I’ve shared the importance of self-love and self-compassion on this blog a few times. When our cup is full, we have something more to offer people, and more joyfully too. When we are giving and serving others from a place of lack, the quality of our giving is compromised, and in time, we may burnout.
So here are ten ways in which we can love ourselves. Do you have more to share?
“We believe perfection will protect us. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame.”
“Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be our best. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth; it’s a shield. Perfectionism is a 20-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from being seen and taking flight.”
“Heroics are often about putting our life on the line. Courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line. If we want to live and love with our whole hearts and engage in the world from a place of worthiness, our first step is practicing the courage it takes to own our stories and tell the truth about who we are. It doesn’t get braver than that.”
Where has perfectionism affected your life, work and relationships adversely? What gifts could imperfection bring you? What are you ready to do now?
Many of us are exposed to the idea of strengths and weaknesses. So when I was first exposed to the idea of using strengths, it didn’t seem like something new.
However taking some strengths diagnostic surveys and seeing the strengths laid out clearly in print, did make it more real for me. Some things were confirmed. Some strengths which I didn’t know had a name were named. I felt “seen”. And then using the strengths consciously brought more positive results. So I became a strengths practitioner.
I’m more consciously using my strengths now, and also enjoying spotting strengths in others.
Take this card below. Now when I see things, I am more connected to the human spirit behind their making. It’s a wonderful exercise in connecting with what’s beautiful in people, including those I may never meet.
What is a Strength?
One of the strengths tools I use is Realise2, which has a nuanced approach to strengths. Alot of the time, if I were to ask you what a strength is, you might say it’s something you’re good at. Well, according to this model, that’s only half correct. A strength is something you’re good at AND which energises you.
And when we use our strengths wisely, we’re happier, have less stress, are more likely to achieve our goals, are more confident and energetic, and perform better at work.
What if you’re good at something but it doesn’t energise you?
If you’re good at something and it de-energises you, we call it a learned behaviour, and something we could encourage you to moderate use of so that you can reduce stress. I particularly find this a really useful thing to know so we can prevent burnout.
Does this mean we forget about weaknesses?
No, I remember Dr Robert Biswas-Diener (a leading positive psychologist) saying that we need to make sure there’s no “hole in the ship”. The ship may have many strengths but if it has a hole, it will sink! It’s important to deal with weaknesses that trip us up big time.
However what the strengths advocates mean is that when we focus more on using our strengths, we get more out of life.
Here’s the Realise2 model.
How I’ve gained from being aware of my and others’ strengths
I had an unexpected positive side benefit that came from using both Realise2 and the VIA Character Survey. I developed greater acceptance of areas I’m not strong in. I learnt to feel more compassionate towards my imperfections and less developed areas, instead of feeling bad about them.
Learning about strengths has given me a balanced view of people. While I had learnt to feel more compassion for people because I realised everyone has struggles, I had not fully seen that everyone has strengths. And when we focus on this side of them, we could help it flourish more.
I have found this whole strengths journey to be an wonderful exercise in authenticity. We learn to embrace who we are.
Realise2 shows you your communication, thinking, driving, relating and being strengths.
If you are part of an organisation, learn about the business case for strengths and more about why strengths matter. (And if you’re interested to chat about bringing strengths to your workplace, please contact me at vadivu[at]joyworks.sg)
– Strengths can be overused. It takes wisdom to use the right strength at the right time with the right person. More is not necessarily better!
– People change so your strengths are not cast in stone. Realise2, for example, is meant to be taken every six months.
Related: Scammed – Late in 2011, I was the survivor of a scam. In my email to the person who scammed me, I reflected the strengths I saw in him/her and added a link to a video on how someone turned his life arrund by using his strengths.
For me, hardest of all is to forgive myself for mistakes or weaknesses. In the Fetzer Institute’s website, they write something I find very useful:
“In Spiritual Rx Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat recommend a simple practice to help you recognize the big picture of who you are; it can be very helpful when you are down on yourself. “The next time you tell a story about yourself, instead of saying ‘I am’, substitute the phrase, ‘Part of me is.’”
When it is just one part of me, it is more manageable and I look at it like a child who doesn’t know what to do and made a mistake. Then I can teach this child gently to act in a different way next time.
I’ve discovered that the more forgiving I am of myself, the more forgiving I am of others.
I took a transformative workshop by Dr Donna Hicks when I was at Columbia University a few years ago. It was on healing and reconciling relationships through the power of dignity. And one image she painted through her writing has stuck with me for years – that emotional wounds are like gunshot wounds…
“The desire for dignity is a powerful force and the time has come to recognize and understand it. What is so critical to understand is that the experience of humiliation, resentment, and anger that these dignity violations instinctively create does not go away on its own. The injuries are as serious as a gunshot wound, but no one is rushed into an emergency room when they happen. There is no 911 call for when we have been shamed, misunderstood, treated as invisible, or had our identity dishonored, and these unattended injuries can fester in our inner worlds for a lifetime, severely affecting how we feel about ourselves as well as our capacity to be in relationship with others. They leave a vengeful and often crippling mark and without attention paid to these injuries, they can linger on in perpetuity, dominating one’s personal and group consciousness. (by Donna Hicks, as quoted in Berfrois. Donna has written “Dignity:The Essential Role it Plays in resolving Conflict.“)
Our emotional wounds can affect us in different ways:
– As she notes above, our relationships can suffer. We can unknowingly inflict our unhealed emotional wounds on others. I have also noticed that I attract certain relationships (whether at work or on the personal front) that seem to mirror any unhealed wounds I have.
– We can become physically ill. Scientists are now discovering how our emotional and mental states are linked with our physical wellness and illness.
So healing our emotional wounds has immense benefit for us.
The way we choose to heal may vary. There are many methods, tools, professionals – some more effective than others. We need to use our intuition and wisdom to choose wisely.
I have tried different tools over the years. Finally though what helped me were simple and fairly inexpensive things
– sharing my feelings and unmet needs to deeply compassionate and wise people (some were not even helping professionals). Some may have gone through a similar experience and come out wiser and more loving (not bitter or fearful).
– listening to the life lessons in the wound. What could I learn from it? If the wound could speak, what was it trying to tell me? How could I become a better, instead of bitter, person because of it? What was I grateful for?
– accepting that it is part of my story with grace and thinking, “How I use it for the betterment of others is what matters now”.
– reading books and articles that have wisdom to offer. These books often chose me instead of me choosing them. They would draw me naturally at bookshops, or online.
– homeopathy (at specific times only)
What could help you heal? Set a powerful intention to heal, and can attract the right resources (people, tools, books etc) to help you on that journey. Please note that sometimes professional therapeutic help is needed.
(This piece focuses on our wounds. However we are not only wounded beings. We have strengths such as resilience, courage and compassion. We have both light and darkness.)