"I'll think about it tomorrow," said Scarlett O'Hara. "After all, tomorrow is another day." But not always. Sometimes there is no tomorrow.
You were going to reconcile with your brother after years of bitterness when he suddenly dies, and you're left with an aching heart filled with regret. You were going to start exercising -- seriously, it was time to get off the couch -- when a bad diagnosis and rounds of chemotherapy made it hard to get from the couch to the bathroom. You were going to start meditating. Hey, everyone you know was trying and liking it, but, you know, you would have to wake up 20 minutes earlier and that was a deal breaker.
How many days, weeks, months, or years have gone by since you vowed to do something good for yourself? You were going to throw out all the junk food in the house. You were going to take a spa day, or at least go get a facial. You were going to do a weekend retreat and finally learn how to meditate. But no, there was always something else going on.
You deserve to do good things for yourself. And yet you treat yourself last -- after the kids, after the partner, after the aging parents, after your BFF. You are a nurturer of others, a helpmeet, a rescuer of small animals, a volunteer at the local food bank. Geez, you're busy. But what are you doing for yourself?
As a spiritual teacher, I know what damaged bodies look like -- and that could be your emotional or spiritual bodies as well as your physical one. I can see when you don't love yourself, and there is nothing more damaging than not loving yourself. If you're a spiritual seeker, it can even prevent you from moving into higher realms of consciousness.
So how do you finally get around to loving yourself like you should? Here are five suggestions:
1. Make yourself a priority. Yes, you. It's that old story -- how can you give to others when your own well is dry? I know a very busy gal executive who has learned to set a weekly massage in her schedule. Once it's set on her calendar, she honors the appointment. Now that she knows how good it is for her, how much stress gets released from her body, it would take an earthquake for her to cancel.
2. Become aware of self-depreciating thoughts. You would probably be shocked if you heard someone talking to you the way you talk to yourself. Does your inner dialogue include thoughts like, "There must be something wrong with me," "It's all my fault," "I'm not good enough," or even "I don't deserve happiness." Start paying attention to how you think about yourself. One way to do this is to stand in front of a mirror (with your eyes open!). See if you can look at yourself and honestly say, "I love you." If you can't do that, you know you need some work in this area.
3. Don't compare yourself to others. Don't get stuck in the trap of comparing yourself to anyone else. Sure, your friend may not have to worry about paying the bills AND may still fit into her prom dress from high school, but she may not be any happier than you are. It may look that way, but trust me, the grass really isn't greener. A billionaire can suck at personal relationships. A thin gorgeous model may spend all her time throwing up. That swami in the flowing robe may say he holds the secrets of the universe and can impart them to poor, no-nothing you, but he may spend his evenings looking at pornography, trying to deal with his sexual desire. You can't know what another is going through by looking from the outside, so who are you going to compare yourself to?
4. Learn when to say yes, and when to say no. On the path to maturity and self-love, it's important to learn to discriminate. I don't mean discriminating against others because of their race or religion or sexual orientation. I mean knowing when something feels right to you and when it doesn't. When you meet that cute new guy at the office and your gut says, "Stay away!" trust your intuitive message. When you feel pulled to move to a cabin in the woods and leave the rat race behind, even though it may be complicated to do so, trust the YES that moves you in a new direction.
5. Do learn to meditate. If there is one thing above all others that really says you love yourself, it's learning to sit in silence and dive deep inside yourself. Meditation can relieve the stress you live with, can bring clarity to your thoughts and emotions, and can connect you to the place where you will know, once and for all, that you are indeed Spirit and can be loved for exactly who you are.
So the next time the Scarlett in you wants to wait until tomorrow to get started taking care of yourself, look her square in the eye and say, "No, thanks. I'm going to do it NOW!"