“Put yourself first!” There’s a directive that we rarely ever hear. It’d be nice if someone gave us permission to ignore the world and handle our own stuff. It would be lovely if everyone took responsibility for themselves, leaving us the time and space to maybe tend to the many things that would bring us joy, or peace even. Wouldn’t you love to hear someone say to you, “I’m good, worry about giving yourself what you need”? Unlikely. Instead, we’re encouraged to put others before us ― it’s more noble, more honorable, less selfish. We’re taught to believe that we owe it to others to sacrifice for them ― that it makes us better parents, better partners, better siblings and better sons/daughters. That’s why so many of us run ourselves into the ground trying to be the perfect employee, wife, father, etc. Meanwhile, our internal resources are being depleted so rapidly that we can’t restore. Then, when we finally crash, burn out, lose our minds and/or throw up our hands, we’re told to take a break. Why do we kill ourselves trying to prove that we deserve the right to enjoy the life we live? So that we won’t be called selfish? So that we won’t be perceived as self-centered?
It is not self-centered to take good care of yourself. In fact, taking care of yourself is the best way to be a healthy and helpful contributor to our world. Research suggests that people who focus on their wellness are more productive employees, better spouses, more pleasant friends and less of a drain on our economy, our mood and our overall communities. The key, is to focus on self in a way that feeds your spirit and not your ego. It means learning to take care of your deep needs, not your superficial ones. It also means finding ways to maximize the joy you feel while minimizing any negative impact it may have on others. But it starts with understanding that there’s a big difference between being self-centered and being centered in yourself. Self-centered is a term used to describe people who make everything about them, who act from a place of ego, who are constantly trying to fill an emptiness they feel. In contrast, centering yourself is about creating a feeling of internal balance. It’s about aligning your mind, body and spirit so that they unite to create an anchor within your energy center - an anchor that keeps you from falling over when the weight of the world grows heavy on your shoulders.
Being centered in yourself is about knowing who you are, asking for what you need, accepting what you deserve, rejecting what fails to honor you and learning to love yourself, fully and truly. Sure, it’s important to be generous and respectful of others, to live in consciousness of our connection to the world and to one another. It’s critical that we see ourselves as part of something greater (a family, a community, a nation or species, a planet or energy life source). After all, none of us are the end-all, be-all, of it all. Still, it’s important to remember that the best way to give of yourself, is to have a full self from which to give. Otherwise, you’ve got the whole dang world competing for scraps of you. With Valentine’s Day upon us, how many of us are focusing our attention on having someone else, meeting someone else, loving someone else; because we’ve been taught to make everything about someone else... When the truth is that the best thing that you can do is to get centered within yourself and learn to Love YOU!
Here are 5 ways to love yourself better:
1. Work on yourself - Growth and betterment are important priorities. Develop a realistic understanding of your strengths and your limitations. Celebrate where you shine, but look for ways to improve in areas where you don’t (therapy, coaching, courses, mentors, books). Don’t let a few struggles dull the light you were born to share.
2. Make time for yourself - You deserve time with yourself, to learn yourself and love yourself. Perhaps it’s one hour per week for a workout, or an uninterrupted bubble bath once per month, or maybe even 30 minutes per day where you go for a walk while listening to a podcast. There are ways to fit “me time” into any schedule. If you commit to it, you will discover it.
3. Spend money on yourself - At least once per month, consider buying yourself a gift in honor of all that you do. It doesn’t have to be expensive, exclusive or extraordinary. You can pick up a nice candle at a local drugstore, an old record at a thrift shop or treat yourself to a frozen yogurt at your favorite ice cream shop. You’re well worth the expense.
4. Compliment yourself - Say something nice to yourself as you walk by the mirror, create a list of accomplishments that you can read over, or simply write yourself a thank you note or two for the great way you handled some tough situation. Working on yourself and fawning over yourself are not mutually exclusive. Remember that it’s okay to blow yourself a kiss once in a while.
5. Stop explaining yourself - One of the quickest ways to lose your enthusiasm for self-care is to get caught up in explaining to others why you need it, deserve it, prioritize it and allow yourself to indulge in it. People who are not ready to embrace it, will often try to find ways to make you feel guilty about it. At the very least, their doubts can easily make you question your commitment. Spare yourself the public trial. Stay balanced and let the chips of public opinion fall where they may.
For more help learning to love yourself better, visit www.DinorahNieves.com.
 Berry, L. L., Mirabito, A. M., & Baun, W. B. (2014, July 31). What’s the Hard Return on Employee Wellness Programs? Retrieved February 13, 2017, from https://hbr.org/2010/12/whats-the-hard-return-on-employee-wellness-programs