I know, not all of us celebrate Valentine’s Day. I, for one, actually, do not. Having said that, any reminder of love or loving is a good reminder. So, today, let me express my love to someone who is so important in my life and is often forgotten: Me.
I once said to a friend that we are our harshest critics. I still stand on that statement to this day, unfortunately. How many times do we say to ourselves “stupid”, “There I go again, making the same mistake”? Or observe ourselves in the mirror and wish we are more this and less that? Or look back on our achievements and critically think of countless ways to improve them instead of patting ourselves in the back for a brief moment? Would we say or do these things to other people? I presume not.
Furthermore, making an effort to care for ourselves, even to stop for a brief while and breathe, is often thought of as a low-priority activity or even a selfish act. Some time during our education years, we are taught not to do this and instead always put other people first.
So while we go about expressing how much we love other people — our spouse, children, relatives, friends — or our pets, our hometown, etc, we may not remember the last time we have expressed the same thing to ourselves. Perhaps the thought hardly occurs in our mind, if at all.
I don’t know when and how we started to have this lack of self-love and self-respect. Nor do I want to delve on it. Suffice to acknowledge, we need to love, care and respect ourselves more. Imagine a person who can wholeheartedly say “I like being me. I really enjoy it.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be that person?
Now, what I like about human nature is that, no matter how hard we are on the exterior — how poorly we treat ourselves or other people at the moment, inside our true nature remains: We are compassionate beings by nature. There is always hope for the better. Each of us is built in with compassion. But it takes practice for it to flourish.
There are simple practices that we can adopt. We can, for instance, be more attentive to our body, thoughts and states of emotion. Listen to what it needs, be it nourishment, rest, a walk, exercise, a little pampering, a long exhale, or loved ones to laugh with. Cater to it.
Keep a journal. It is a good way to express ourselves, even only to ourselves. It also help us see what is going on more clearly when things are scribbled down, rather than floating around in our head. See how we habitually say or do things. Contemplate on how we treat ourselves, how we eat and how we conduct ourselves. What do we do when we get upset or tired? What do we say to ourselves when we achieve our goals, or not? Do we pat ourselves in the back or push ourselves to get even better? How are we doing?
Cultivate hobbies. Remember when we used to love playing basketballs, fiddling around with the piano, drawing crayon sketches, trekking in the nearby hill areas, or cooking home-made nibbles? Let’s do those again. Let’s remember how we much used to enjoy ourselves when doing these things.
Do social activities. They say the closest path to God is by serving others. Being involved in social things, helping people in need, creates a sense of meaning and compassion, which is so natural and important for social beings such as us. It also shifts the center of the universe from ourselves to other people. This warming feeling would infiltrate our being and affect our behavior in the everyday lives.
Meditate, pray, or do other a spiritual practice. If you are drawn to these, like I am, by all means, please do so. The experience of intentionally putting ourselves before a Supreme Being is like no other. A friend recently told me that whenever he meditates, he allows himself to be fully loved by God. What a beautiful attitude. Same goes with the act of praying. To feel in our heart that we are fully loved (by God — the Perfect Love, The Compassionate, The Merciful), fully accepted, and fully cared for will nurture similar sentiments in ourselves. We will naturally grow into a more loving, accepting, and caring persons to ourselves as well as to others.
But, let’s take it one day at a time, shall we?
Today, for instance, I have lined up all these nice things for myself: meditation, morning walk, slow breakfast, work, lunch with friends, work some more, be home early and a nice evening with the family. I shall close the day with some reading and contemplation. What a nice day it is going to be!
There is another thing that I’d like to do. The Hawaiian tradition has a short prayer called Ho’oponopono. It simply says “I am sorry. Forgive me. I love you. Thank you.” I intend to say it to myself today. It might be a bit odd at first, but, why not give it a try? We can say it under our breath, gently and intently, to ourselves, repeatedly. See how our hearts respond.
So this is the invitation for today. Let’s be a little kinder to ourselves. Let’s make our beloved self happy and feel loved. May we be among a handful of fortunate people who can truly say “I am so glad I was born. I like me. I really enjoy living my life.”