The Art of Loving Yourself

Jillian Arena

Who are You Comparing Yourself To?

When you stop and think about it, we spend an awful lot of time judging ourselves.  We compare ourselves to our friends, family members, classmates, or acquaintances.  We look around and wish that we had better hair, a thinner waist, bigger breasts, or a prettier smile.  Where does this get us?  What have we accomplished at the end of the day when we look into the mirror?  Have we managed to successfully change the texture of our hair, lose 40 pounds around the middle, enhance the size of our chest, or alter our most beautiful attribute, our smile?  Unless we happened to be doing all of this judging on a day when we had some big procedure scheduled, the short answer here is no.  It is a complete and utter waste of time and brain power.  In fact, all we are really doing when we judge ourselves is feeding into the false belief that we are not enough.  The most ironic part about it is that the people we are comparing ourselves to are likely doing the same thing to themselves.  It’s a ruthless and neverending cycle that gets us nowhere.  So, who are you comparing yourself to?

Why Does it Matter?

Get up right now and go look in the mirror.  No really, go…like NOW!  Investigate the face the body and the personality staring back at you and notice what comes up.  Where do your thoughts go?  Do you hone in on the pimple that decided to grace you with its presence this morning, the three gray hairs that miraculously appeared out of nowhere, or the bags under your eyes?  Maybe your mental chatter starts to tell you that you look okay and then that distinct voice of your inner critic comes in to remind you that you snort when you laugh or you talk too loudly.  Listen very closely to the internal dialogue that’s taking place.  What are you telling yourself about yourself?  If you find yourself singing your praises, I congratulate you!  Well done.  If, on the other hand, you find yourself spiraling into a vortex of slinging insults at your poor, unsuspecting mirror-image, take a deep breath and think about something.  Imagine for a moment that it’s your mother, or your sister, or your very best friend standing in front of you.  Would you say those things to her?  Would you call her out on her blemish or remind her that she is a beautiful person?  Would you whip out a box of hair dye or not even notice?  Would you ask her to laugh so you could make fun of her snort or go on snorting right alongside her?  Chances are good that you would probably just love her, support her, and completely overlook those things that she might fault herself for.  Why can we do it for others, but not for ourselves?  We need to be championing ourselves as much as we do for others and when we can’t do that we are hurting the very fabric of our being.  The fact is that we are all uniquely beautiful and special and talented and fierce in the perfect combination.  When we can’t learn to see that, we are perpetuating the idea that nobody is ever good enough, so we aren’t even just hurting ourselves anymore, but all that we interact with.  When we can embrace ourselves, good, bad, and ugly, however, we create space to allow others to do the same!

What Happens When You Learn to Accept?

If you know me today, you probably don’t think of me as a person who is shy or holds back much.  The truth, however, is that I went through a very long time where I couldn’t stand myself.  I was constantly scrutinizing, comparing, and wishing that things were different.  After I had my children and my body changed, I got even worse!  What had they done to me????  Why was there no warning???  Where had my body disappeared to?  Slowly and gradually I learned to shift my perspective.  Instead of seeing my lack of a six-pack, I looked to my children and found gratitude that I had been lucky enough to carry them.  Instead of seeing my gray hair as an impending sign of doom, I chose to focus on the joy of the moment and use them as a reminder that each second counts.  Where I once saw lines around my eyes, I began to see a lifetime full of laughter.  The creases around my mouth became a memory of so many smiles and frowns…a remembrance of the full breadth of my ability to feel.  The worry lines at my brow have now become a reminder of my strength and resilience as I’ve learned to navigate situations that I didn’t know if I would ever get through.  The freckles and uneven skin tone, a beautiful expression of all of the days I have been lucky enough to dance under the sun.   In short, I have learned to love myself, and the freedom that has come with it is the biggest gift!  You can do it for yourself as well!

It Starts Small…

As with anything in life, start small!  Starting today, focus on one thing that you really, really, really like about yourself.  It might be your crooked smile, the color of your eyes, your flawless complexion, or even your contagious laughter!  If you have no idea where to start, ask a friend what your best attribute is.  Start with that and love it so fiercely that nothing could stop you.  Everytime you pass by a mirror stop and adoringly describe to your reflection how much you love that one thing about it or pause after every giggle and thank yourself for the beautiful sound of it.  Do this for a week and notice what happens.  You’ll likely find that during this process other parts of you begin to look a bit more appealing as well.  Start to give those a shout-out too!  Keep this process going, adding on one new physical attribute or personality trait each week and before you know it, you’ll be staring back at a much more confident, whole, happy individual.  You are different, and that’s the best thing about you.  Embrace those things that set you apart instead of wishing they were something else and you are FREE from the judgment of the world around you.  Sounds pretty good, right?  Awesome, so stop reading this, get off your bum and go find a mirror!  Your newfound confidence awaits!  Once you’ve got it fully intact, CLICK HERE to use it to build the life of your dreams!

Jillian Arena is a Certified Transitional Life Coach, RYT-200, and Reiki Practitioner.  She uses her training in each to help her clients around the globe achieve maximum clarity, happiness, and possibility out of life!  For more on working with Jillian, visit her website HERE.

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The Power of a Tribe and Divine Female Energy

thumbnail (2)At first glance, you may look at the above picture and believe that I am lost in a powerful moment of prayer, breathwork, or meditation, but I am here to assure you that this is not at all the case.  In fact, when this picture was snapped unbeknownst to me, I was in the middle of the ocean on a beautiful, sunny day, skin kissed by a warm breeze, in the throes of the most terrifying and life-altering panic attack I have ever experienced in my entire existence.  In fact, the story I am about to share with you was quite honestly one of the most vulnerable and powerful moments of my entire life.

My weekend adventure immersing myself in the warm, calming flow, and bold, brilliant colors of the middle of the Atlantic ocean started out amazingly well.  As my best friend and I jumped into the water with our masks and snorkels, I was instantly engulfed in the beauty and mystery of the coral reef below me.  I spent forty-five fascinating minutes exploring before we decided to head back to the boat, take off our gear, and go for an unencumbered swim.  I removed my flippers and mask, ran to the back of the boat, and jumped right into the crystal clear water.  I remember a fleeting thought entering my consciousness…”The world is SO big and I feel so small right now.” and all of a sudden I was gripped by panic.  My body became instantly cold and numb as waves of fear washed from my head all the way down through my toes.  I felt as though I couldn’t breathe, my heart racing a million miles per minute.  I couldn’t get out fast enough and when I did, it took every effort to suck in enough air to prevent me from passing out.  With forty other people milling about, I’m sure you can imagine that it wasn’t exactly helping the onset of panic.  As I sat on the front of the boat trying desperately to calm myself down, a realization hit me that I was completely vulnerable out here.  If I was indeed dying in this moment (as my mind kept assuring me that I was), there was legitimately nothing I could do about it.

I made my way cautiously back to my seat and something of a miracle happened then.   As I lifted my gaze to focus on the horizon, my eyes caught those of a woman across from me who was probably in her late 50’s, early 60’s.  She mouthed, “Are you okay?” to me, and my usually stoic composure crumbled as I mouthed back, “No.”  Without hesitation, this woman crossed the deck, sat down next to me, and swept me up in her arms.  She softly reminded me to breathe and to close my eyes as she rocked me back and forth and wrapped me up in her towel.  Another woman brought me water, and yet another encouraged me to eat a small snack.  At first, my typical self-preservation kicked in and I resisted the temptation to curl into the unknown comfort of this mystery woman, but gradually, I felt myself allow her to draw me in and I rested my head on her shoulder as she continued to squeeze me close.  This amazingly beautiful woman held me like this for a full 45-minute boat ride, never even knowing my name or anything about me…and I allowed myself in that moment to let go of all of my defenses and be taken care of.

As we neared shore and I began to feel more at ease, I sat up a little straighter and looked around me.  One by one, every woman on the boat locked her gaze with me and nodded, almost as though they, too, were breathing easier for me.  I was later informed by my best friend that the moment my body curled into this woman who had been holding me, each woman on the boat sat up straighter and closed their eyes, taking deep, methodical breaths.  She said it was the most incredible thing she had ever seen.  I thanked my amazing Angel Mama (who I found out was named Anne), and although she humbly accepted the gratitude, I don’t truly know if she understands what she did for me.  I don’t know that any of those women do.  I am notoriously a person who takes care of herself and others.  Rarely do I allow myself the opportunity to be truly nurtured, particularly by strangers, but these beautiful women from all over the world who spoke probably six languages between them, came together in a stoic show of support to provide a safe container for me to experience the very real terror and weakness that I was feeling.  I don’t want to exclude the men here either, all of whom tapped into their own Goddess energy and supported me by offering a smile, a squeeze as I walked off the boat, or as far as Anne’s husband goes, his wife.

When we got back to my car, I let myself cry harder than I’ve cried in a long time.  We often move through life forgetting that we need others to support us in our moments of weakness, maybe even sometimes feeling like we don’t deserve to be supported.   When we can cross over those self-imposed blocks, we open to possibility and allow Universal love to flow to us and even through us.  The truth is, it is always there, even when we don’t see it, and the scary thing is that if we let our fear of looking weak or vulnerable become greater than our need for love and connection, we may stand to miss out on the incredible freedom and power it can bring into our lives.

What I experienced this weekend was the power of love, the power of a group of women working toward a common goal, the power of the Warrior Goddess energy that exists within each of us regardless of our sex, and the power of treating others as though they are not separate.  At the base of it all, we are all humans, needing, seeking, and desiring love, acceptance, and the right to be ourselves at any given moment.  These women and men gave me a gift that I will work hard to pass on to others in any way that I can.  We often have no idea how great of an impact our small acts of kindness might have on another person.  As far as Anne and the other passengers on that boat go, they have unknowingly helped to heal some long-existing wounds that have prevented me from fully allowing myself to become close to others, females in particular.  They have helped to birth a better version of myself and have encouraged me to pass that feeling along. Hopefully, this story inspires you to do the same.  Let your Warrior Goddess light shine bright…the world needs it so badly right now and always.

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