Loving yourself is not about being selfish or not caring about the needs of others. Quite the contrary! It is about taking better care of yourself, knowing your priorities and doing what matters most to you first, before you put others in the driver’s seat of your life. When you know yourself well, and can meet your needs and address your priorities, you will know how far you can go taking care of others without pushing yourself too far out of balance. Maintaining this balance is what will enable you to safely contribute to the needs of others. It requires making the right choices to nourish your body and mind; it requires spending your resources wisely to benefit you and your loved ones; it requires paying attention to what you need to nurture yourself in public and in private spaces; it requires paying attention to what you tell yourself when things don’t go the way you want because this may signal how you communicate with others. If what you tell yourself builds you up, chances are, you will choose the same language when communicating with others, building them up, rather than putting them down. It requires making an effort to continue learning and applying what you learn, so that you can get better and better at what you do. And it requires making self-care a priority in your life. It comes with responsibilities to yourself first and others next. When you do this, you become a better resource for those around you and you are in a better position to inspire others to take care of themselves as well. There are three ways that I apply this notion, and that continue to help me change the way I view myself, those around me, and the world at large, as I seek to pursue my purpose in life:
I make food choices based on what I know to be healthy (for myself and others) but that also agrees with me. One person’s food can be another person’s poison!
I manage my own stress, because it is my responsibility. No one else knows how I feel when I am stressed over small or bigger things in life!
I embrace change as part of life, whether intended or not!
Let me elaborate a little bit.
Making healthy food choices.
Each day counts in terms of what I put inside my body. I do this because I care about my own health and learned from the wise of years past, Hippocrates who taught us to, “let food be thy medicine”. I do this also because it allows me to be in better shape to care for my loved ones, my kids, my husband, my relatives and others. It is because I continue to learn what it means to genuinely love others. I value my life and want to live it with a sense of purpose that relies on the best of me to better serve others. There is nothing more important than knowing that my kids can count on me, day or night. When I take care of myself, I want to be fit and able to allow them to count on me and learn from me, as I learn from them. The food choices I make are one way to inspire them to make better choices as well. I try to make the first meal of the day as healthy as possible. In fact sometimes my breakfast looks more like dinner, and no longer the usual cereal with milk that tastes more like dessert and would make me sleepy sometimes by mid-morning. I choose instead a soup, made with lentils, some quinoa or brown rice, and a vegetable; Or some black bean soup with cooked squash, a tablespoon of ground flax, and a green vegetable either cooked or in powder form (such as wheatgrass or moringa). This keeps me satisfied for three to four hours.
I may also start with a fruit salad usually with two fruits cut up in small pieces, such as: a green apple and a kiwi; about ¼ cup of sliced papaya with a whole kiwi; or a medium size unripe banana with some berries. Then, I top the fruits with a tablespoon of sauerkraut (Yes! Sweet fruit with sauerkraut!). This works to continue managing craving for sweets, which by the way, has become rare in my case. I then add a handful of nuts or seeds (pumpkin seeds are one of my favorites) and a teaspoon of olive oil. If I start my day with this type of fruit salad, I am usually satisfied for two to three hours at which point, I have my first full meal of the day. I prepare more than 95% of my meals to be sure I can trust what goes in.
Managing stress and knowing that when stress hits, no one else lives inside my body to know how I feel.
So, I make it my responsibility to not stress over things I cannot control and to move on fast enough when things I thought I had control over don’t go the way I wanted. For example, when I’m denied a job opportunity, even when I thought the interview went really well and I connected well with those who interviewed me, I don’t get as sad as I used to. Experience has taught me that when one door closes, another one opens, and it tends to be a better fit. So, I tell myself, literally, not to worry but to wait, with faith, for the next one. And another door opens for me, soon enough.
I have also stopped stressing over not being able to complete a task I worked so hard on throughout the day or week, hoping that I will be done with it before the deadline, self-imposed or not. We live in a world where missing a deadline can seem like the end is near. The truth of the matter is, it is as near as it would be with or without stress! If I have done my very best and I still cannot get something done according to plan, I tell myself that perhaps the deadline was unrealistic, or perhaps I do not have the right mix of skills to be able to handle the task as efficiently as possible. So, what I do in this case is to learn what I can so as to improve my skills and capabilities, to do better next time; or I ask for help before it is too late, if I can; or I communicate with a colleague or manager – about how I feel about the deadline, so that they can help co-own or co-manage the consequences of a missed deadline. This can benefit others who may be stressed over unrealistic deadlines as well. One thing for sure, stress never changes the outcome for the better. It hurts the one who lives through it, physically and emotionally. It may also hurt those we interact with whether we realize it or not.
Seek to change myself and free myself from the responsibility of trying to change other.
It’s an exercise in futility. People change when they are ready and when they see valuable gains in doing so. With this attitude, I am learning to accept others for who they are, and I feel more at peace with myself regardless of whether those I love do what I think is right or not. This helps me even overcome betrayal easily. We all have our own weak points and at times feel insecure and threatened by others we consider as competitors or better than us in more ways than one. This is what often drives one to betray another – friend, colleague, partner or lover – or to be greedy, as if there is never enough to go around and satisfy everyone. Knowing that I cannot control what others do to me or to others is freeing. Even more freeing is, owning the power within to control how I respond to hurts, or betrayals or disappointments. It is freeing to know that I have a choice in every situation.
It is freeing to not stress over the hurt caused by someone else. It is freeing to learn to forgive and move on and not allow the hate of another to plant its seed of hate inside of me. It’s about building my own resilience related to things that happen in my life and realizing that by loving myself unconditionally, I can actually love and accept others better as well.My ultimate point is this: taking care of yourself is nobody else’s responsibility but yours. And when you do this, you inspire others – who recognize you have the right balance and priorities – to do the same. You may face criticism from those who think that you are self-centered, but that should not matter to you. Your responsibility is to take care of yourself as if you matter, because guess what? You do! You are unique in how you look, feel and express yourself. You are unique in what you can contribute to this world if you allow yourself to follow your passion. You were uniquely created so that you can realize your purpose by adding your piece of this worldwide puzzle, and hence allowing others to experience your unique gifts. By taking yourself seriously, and loving yourself fully in all the ways you can, you will inspire those around you and in the process, make this world a better place! It’s an ongoing journey of maintenance because you are never done taking care of yourself. So, why not make loving yourself a priority? You deserve it and so do those who are special to you!
With love to you my reader!
Rose Kadende-Kaiser, Ph.D. Integrative Nutrition Health Coach