Embracing Yourself: A Day of Self-Appreciation

People are like stained – glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is 
out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a 
light from within. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Find your light within in this one day journey into self-appreciation with veteran Art Therapist, Joanna Tan, and strengths practitioner, Vadivu Govind on 21 January 2013 (Monday).

For more information, see


Register with me at vadivu[at]joyworks.sg by 17th Jan.


I was recently not in the best of spirits. I really appreciated the care shown by a friend, who called to find out how I was doing and made arrangements to meet in a healing nature area. How thoughtful!

However my friend tried to shift my mind to connect to what was positive. Hm…I wasn’t ready for this although I usually have a positive way of looking at the world…then I was asked why I hadn’t shared what I was facing with some specific people in my life…this didn’t work for me either. By this time, my pain started hiding from this friend…an opportunity for real emotional intimacy was lost…

I am now reflecting on when I may have done the same to others. When have I jumped in with ideas or suggestions too soon when all my friend needed was a warm hug, holding her hand or sacred silence? Yes, I have sometimes forgotten to respond from the heart. And I am reminded of a process I learned some time ago through a tele-seminar with Kate Marsh, a Virtues Project facilitator. It’s called Companioning.

When we companion, we never ask “why?”.  We use open-ended cup emptying questions starting with “What” and “How”. We always end with a Virtues Acknowledgment, which helps to restore someone who has been vulnerable enough to share openly. – The Virtues Project

To me, the most critical part is the cup-emptying element, especially when I am asked, “What’s most painful? or “What’s the hardest part?”It allows me to bring out to the surface, the deepest part of my pain/grief/anger etc.

I would be more open to suggestions, ideas, or potential lessons for me to learn only after I first feel that my feelings and needs are heard and in some instances, have had some time to heal.

I can see that my friend was just being caring and helpful and I really appreciate that and still love my friend dearly.  However I am also reminded that processes such as Companioning and Nonviolent Communication are intimate, caring, gentle yet powerful ways for us to connect with others so that they feel emotionally safe to be vulnerable with us. We can also use these processes on ourselves. Such processes are not often taught in school – it’s important that we educate our hearts ourselves so we can nurture more loving relationships.

Related: Please see The Virtues Card app 


On dying and living…

Elisabeth Kubler Ross was an expert on dying. Here are some of her wise words…

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths.  These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassions, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”


“And after your death, when most of you for the first time realize what life here is all about, you will begin to see that your life here is almost nothing but the sum total of every choice you have made during every moment of your life.  Your thoughts, which you are responsible for, are as real as your deeds.  You will begin to realize that every word and every deed affects your life and has also touched thousands of lives.”


“We run after values that, at death, become zero.  At the end of your life, nobody asks you how many degrees you have, or how many mansions you built, or how many Rolls Royces you could afford.  That’s what dying patients teach you.”


“Dying is nothing to fear.  It can be the most wonderful experience of your life.  It all depends on how you have lived.”


“If you live each day of your life right, then you have nothing to fear …”


“Throughout life, we get clues that remind us of the direction we are supposed to be headed … if you stay focused, then you learn your lessons.”


“There is no joy without hardship.  If not for death, would we appreciate life?  If not for hate, would we know the ultimate goal is love? … At these moments you can either hold on to negativity and look for blame, or you can choose to heal and keep on loving.”


“When you learn your lessons, the pain goes away.”


“When we have passed the tests we are sent to Earth to learn, we are allowed to graduate.  We are allowed to shed our body, which imprisons our souls …”


“We make progress in society only if we stop cursing and complaining about its shortcomings and have the courage to do something about them.”


“Those who learned to know death, rather than to fear and fight it, become our teachers about life.”


“Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself and know that everything in this life has a purpose….”


“You will not grow if you sit in a beautiful flower garden, but you will grow if you are sick, if you are in pain, if you experience losses, and if you do not put your head in the sand, but take the pain as a gift to you with a very, very specific purpose.”


“It’s only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth — and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up, we will then begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had.”


“Death is simply a shedding of the physical body like the butterfly shedding its cocoon.  It is a transition to a higher state of consciousness where you continue to perceive, to understand, to laugh,  and to be able to grow.”


“For those who seek to understand it, death is a highly creative force. The highest spiritual values of life can originate from the thought and study of death.”


“I believe that we are solely responsible for our choices, and we have to accept the consequences of every deed, word, and thought throughout our lifetime.”


“People are like stained-glass windows.  They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”


“Guilt is perhaps the most painful companion of death.”


“There are no mistakes, no coincidences, all events are blessings given to us to learn from.”


“The ultimate lesson all of us have to learn is unconditional love, which includes not only others but ourselves as well.”


“We need to teach the next generation of children from day one that they are responsible for their lives. Mankind’s greatest gift, also its greatest curse, is that we have free choice. We can make our choices built from love or from fear.”


“Should you shield the canyons from the windstorms, you would never see the beauty of their carvings.”


“Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself and know that everything in this life has a purpose.”


“There is no need to go to India or anywhere else to find peace. You will find that deep place of silence right in your room, your garden or even your bathtub.”

10 Ways to Love Yourself

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?

1. Appreciate specific things about yourself daily.

2. Play.Be creative.

3. Rest. What’s your body trying to tell you? Rest your mind too. Develop a contemplative
. If at work, enjoy the silence at a place of worship or quiet space nearby.

4. Forgive yourself. Everyone makes mistakes. Show yourself compassion. Learn and grow from it.

5. Release“perfection”.

6. Heal emotional wounds.

7. Courageously say  “No” to what is hurting you or
adding little value to your wellbeing.

8. Watch your diet– physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Do you eat, watch, read and listen to what inspire, nourish and challenge you to grow?

9. Discover your purpose in life.  When you die, what do you want your life to
have meant?

10. Invest in relationships that support you to love yourself.

Get a support-buddy who can support your journey to love yourself.

Isn’t self-love selfish?

Related: Love Story with Yourself, Watch a Movie with a Self-Love theme

Wonderful 5-minute Video: The Gifts of Imperfection by Dr Brene Brown.

Forgive Yourself

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.

Here is an excellent resource on forgiving yourself.

Related: Forgiveness


Learning to say “no” at the right time is a very important act of self-love. What has helped me say “no” to what doesn’t add enough value to my life is knowing what’s important in my life.

What I have learnt is that when I say “no” to something, I am saying “yes’ to something else more important to me. So knowing our priorities in life is key.

If you are ready to start saying “no” to what doesn’t serve you and want to start saying “yes” to a more joyful life, here are some articles that could help.

7 simple ways to say no

Learning to Say No

Do you have a gunshot wound? We all do.

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.)

Related: Forgiveness

Appreciate Yourself

For over five years, I express gratitute every night for moments of joy, life lessons and growth. It brings me peace of mind. And perhaps has slowly built up a growing sense of the importance of gratitude. Only years after I started my gratitude practice did I learn that science has also found that gratitude is a major path to joy. (Positive psychology researcher Dr Sonja Lyubomirsky calls it a “meta-strategy” for happiness.)

Now I’ve started experimenting with deepening this practice. In addition to listing what I’m grateful for, I mentally go through what I appreciate myself for. I have all my trainers at the Center for Applied Positive Psychology and the VIA Institute of Character to thank, for showing me the power of strengths and how to use them everyday. So naturally, I now celebrate the strengths I use everyday. It’s helping to build a growing love for myself, something critical for us to love others more deeply.

I also then mentally appreciate someone in the work domain and someone in my personal life domain, and celebrate the strengths they showed. This helps me to strengthen my relationships with people.

I call this my special witnessing time; where I bear witness to what’s beautiful and strong in me and others. And I sleep with a warm glow in my heart.