While it may feel simple to rely on someone else for directions or for help in building furniture, when we do so, we may lose sight of our own tremendous capacities.
Similarly, it feels so tempting to lean on others for love. Think about your own experience, what are the costs of relying on others to feel worthwhile?
For some reason, in our culture being single is stigmatized and people who are not in relationships may misjudge their worth by their relationship status. If you are single, instead of sulking, and if you are in a relationship, instead of waiting for love, practice self-love.
Given the tenuous nature of relationships and our everlasting relationships with ourselves, investing in yourself may reap real love.
1. Stop putting yourself down. We are so self-critical. Even in the face of a compliment, we may habitually respond in a self-deprecating way.
“Great haircut!” your coworker comments; and you hastily respond: “It makes my face look weird.” You don’t have to love your new haircut, though moving away from negative judgments can free you from endless pain.
When work challenges you, rather than insulting yourself, experiment with acting like your own ally. You may assume belittling yourself will lead to reassurance from others. Self-respect is more substantial than support from someone else and paves the way for more support.
2. Self-validate. Validating, or finding truth in one’s emotional experience, will help you manage your emotions. Judging emotions leads to feeling worse. For example, if you feel anxious at a party, you may self-validate and remind yourself, “I feel anxious because I care about people,” or you may invalidate yourself by saying, “What is wrong with me, no one else looks anxious.”
This often leads to feeling more anxious. We are always with ourselves and we choose either a warm space or hostile environment.
If you are interested in learning more, best-selling author and meditation teacher, Sharon Salzberg, has a wonderful mediation for emotions you may find in her book and accompanying CD, Real Happiness.
Tara Brach also furnishes some wonderful insights in her books and talks are available for free download.
3. Catch yourself doing right. We live intimately with our perceived flaws and estranged from our virtues. Spend a few minutes at the end of each day or first thing in the morning and note what you did right.
4. Invest in yourself. If you love fresh flowers, why wait to receive them from another? If your winter coat leaves you cold, take the time to select a more comfortable one. We change our feelings by changing our behaviors, even when these behaviors feel difficult.
Jennifer Taitz is a licensed clinical psychologist based in New York City. She is the author of End Emotional Eating: Using Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills to Cope with Difficult Emotions and Develop Healthy Relationship to Food. Visit her website drjennytaitz.com to learn more.