I recently gave a talk about identifying and giving up destructive messages we tell ourselves. I encouraged those present to embrace some positive practices instead. Here are a few practical steps I shared with the ladies at that presentation. I want to share them with you too.
1. Resist the retro-reach. What do I mean by that? Retro-reach is fueled by the messages that we have to regain youth, or comply with the voices in the back of our heads that continuously call us to be like the unreasonable images offered by world-wide media. This is dangerous and I can prove it. Try this for yourself. Stand and look at yourself in the mirror. Turn just your torso to the right and reach behind you as far as comfort allows. Please, don’t cause yourself to run to the chiropractor’s office here, okay? How long do you think we can hold that pose before it becomes painful and physically destructive? How can we move forward, or in any direction for that matter, if focused on the past or expectations others insist we fulfill? There you have it.
2. Drop competitiveness. Instead of looking at another woman as a threat look at her as one of God’s beautifully-created beings. This applies to the marvelous creations staring back at us in the mirror each day. Each of us is unique and uniquely made. We represent different ages and different stages. Without competition we comfortably sit and feed at the table of God’s creative diversity. It has been my observation we are taught to compete with other women from day one. This is an unhealthy practice because it demands we focus on others instead of ourselves. If we insist on being in competition with others, we waste priceless and irreplaceable energy by attempting to outdo this person or that person. This is, in reality, a form of believing we must always work to be “good enough.”
3. Refrain from engaging in the comparison game. Comparison is just flat ungratefulness based on self-judgment. No one is harder on us than we can be on ourselves. When we look at another woman and try to figure out how we measure up to her in this way or that way, we are saying that someone has something we want or wish we had instead of saying, “Thank you God for the gifts you have given me.” Additionally imagine what we are doing to ourselves on a cellular level when failing to recognize our assets/beauty and opt instead for striving to be like others – a form of putting ourselves down. How long do you think cells can put up with mentally destructive message that tell them we are not enough as we are or there is something “wrong with us”? How many times have you heard it said that we are what we eat? Mental diets are often excluded from this particular mindset. But all dietary intake value should be included in what we ingest. The mind can make or break us.
4. Learn to say “no” to people and circumstances that do not build us up or might be something we are doing just to please others. And resist the temptation to make others agree with our “no.” The word, “no” is a complete sentence, friends. When we spend time and energy trying to secure the approval for our decisions, we in essence ask permission to make our own choices. I do think there are times we need to explain our decisions. But being obsessed with the approval of others based on their understanding and endorsement of our decisions can only lead to self-doubt. That is a posture in conflict with personal progression and as far from endorsing and loving ourselves as we can get.
I am not saying any of this is easy, especially if you have lived your entire life trying to be everything to everyone and to please people from a worldly lens instead of validating yourself through God’s light. I only offer a few things here that can help you love yourself. These simple practices have helped me walk into gratitude for who I am, appreciate God and the gifts He has given me, and understand how those gifts are valid to God and are useful for building up His kingdom. In other words, God has shown me how to love one of His fabulous creations – me. From that foundation, I can truly love His other fabulous creations – you.
Copyright February 2015
Laura L. Padgett