. Not listening.” It can take time to access your inner knowledge. While it takes time and patience, you can learn and improve your ability to listen to yourself and to determine what is best and right for you. Even if it’s not their opinion of you that is being hurled in your direction, it could be a rant that you find repugnant. If you find their remarks offensive, contradictory or antagonistic—essentially you don’t agree with them and aren’t enjoying being the audience or recipient of their rant—you are not obliged to participate. You can walk away, turn it off, click the “x” or otherwise tune out. Also, learn to recognize that just because someone else is LOUDER doesn’t make them RIGHT. 2. Don’t lower yourself to their standards. Michelle Obama was quoted as saying “when they go low, we go high.” When people feel compelled to call you names, or are foisting their opinions of you (and everything you are doing “wrong” or thinking “incorrectly” about), try to understand that it really isn’t about you at all. What they are saying (sometimes “spewing,” really) has little to do with you, and is likely a reflection of what is going on in THEM. Rise above. If you can, reserve what you think about others to private conversations with yourself, or with those you can trust. 3. Give a little grace. To yourself. One of the hardest things to do is to forgive. To let go of past wounds and unconscious resentments. It is crucial to understand that everyone is doing the best they can with what they have. To know better is to do better. Usually. However, you can't make someone else learn or know better...you can only work on yourself. A couple of years ago, I learned that forgiveness does not require the other person to apologize. Or, to accept your forgiveness. Forgiveness is something you do when you stop blaming yourself so that you can move forward. You let go of negative emotions. Often the person who transgressed against you has no idea of the damage that he or she has done and most often that person thinks that they didn’t DO anything. Well, guess what? That person is likely NEVER going to know or accept that their beliefs, feelings, or behavior caused you suffering. C’est la vie. The forgiveness is for you. You are never going to get what you want from that person. Let it go.
--------- In my last blog post about writing your life purpose statement, I talked about tuning in to the “hum of your soul,” like a tuning fork. There are many conscious practices you can engage in on a daily basis that help you stay in touch with your courageous, best self. Don’t wait until you lose your focus, vitality, and drive. Or, until you make yourself sick. It is easier to honor what you know, and what you have, than to recreate or have to reinvent. Start honoring yourself today.