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Column by Christina Kunkle, RN and CTA, Certified Life and Wellness Coach
Mirror Mirror To love others, you have to love yourself.
hat’cha doing mommy?” my 7-year-old asked. “I’m sending my friends a message about how important it is to love ourselves, so we have even more love to give everyone we care about.” “Oh, let me help!” she chirped.
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“My primary relationship is with myself — all others are mirrors of it. As I learn to love myself, I automatically receive the love and appreciation that I desire from others. If I am commited to myself and to living my truth, I will attract others with equal commitment. My willingness to be intimate with my own deep feelings creates the space for intimacy with another.” — Shakti Gawain, author A few minutes later, she was back holding up a melt-my-heart drawing that said “I love Me!” on one side and “Believe!” on the other. Let me ask you a question: Of all the love and encouragement you have so freely offered to those around you, have you offered yourself any of that same caring attention yet today? When was the last time you looked at your own reflection in the mirror and said “I love and believe in you?” If this sounds funny, or perhaps a little self-centered, I get it. Many of us feel that focusing on ourselves is selfish. Yet, we are taught that if we help enough people get what they want, eventually we will get what we want. So, we shower TLC on everyone else, often at the expense of our own self-care, waiting with expectation that “someday” it will finally be our turn. You hope those around you realize that the ways you show kindness and support, whether pitching in to make dinner, listening to problems or offering encouragement, are the ways you yourself want and need to be loved. In healthy relationships, there is mutual give-and-take, our love comes back around and we receive the care we crave. Other times, we may find that our efforts go unnoticed, are taken for granted or begin to rob us of quality sleep, peace of mind and the strength we need to tackle our own challenges.
Look into your eyes ...
Tend to ... yourself
portunity to turn my own reality around. I began studying, practicing and applying self-esteem-enhancing techniques and philosophies, eventually teaching them to others as well. My painful realization was a gift that set me firmly on the path toward my life’s purpose.
When you catch yourself thinking “it must be nice!” or “what about me?” it’s likely you are feeling resentful of the time and attention you are giving others and not giving yourself. If this rings true, these feelings are a blessing: Your gift is the knowledge that your self-esteem needs tending to; then you can take steps toward doing just that. This realization hit me like a ton of bricks back in the 80s, when my counselor helped me dig deep enough to expose the root cause of my eating disorder, which was a complete and total lack of selflove. With low confidence and an abundance of self-doubt, I had become a people-pleaser. I was trying to gain others’ approval by appearing perfect, having a fit body, never expressing anger or negativity and being an indispensable caretaker. The problem with this approach is that no amount of outside approval can fill a void created by our own sense of lacking. When we feel empty, we tend to suck the energy from others in a desperate attempt to be filled. But love is an inside job — and the irony is, in order to receive it, we have to already have it. Once I was given this gift of self-discovery, I embraced the op-
Because healthy relationships begin within, I invite you to take an honest look at the relationship you have with yourself. In recovery, I learned an exercise based on the work of Louise Hay, author of “You Can Heal Your Life,” which I will now pass on to you: Close your eyes and imagine you are looking into your own mirrored image. Look deeply into your own eyes and say to yourself, “I love you and accept you just the way you are.” Watch for the reaction in your mirrored image. Pay attention to how you feel saying and receiving this message of self-love. What was your reaction to this exercise? Did it feel good? Did it feel uncomfortable? Were you willing to try it?
A personal connection As the saying goes, “the eyes are the window to the soul.” When we talk to other people, if they don’t establish eye contact, we often think something is wrong or that they are hiding something. We don’t feel connected. This may sound silly to some of you, but I suggest doing the mirror exercise in a real mirror every morning and evening. Look into your own eyes, tell yourself what you like, love, admire and appreciate about yourself. This is an amazingly powerful, yet simple, thing to do. After all, we are already accustomed to inspecting our superficial features — weight, hair, clothes, or complexion — and being critical of what we see reflected. But, few of us ever look into our own eyes with the warmth of a friend. Continue this exercise every day until kindness becomes a habit.
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Here are 3 reasons why you deserve your own loving, supportive attention:
You can’t give what you don’t have: As we all know, at the heart of truly successful relationships is deep respect, love and acceptance for the other person. Because we can’t give away something we don’t have, we must first cultivate these qualities within ourselves. Only then can we genuinely offer these gifts to family, friends, clients or customers. Without a healthy dose of self-esteem, we may become emotionally dependent, try to manipulate others or allow abuse to occur. You can’t teach what you don’t know: We want to raise happy children who have a healthy dose of self-esteem, yet we sometimes put ourselves last and are self-critical. Let’s give ourselves the same support, kindness and grace that we would give a close friend, and teach by our own example how to love and accept — even when things aren’t perfect.
You can’t deal with what you don’t acknowledge: In order to catch the early warning signs of physical, mental or emotional imbalance, be present in your body, paying close attention to your inner dialogue. If there’s a health concern that you’ve been avoiding, a boundary that needs to be set or a change that needs to take place, first own the problem, then resolve it quickly and lovingly.
The sad truth is — even if there is love all around us — if we do not love ourselves, we may not notice, feel or trust that it is there. Low self-esteem is not an attractive trait, and you can’t fool energy: If you don’t like yourself, your words and actions will leak this truth to those around you, pushing them away or attracting those who want to control you. When you venture out to meet new people or create stronger relationships with those you already know, feeling good about yourself always puts you in a more powerful position. So, let’s crank up our self-care, cultivating greater self-compassion, beginning now! Would somebody please pass the mirror? Christina Kunkle, RN and CTA Certified Life and Wellness Coach, is founder of Synergy Life and Wellness Coaching, LLC, creator of the “Synergy Success Circle” and “SOAR,” a Heart-Centered Leadership Development Program. She helps busy women prevent burnout by promoting bounce-back resilience to stay focused, positive and excited about the challenges of work and life. To learn more, visit her website at www.synergylifeandwellnesscoaching.com or call 540-746-5206.