“Your relationship with yourself sets the tone for every other relationship you have.” - Robert Holden
Our society teaches us from a very young age how to get along and play well with others. As babies we’re taught to make nice, touch gently, take turns, and share. In elementary school we learn to obey our teachers, stand in line respectfully, and salute the flag. As tweens, we attend etiquette class, cotillion, and karate, as we bow to our sensei. We’re reminded not to talk with our mouth full, take only a small serving, say please and thank you.
Everything we learn at a young age is geared toward the pleasing of others. We are taught to people-please from day one; how to be liked, how to make friends, and how to impress a future employer during an interview.
Then in our early 20s we focus on speaking eloquently to potential suitors, and are taught to be on our best behavior to attract a mate; with the hope of gaining the supreme prize…a proposal!
It’s ingrained in us from the beginning. It’s all about them.
So, tell me, did I sleep through the portion of Home Ec where they taught us that in addition to sewing on a button, we needed to learn positive self-talk? Did I miss the college course: “Care for Thyself Fundamentals?” At what point are we taught to love and honor ourselves as individuals and human beings? In what class, or at what age, are we taught anything about self-care? And why don’t we question this missing link until we reach adulthood?
Employers, for example, give sick leave, but not “well leave.” It seems like people in our society need to get sick to take a break or get some well deserved time off.
This is backwards.
In Michael Moore’s film, Where to Invade Next, he visits an average couple working in Italy who get eight weeks paid vacation a year! Yes, you heard me correctly, eight weeks! They also get a two-hour lunch break every day to come home and eat with their family.
The Italians insist their employees enjoy quality of life. So, assuming we can’t all just up and move to Italy, please allow me to take this moment to introduce you to Self-Care. “Self-Care, meet our readers, readers, meet Self-Care.”
Becoming your own best friend
There is nothing more significant than the relationship we have with ourselves, as it sets the foundation for everything in our lives. Unless we are around people that know how to love themselves, most of us are unclear what that looks like, feels like, or sounds like. This is your opportunity to learn now. Part of becoming your best self is learning self-compassion and self-love.
I have known too many unhappy people, trudging along for years, thinking they are unable to find a suitable mate or quality friendship; the fact of the matter is, they do not have a relationship with themselves. This saddens me. I ponder what our world would be like, what America could be like, if we were taught to take proper care of ourselves the way we expect others to.
Self-love is the most important love a person can hold, and ahead are a few ways that you can practice more of that.
There are many ways to peel back the layers of an onion. The question is, which way is best for you? In order for us to truly know ourselves, to love ourselves, we need to spend time within: undistracted, unplugged, undisturbed quiet time with ourselves.
Again, solitude is not something our society teaches us. We can learn to quiet our minds in yoga, prayer, chanting, or mindfulness-based classes, through peaceful role models and spiritual teachers. We have become so disconnected and distracted these days. It breaks my heart.
Cell phones are all but attached to our bodies. Facebook somehow climbs in bed with us at night and video games follow us around, flashing, begging us to earn points. There is certain intimacy Google can not provide. Taking time to be quiet, to do absolutely nothing but close our eyes and breathe, is a genuine act of self-love.
Self-love is respect, appreciation, compassion, kindness, acknowledgement, and uplifting of one’s self.
Defining Standards and Boundaries
A dynamic duo of self-love is standards and boundaries. Standards are guidelines you set for yourself in life. Boundaries are guidelines you set for others. As one changes and grows wiser, we set better standards for ourselves to achieve higher levels of fulfilment. Boundaries are positive ways to let others know how they may treat you.
Yes, part of self-care is teaching others how they may treat you. Isn’t that the best? How others treat you is your choice! Standards are something we all hold, but most of us have not voiced before.
It’s good practice to write out 5 standards you hold yourself to and 5 boundaries for how others may treat you. This can be a life changing experience.
I got to the point where some close friends could actually voice my boundaries for me, this is when I knew I had reached a new level. One standard I have is that I do not give out a friend’s personal phone number to anyone without asking permission.
A boundary I hold for others is that they speak to me respectfully, even if they are angry with something I did. Standards and boundaries are precious entities. They are guidelines for taking quality care of yourself, and I believe that if you are reading this article, that is something you want more of.
Be selfish, get those needs met
All of us have personal needs. Not primal needs like water, food, and shelter, but needs like acknowledgement, accuracy, or touch. If we don’t identify our needs and get them met, they take over. Needs drive us, chase us, and stay in the driver’s seat until we acknowledge or fulfil them.
We’re not even taught that we have personal needs until they turn into undesirable behaviors like extended sadness, poor habits, or compulsions. We must identify our most immediate personal needs first, so we can create healthy steps and consistent action to get them met.
Once we learn to get our personal needs met, we can start living a life from our highest values; which leads to a genuinely fulfilling life. Identifying needs is one of the first things a good coach does with their clients. One of the greatest questions we can learn to ask ourselves is, “what do I need?” If we do not meet our own needs, who will?
Self-love is a practice, an art. You can begin at any point, in any place. Self-love is not something you do once in a while, or on special occasions, it is something you practice daily. You choose self-love, and commit to it, like you would a good relationship. You learn it from wise role models, rock star goddesses, or sages who have walked the path before you and written about it themselves.
Self-love is perhaps the most important love a person can embrace. Without it we will not experience our best self in our best life, and that…is simply not an option.
“Settling for less than the best in life gets us more of what we have always gotten. In order for us to move ahead further than we ever have before, not only do we need to do things differently, we need to change our thoughts about them as well.” - Stefanie Dumont
About Stefanie Dumont
Stefanie is a leading Executive and Empowerment Coach in San Diego. She helps cutting edge clients turn ambition, talent, and objectives into profit and greater happiness. Stefanie leads LA Mastermind Groups via tele-conference for entrepreneurs and professionals, and hosts interviews with top influencers. Alongside her husband and kids, she is enjoying writing lyrics for exciting new projects, adventure, travel, and spending time with people “going for it!”
Stefanie is Co-Founder of the lifestyle blog “Conscious and Carefree”-formulas for joyful and productive living at bcarefree.com. Like Conscious and Carefree on Facebook, tweet us on Twitter or email Stefanie directly for Mastermind Group availability and Professional Coaching here- Stefanie@bcarefree.com