Many of us live our lives on autopilot. We exist day to day programmed like an automaton and never consider the choices we have made. We let our old habits dominate what we do and what we think. We have walked down the same familiar, well-worn path for so long that we assume this is what life is all about. We unwittingly accept it and do not believe it can be any better or different. We can become so entrenched in our old habits that we do not even realize that we are not living but are only surviving.
If you think about it, many of us have spent the better part of our lives operating based on a series of false beliefs. These beliefs can make us feel as if we are somehow inadequate. We learned to say and do things to keep the peace and make others happy. But, who is working on making us happy? This task, my friends, is ours and ours alone. Researchers suggest that our ability to be congruent with ourselves and others is linked to our happiness.
When we are congruent with ourselves, our inner world matches our outer world. We are our "authentic self." Being our authentic self is about reconnecting with who we are. It is about being true to ourselves. It is about having our thoughts (inner world), words, and actions (outer world) match. It is about honoring our feelings and having the confidence to express them. It is about going deep inside and letting go of the false beliefs, which are not serving us any longer.
Individuals who are controlled by their negative programmed false beliefs frequently want to please others over themselves. They also have a hard time being authentic. It can be terrifying to do or say things that go against the norm, the tried and true. Our ability to be authentic is often challenged in our relationships, where we find ourselves discarding our own wants and needs to make room for what we think others desire. We fear the repercussions of our words and actions. "Will he or she still accept me if I speak my truth?” “What will happen if I say no?"
Being authentic allows us to love and accept ourselves at our core, to do what makes us happy, and to follow our passions regardless of who we may disappoint. Doing so may leave us vulnerable, but at the same time, allows for the creation of genuine, intimate relationships filled with unconditional love.
What does loving ourselves feel like? It is about treating ourselves with kindness, concern, and compassion. It is about not judging ourselves harshly or punishing ourselves for every mistake we make. It is about being warm and understanding, recognizing our inadequacies and imperfections, and responding to them with the same level of support and respect we freely offer others. It is about liking who we are, lock, stock, and barrel.
Self-love compels us to act with our best interest in mind and challenges us to ask, "Why not?" As they say, whatever does not kill you will make you stronger. Imagine the inner strength you will develop as you flex this muscle.
We naturally love ourselves when we have appropriate self-worth and self-esteem. These things allow us to be internally whole and let us interact with the world as our authentic selves. There is one other thing that is required to love ourselves. It necessitates we move beyond our fears. It demands us to have the courage to feel our feelings and honor them, regardless of where they may lead.
We have to be willing to risk showing our true self, complete with all of our imperfections, shortcoming, and insecurities when we are our authentic selves. We have to embrace who we are instead of who we think we should be. We also have to be prepared to love ourselves enough to accept the costs and consequences our words and actions may elicit from others. It might sting in the moment, but in hindsight many come to realize it was the best and smartest thing they ever did. Being authentic creates a foundation where we can begin to experience joy and happiness in all we do every day of our lives.