I’ve been asked by BlogHer staff to answer the following question in a blog post.
“How do you practice self-acceptance and find unconditional love for yourself? How does practicing love first help you attract more love and happiness in your life?”
Wow. Tough question. And incredibly timely, given that for the last year I’ve been thinking pretty hard about just how to make this happen in my life. For me, the answer begins with gratitude. Several years ago I noticed that my body was beginning to age more than I thought it would in my 30s. And as I approached 40, I began to realize that it was only going to happen more rapidly in the coming years. As an antidote to dreams of plastic surgery or over-the-top strength training, I began to mentally catalogue the things my body was still capable of and, once I started, I was astonished at the list. All of those things I take for granted like digesting food and pumping blood and repairing cuts and bruises worked just fine. I am lucky not to be an insomniac and, while I have a pretty bad case of dandruff, my hair isn’t falling out and my joints work the way they’re supposed to. I began to realize that the list of things my body accomplishes on a daily basis, mostly without my interference, is truly miraculous.
With this “plentiful” mindset, I began looking at other parts of my life. I thought about the good friends I have and the close family members I love and who love me. I acknowledged that these people see something in me that makes them want to be around me and thought about what those things might be. With some small feelings of guilt, I listed a few of them – sense of humor, open-minded, generous – and was surprised to notice that it felt good to think about traits I possess that other people like. And, within a few days, I began to see my behavior patterns change to emphasize those traits. As soon as I labeled that glass as ‘half full,’ I could only see it that way. It is like that pencil drawing of the old woman/young woman; once you see one of the women, you have a difficult time seeing the other one. Your brain has accepted one image and it doesn’t want to see the other one.
Abundance is like that. You can’t simultaneously hold two opposing thoughts in your head. Something is either black or white, it can’t be both at the same time. Once I trained my brain to notice the things I do that come from love and kindness and generosity, I was more likely to reinforce the belief that I am loving and kind and generous. And I was more likely to act in those ways as well.
This is not to say that I don’t get down from time to time or berate myself for doing or saying something particularly stupid. I absolutely do. The difference now is that I am in the habit of counterbalancing those negative thoughts with realistic assessments of all of the things I do that are smart or caring. Human beings are wired to put more weight in the negative. It is an evolutionary way for us to avoid dangerous situations and learn from our mistakes. Thankfully, now that we don’t live in a world where we’re likely to be eaten by dinosaurs or saber-toothed tigers, we can also train ourselves to consciously add pounds to the positive. I firmly believe that this is one of the most important kinds of weight training we can do.
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