Back when this symbol first made its way into American consciousness in 1938 if you asked somebody, "How do you support yourself?" there was no question about what you were asking them.
"I work for the firm Pearson Hardman," would come the proud answer. Or, "I work down at the Buick dealership on 2nd and Main."
But today the "S" word refers to a whole lot more than how we keep our economic boats afloat. We seek fulfillment. We desire to contribute to our own wellbeing as well as that of others. We want to feel good about ourselves. We seek confidence and a sense of purpose.
But how do we go about getting these things?
Nobody's going to hand them to us.
Superman isn't going to come along and grant us psychological absolution.
Family members and my shrink can only do so much in the support department. At a certain point it's up to me to take the big fat red "S" and stick it on my own chest, hitch up my tights, grab my cape and learn how to support myself. Here's three effective ways I've used to go about doing this:
#1 Stop comparing yourself to anybody else.
This was hard for me because my parents' favorite admonition was, "Don't compare yourself to the worst compare yourself to the best!" As a result, I compared myself to everybody and felt like crap if I didn't measure up and felt smug when I did.
Neither emotion was satisfying or progressive.
The likes of me -- and you -- will never come again. Each one of us is like a unique flower that will bloom only once in all of ETERNITY. That's a pretty damn special flower.
Simply being alive in this amazing world is enough. Little children know this ... but we don't anymore.
So remind yourself: I don't have to be managing partner, president, a movie star, rich ... or thin. Yes, we can all improve. But our best, most lasting improvements come from an internal prompting -- the inner voice of the heart coaching us in a particular direction -- not running to keep up with Ken and Barbie.
#2 Take time for yourself.
You'll never hear that still small voice within unless you do.
Make friends with the only person in the world who will be with you every step of the way from birth until death ... you.
Find out what makes you tick.
Find out what makes you come alive. Passion is Youth Juice. And the only way you'll find passion (or become the Dragon Warrior) is to find out Who You Really Are. From this flows everything: What you do, who you love, what you pursue, what you value... it's all inside, waiting to be discovered.
So take an hour a day and turn off the phone, turn off the TV, turn off the music, unhook, cast loose and do yourself the enormous favor of spending time with yourself alone, in silence, and preferably in nature. Quite the concept, eh? It might be scary at first. Perhaps depressing. Perhaps boring. But hey, if I bore myself what the hell kind of person am I? Maybe some changes need to happen?
Scary discovery? Yes. Ultimately rewarding making the effort? Hell yes.
I could add a hundred more tips on becoming more self-supportive. Play more, open up, learn to give, learn to receive, learn patience, learn to breathe, learn to relax. Exercise, lose weight, cut down the booze ... all these things help. But here's the last Biggie:
#3 Lose yourself in something greater than your little ego self.
Whether it's watching a sunset, listening to a symphony, enjoying art, rowing or serving soup on Sundays at a homeless shelter-- find activities that allow your ego's grip on your reality to loosen a bit and pursue them.
Studies show that the less we focus on "me" and "mine" and the more we focus on others and open up to life and nature, art and beauty, the more we come alive, experiencing joy, awe, fulfillment, grace ... even transcendence.
Such emotions also gift us with better health and longer life expectancy.
And who wouldn't want a longer life experiencing joy and grace and great health?