Category Archives: self-love

Resilience, Faith, and Self-love

As part of my book tour for What if..?, in September I spent a week in New York for media meetings. I love New York, and I grew up in the area. Since leaving in 1990, I have gone back to visit every so often. Fourteen years ago, almost exactly, I flew to New York for a friend’s engagement party. My presence was to be a surprise, so my then-husband and I decided to spend a few days in the city before heading out to the suburbs for the event. We made our travel plans about six weeks before, or early August 2001.

We never could have known what would transpire two weeks before our trip on that fateful day – September 11th. The world could never have known. And we never could have planned for how it would impact and change us as a global society.

But, on that weekend 14 years ago, after the unimaginable had happened, we had to make a choice:

Live in fear, or
Live in love.

We chose love, and went to my friend’s engagement party. Nobody expected us to keep our plans. People weren’t traveling, least of all to New York. But my ex-husband and I knew it was the right thing to do. So, we boarded our almost empty plane in Chicago and headed to the Big Apple less than two weeks after the towers came down.

After being in town for a day or possibly two, we decided to head down to Ground Zero. It was not fully roped off yet, and we were able to stand within feet of the bent and collapsed ribs of steel. When I looked up, I saw the thick layer of dust encapsulating every building – it looked like a layer of spray foam insulation. We bought American flag bandannas from a vendor, partially out of national pride, but mainly to cover our faces and protect our lungs.

We walked among the resilient, the curious, the fatigued, the torn. We listened to stories as we shared in the national after shock of tremendous tragedy.

As I stared at the remains of my beloved buildings, decades of my life flashed before my eyes. “I’ll never get to enjoy a meal at Windows on the World again,” was one of the thoughts that flew into my brain as I remembered my 11th birthday. I was lucky enough to have experienced it once.

My New York was changed forever. I knew it at the time, but I had no idea how far-reaching that sentiment would be.

During our walk so long ago, as things became overwhelming, we stepped inside Trinity Church. I had never been in it before, but it felt like a fitting time to stop in, take pause, and simply breathe.IMG_6898

Now, 14 years later, I had the same idea as I meandered the streets of Ground Zero. In the midst of media meetings promoting my new book, a quiet pause seemed fitting – and needed.

One World Trade Center is a sight to behold – it’s a marvel. The surrounding area is busy, chaotic, vibrant, and alive – the New York we all know, with a slight edge to it. An awareness of tragedy, rather than the former insulation provided by a sense of invincibility. So much has changed, and yet, it felt oddly familiar.

Walking into Trinity Church 14 years later, I still felt the gratitude, calm, and refuge the church provided so long ago. The miracle that it survived such an event unharmed is evident in the grain of the wood in the pews. IMG_6897Serenity and peace filled the air as I sat quietly staring up at the stained glass in between writing these words:

Fourteen years have passed and it feels like I have lived many lifetimes. Fourteen years have passed and it feels like both forever and yesterday. Fourteen years have passed and I know more gratitude, love, and joy today than I ever could have imagined then. I’m not the same person I once was, and yet, I’m exactly who I have always been.

With some time in between meetings, sitting in Trinity Church, I allowed myself to sit, reflect, breathe, pray… connect. Or rather, re-connect to what I know to be true: I am who I have always been. Gratefully, I am finally living my life in alignment with that statement. Gone are the struggles to conform, seek approval, bargain for acceptance. It’s not 100% all the time, but it’s getting closer every day. And when old habits or patterns are triggered, I have the resilience, understanding, and faith to return to self-love – to return to myself: Who I am… who I have always been.

Perhaps that’s what faith, resilience, and self-love are all about. Like the Trinity Church, they help us to survive. They stand strong through the chaos as a safe haven in the midst of struggles and challenges, just waiting for us to return, to re-connect. Regardless of what’s going on outside, we know that the familiar stability of a strong internal alignment, however that manifests, is the home in which we can always find comfort, draw resilience, and feel peace.

Self-Love

What does “self-love’ actually mean?

I received this question after last week’s writing. Here are my thoughts on what self-love actually looks like:

If we all woke up tomorrow with complete self-love and acceptance, there’s this notion that entire industries would tumble. That somehow self-love means the decimation of the multi-billion dollar industries centered around self-improvement.

But I disagree.

Loving myself exactly as I am today, does not mean I don’t want to improve myself for tomorrow.

  • It means I’m doing it from a place of love instead of fear or lack.
  • It means I’m doing it because I know I’m worth it, not because I feel unworthy or require external approval to feel valid in the world.
  • It means improving myself is defined by me, and not some imposed measurement of my value.

Self-love is not about acceptance through defiant resignation or surrender. Self-love is about standing up for yourself and who you are inside, and making decisions in alignment with that inner knowing. It’s about being accountable to yourself, on every level. If you want to be more fit, it doesn’t mean you don’t love yourself. If you want to dye your hair, it doesn’t mean you don’t love yourself. If you like to wear make-up, have body piercings, or only wear designer duds, it doesn’t mean you don’t love yourself.

Today I could have fruit and yogurt for breakfast and tomorrow I could have sausages and pancakes. I could weigh less in a year, or I could weigh more. I could be stronger and healthier or I could be more flexible. Or I could be exactly as I am today.

Self-love is all of that, because if my actions are in alignment with who I am, then I am practicing self-love. The variable is the answer to the question: Why? As in, why am I doing what I’m doing?

The only time it means you don’t love yourself is when you’re doing all of that (or more) in order to be somebody you’re not inside: If your actions are out of alignment with your inner self.

If you’re trying to gain approval or you’re seeking acceptance by others, then perhaps the decision to work out 7 times a week is not loving. Similarly, cookies every day because you don’t care anymore and/or you’re defying the Madison Avenue propaganda, is not loving.

But, if you enjoy a cheeseburger with friends, or you like to do yoga daily, and the decisions you make are from a place within, then that, my friends, is self-love. Even when it includes a desire for self-improvement, however you define that. Perhaps especially when it includes a desire for self-improvement.

It’s time we re-labeled what it means to practice self-love. It’s not about defying anything; rather, it’s about embracing everything from a place of alignment with who you are inside. And that makes all the difference.

Comparison and Self-Love

I was chatting with a friend recently about comparison and life satisfaction. If you’ve been following my writing for a while, you know how I feel about comparison.

There are no winners in the comparison game.

In this age of social media, it almost seems inevitable that we will be mired in a cycle of comparing ourselves to others. Furthermore, when others are predominantly sharing their highlight reel instead of their fumbles, it also seems inevitable that we will begin to feel worse about ourselves and our lives. When we compare our insides with other people’s outsides, we will never win.

Upon reflection, however, there IS one way I can see that we can become winners in the comparison game. So, I am modifying my former statement ever-so-slightly.

We win at comparison when we learn how to use it as a tool and not a weapon.

What do I mean by that?

When we compare ourselves to others and feel worse about our lives, it’s like we are using comparison as a weapon against ourselves. No armor could withstand it.

However, if we can use comparison as a tool to gather information then we are gifting ourselves with the means by which we can change our lives.

How?

We mine the data. If we raise our awareness to our thoughts of comparison, and instead of holding them to be true we question them and mine the data, we end up with a cache of information we didn’t have before. A cache of information that can help us create meaningful change in our lives. The key element to this process is remaining emotionally neutral and becoming a witness to your thoughts.

What does this look like? Let me give you a concrete example:

The other day I saw a friend’s Facebook post about her spring vacation, complete with amazing pictures of family and friends in a beautiful locale. Whereas my spring break was non-existent. I don’t have one. Even if I had one, I don’t currently have the funds to take the sort of vacation she took. I started to compare my life to hers, and it felt bad.

The natural inclination (which is a much bigger topic for another day) is to feel lesser-than. When we compare, we’re typically looking “up” at those who have it “better” than us, rather than looking “down” at those who have it “worse” than us. This is actually a good thing, in some ways, because it allows us to pinpoint much more easily the areas in which we desire change.

So, back to the Spring Break story. After I took a pause to redirect myself, I deliberately asked myself why I was reacting to her pictures on Facebook. The answer was simple: I wanted what she had.

Which leads to question #2: What do I believe she has? (Notice the use of the word “believe” in there.)

In that moment I opened up the doors to neutrality. I went from feeling lesser-than to engaging my analytical mind from a neutral place. I could identify the story I made up about my friend’s life and how “amazing” it is, and I could identify my own inner desire to obtain what she was showing. But… I didn’t tell myself that my own life wasn’t “amazing.” And that’s the key difference.

Once I was able to become neutral, it wasn’t about being “less than” what I desired, it was about adding something I desired to my goals and dreams, without deflating myself in the process.

This is what I mean about mining the data from comparison. If you use it as a tool, it can help you identify areas that you wish to change. From there, it’s up to you to make a plan and get to work.

So much of this comes back to self-love and acceptance. But, self-love is not an easily obtained construct. It’s too theoretical for too many people. Self-love requires us to find deliberate, action-oriented beliefs and behaviors in order to become manifest in our lives.

Furthermore, self-love does not mean you can’t want to change something about yourself. It means you love who you are at every step along the path of change, and accept your “as is” in addition to your desire to create change, as well as your process of change. Loving yourself along the way is comprised of those actions and beliefs that you choose in each moment.

For me, going back to the example, I chose to question my thoughts and the story I was telling myself. That simple act of choosing something different is what opened me up to the possibility of something different… and it allowed me to choose a loving response instead of a shaming reaction. Self-love in action, as a result of comparison.

Labels, Limits, and Love – part 2

Last week I told you about my experience saying “I love you” to someone who isn’t categorized as lover, family or friend. I likened Love to a pasta sauce (yes, I did!), and shared that we would explore the idea of expectations and Love this week. So, let’s do it!

Here’s the thing: when I said “I love you” to that person, I had no expectation of a return. If we go back to the pasta sauce for a moment, ask yourself these questions:

Do you expect anything in return from your pasta sauce? Do you expect it to do something for you, validating you in some way? Or do you simply enjoy it for all it is in the moment?

That’s what happens when we love openly and honestly from our heart: we enjoy it for all it is in the moment. Some call it “being in the flow” others refer to it as “being in the now” – more labels. It simply is.

When we hold expectations for a return of our sentiments – our love – we are actually in a space of not-loving. We are in fear, or lack. Our energies are tied up in wanting. We are offering our love from a place of need, rather than a place of integrity, and that’s never good. It’s a false love, a caged love, a love that is bound and tied before it ever has a chance to be felt and shared.

There are many examples of this, but one I saw recently was a mother talking to her child. I was in a store and she put parameters on her love, saying something like, “How will I know that you love me, if you don’t do this for me?”

A quid pro quo for love is not Love. It’s enslavement to someone else’s needs, fears, and insecurities. It’s love as a possession, which isn’t love.

Expecting an “I love you, too” in return for your “I love you” is no different. Hollywood has hit on this as it’s a common theme among rom-coms. We’ve all done it – I’ve done it! (Many times.) So, this post is not about being perfect, but about raising awareness. Awareness invites change.

I experienced this myself most recently with the story I’ve shared. I said “I love you” because I did. I do. There is nothing more to it than that. Being able to convey my Love without strings, expectations or attachments was a gift I gave to the other person, but more so it was a gift I gave myself. It was liberating and empowering… and fully aligned with who I am.

It was the BEST pasta sauce I’ve ever had. :)

P.S. For more on how to communicate love effectively in existing relationships, I highly recommend the 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman (www.5lovelanguages.com)

Three Stages of Love

In my experience, there are three basic stages of Love. And they usually occur in this order:

love agaveBe loving. Simply stated: Love others and love yourself, through your words, thoughts, and actions.

Be lovable. This is not about being cute; it’s about being receptive to love from someone else. Surprisingly, this can be a real challenge for many, but I’m here to say you are 100% WORTHY of love, exaclty as you are.

Be Love. Do 1 and 2.

Ok, so #3 is one of those “wisdom statements” I referred to in an earlier post. It’s simple and true…and somewhat airy. Here’s how to make it accessible:

Let your actions, decisions, words and thoughts come from the space of love inside you. If you embody 1 and 2, you will “Be Love.” In other words, allow the idea of Love as an energy, a thought, a feeling, to guide you in your day. Use it as a barometer against which you measure your decisions. If, for example, something is out of alignment with Love (like gossip, for instance), you have a choice. You can always choose something new, something different. Always.

Some practical questions you can ask yourself as you choose to Be Love:

  • Is this thought coming from a loving space?
    (If not, where is it coming from? Fear? Anger? Hurt? – How can you change it?)
  • Does this action/decision support my intention of being loving and lovable?
    To myself? To others? (<– see what I did there? Put yourself first.)
  • What is the loving thing to do in this situation?

Life can be hard. Life can be a struggle. This is not about being perfect. If, for example, you “mess up” and say something out of fear or hurt (or exhaustion), love yourself back into alignment by apologizing, or making a different choice the next time, or whatever you think would be a more loving response than what you did. (I speak from experience here.)

This is all about engaging in the process and allowing yourself to make different choices, being more open to a life filled with Love, both giving and receiving it. Because Love is the essence behind everything you are, and everything you desire (not to mention: creativity, prosperity, and joy!).

My Own Army

The other day, while waiting in the airport, I hit shuffle on my music library, and a song I never heard before started playing. It was one of those freebies from Starbucks that I downloaded but had not played. There I was standing in line for my flight listening to these words:

Never gonna stop, never gonna give up on you,
No matter what I do.

Here I am baby, I’m your one woman army,
I’d fight for you, I’ll die, I’ll be your protector.
Here I am baby, I’m your one woman army,
No matter what may come, I won’t surrender.

And I started thinking…

At first, I thought of how I wanted to play this song for someone. For several someones, actually. Because I feel that way. We all have those people in our lives we’d fight for, die for, and protect. It’s a love song that transcends the stereotypical romantic ballad. So I listened to it, on repeat, for as long as they let me have my electronics in the “on” position. And then I forgot about it.

Until two days later when I’m on a plane again, and I deliberately search for and select the song to listen to it. With the first few strums of the guitar, it hits me: What if the song is for me? What if I played those words for myself instead of to someone else? And then I thought….. What if we all did? (Seriously, when was the last time you played a love song for yourself? Have you ever? What would you choose? How would it feel?)

I’m now listening to the song again, and while it still brings up thoughts of others, it also fills me with a welling sense of empowerment that I can be – that I am – my own army. And, frankly, that’s kinda cool. :)

* The song: “One Woman Army” by Kate Earl – check it out!

Champions at Heart

“You don’t need a man, Liz. You need a champion.” – Eat, Pray, Love

I always liked that line, because it hits me. Right there. You know the place: That space between your heart and your throat where you can physically feel your dreams? Yeah, there. But why?

Let’s pause to look at this for a moment, because it’s actually true. We each need a champion. First, let’s define “champion.”photo 1

Among other things, a champion is a “warrior or fighter” according to Merriam-Webster. It’s also a verb: to champion means “to protect or fight for.” Let’s explore the latter, because although Javier Bardem uses the noun in the movie, I believe his true intention (or sub-dialogue) was the meaning behind the verb. So let’s go there!

When we’re children, we seem to have champions all around us. Sometimes it’s our friends or our parents. Sometimes it’s our teachers or siblings. It’s people who hold us up, hold us accountable, teach and lead us. They are there for us when things get stormy as well as when things are calm and sunny. At face value, champions are the “winners.” Looking deeper, champions are those wonderful individuals who value and respect us as individuals ourselves and who inspire us to be our best self, without asking anything in return.

Usually, I would say that all we need is to be our own champion. We do. However, it’s not “all” we need. We need each other, and we each need a champion: That one person in our life, at that one moment, who supports and protects us – who holds us up (or helps us up) when we need it most. It’s the person who makes us laugh or lets us cry – without judgment or expectation – because they know it’s what we need at that moment. It may not be the same person every time. In fact, it probably isn’t.

I know who my champions are, even though they’d probably hate that title. 😉 They’re the ones who help me to be who I am every day, by supporting, challenging and encouraging me to show up for myself. Sometimes I forget they’re there though, and then I’m reminded by something seemingly small. Perhaps something so small that they don’t realize that they just donned a cape for me and became my champion in that one moment, and it made all the difference.

So, today – it’s a simple reminder to say thank you. Thank you to all the wonderful “champions” out there holding us up, helping us out, laughing with us, and reminding us of who we are, and what we can become. Perhaps, too, it’s a reminder that maybe we’re also wearing a cape for someone and don’t even know it. How wonderful!

In the end, I think that’s why that line hits me: Feeling supported and loved is an amazing gift; Feeling championed? That’s love on a whole new level.

A river of Love

Ok – Here we go. I have been working on setting up the blog as its own site – we’re almost there, but not yet. So, in the meantime… I thought it best to keep going here (in light of the near 2-month absence….so sorry.) But, now I’m back. So, let’s get inspired together!!

As I was driving today, I had a thought. (Big surprise, I know.) Basically, I’ve been told by countless teachers, gurus, friends, healers, etc. to “go with the flow.” Life is so much harder if you try to go against the flow of your river. I’ve even written about it myself. It’s true. When we allow life to happen, rather than fighting the current, life is much much easier. We are in the flow, and the Universe works with us. But here’s the thought I had: what if we are in the wrong river? Ok, I know I’m bucking the trend by saying that, but really – let’s think about it.

It’s not necessarily the “wrong” river, because I accept that we’re never out of our proper place to learn and be; but for just one moment, let’s entertain the idea that we have free will and choice in this lifetime, as well as the power to stand up, step out of the river, and go find another one. One that’s more suited to who we are and how we’re meant to live. What if that’s possible?

I think when I was driving I realized for myself that no matter how much I go with the flow, and allow myself to move with the current, I simply felt like it wasn’t right. I felt like I was resigning myself to the waters around me, knowing that they were going too fast, or were too cold, or even too still. So, rather than lying back and floating downstream, I asked myself: “what if there is another river?” Could it be that simple? I mean, I’ve studied, practiced, learned, discussed…. I’ve read countless books and articles on happiness, inspiration and spirituality. I’ve practiced the mantra: “Let go and let God” until I couldn’t say anything else. But there’s a part of me that still questioned the flow. It still didn’t “feel” right. Not for me. So, what if it’s just the wrong river? I can’t imagine that God wants us all to lie back and float with whatever current we’re in, hoping and praying that He will simply take care of everything. I mean, I know He will if we ask and need Him to; but why would He give us free will, if He didn’t also intend for us to use it, thereby working with Him?

I think there’s an empowerment piece missing here. It’s just my opinion, but what if it were possible for us to choose the river we are in? I’m not naive enough to think that there are rivers without rapids and eddies and rocks; but I do believe that we have the power to choose which river we want to be in. And I do believe that God (Spirit, the Universe, etc.) will help us no matter where we are, if we ask; however, I’m starting to also think that a little bit of empowerment, in the form of self-love, is what God intended for us to learn and share. What do I mean by that? Well, I’ve come to realize that one of the greatest gifts we can give someone else is to support, love and empower them to be who they are. So, if that’s the greatest gift we can give someone else, it stands to reason that it’s also the greatest gift we can give ourself.

To love, support and empower who we are ourselves needs two things: honesty and communication. It means looking in the mirror and actually being truthful about how we feel inside and comparing that with how we behave outside — then communicating that in a loving and thoughtful way with ourself. Does this make sense to you? It recently hit me like a ton of bricks, though I have to admit I’m still sorting through a bit of the rubble as I piece it all back together. What I know is this:

The most important thing we can do, for ourselves and others, is to love ourselves, unconditionally. To truly do this, we need to accept ourselves, flaws and all, and make decisions based on who we are, not who others might want us to be. This acceptance comes from honesty and communication. It’s the greatest gift we can teach our children: self-love. And from there, we can love others unconditionally. It becomes effortless. Why? Because when we are true to who we are, we end up being surrounded by people who support us and love us. There are no agendas, no games, just love, respect and support. Of course, in some relationships, usually the romantic ones, more issues come up than with just friendships, because it’s a balancing act. But that doesn’t mean that we have to lose ourselves. It means that because we love the other person, we’re willing to learn, grow, and become more flexible, out of a desire to experience a deeper love. A love that carries with it a freedom, unknowable in any other way. And that, well – that is when we are living God’s will for us: To live in Love. And the first step, the key that unlocks the door to all of this, is self-love.

So this brings me back to my original thought: If I’m in a river that doesn’t “feel” right for me, and I’ve spent countless hours, days and weeks practicing ‘letting go’ only to find that I still don’t feel good about where I am — do I love myself enough to actually take a look at the river and make a change – or at the very least explore whether that possibility exists? What do you think?

Living Optimally

So – it’s been a week, and what a week it’s been. Yours truly has been knocked down by the flu. Not sure whether it was just the common flu or the H1N1 strain – but whatever it was, it definitely got me. Which brings me to this week’s topic: Living Optimally.

A dear friend of mine recently shared her new life mantra with me, and I love it. It’s “Be happy now.” What does that mean exactly? Well, my interpretation is that it means that she is making decisions based on that idea. For example: if there is a choice to make between two things (as many of us experience this holiday season), she might look at the options through the filter of what will support her mantra of being happy now. Living in the moment. Too often we feel obligated to accept all invitations. As such, social commitments sometimes become a chore or a task, rather than a celebration. Now – this isn’t to say that you have to turn people down, but it does put a different perspective on things. If you have two holiday parties to go to on the same night, then you have the power to make the decision to choose one or the other – or both! More importantly, however, you also have the power to CHOOSE how you are going to approach the evening. Will you look at it as an overwhelming commitment? Or will you look at it as an opportunity to celebrate relationships and enjoy the moment? It’s your choice. Be happy now.

But let’s take this back to my experience with the flu. Last week I told you about Dr. Darren and Dr. Tom’s work. A major part of their work incorporates the idea of The Five Basics for Optimal Health, which are: ‘The quantity, quality, and frequency of water, food, rest, exercise and owning one’s power.” Of course, this is nothing new to most of us – except for, possibly, the “owning one’s power” part. But that relates back to what I just said about choice. As for the other four pieces – well, they’re just common sense, aren’t they? Or are they? If they were that simple – the weight loss industry and health care industry wouldn’t be worth hundreds of billions of dollars. So, where’s the disconnect?

In my opinion, it’s that last piece: owning your power. Owning your power means making a decision. Just like my friend has done in deciding to “be happy now” – it’s the decisions that drive us either toward health and wellness, or dysfunction and disease. If we want a quick-fix solution to a life-long problem, that’s a choice. And it might mean spending the rest of your life searching for the solution – rather than choosing a long-term strategy. But what about when things like the flu epidemic take place? I considered myself to be fairly healthy with a strong immune system, but I still got knocked down. Why? Was it something I did? Could I have done something different? Was I living optimally before I got sick? The answer is no – to all of those questions. I was not living optimally, however, there was also nothing I did to cause it, and there was nothing I could have done differently to prevent it, because that’s in the past. Going forward, however, I can make different choices.

I can choose to drink better water, more often, in larger amounts. I can also choose to go to bed earlier, and sleep better – giving my body more opportunity for rest and restoration. Food and exercise will also play a role. By making a deliberate decision to incorporate more fruits and vegetables, as well as daily movement in any form, I will be providing my body with the best possible scenario to heal and become stronger. The best part is, by making these decisions I will be owning my own power. In a way, it’s both a catalyst and a happy side effect of living a healthier life. It’s cyclical, and it will fuel itself.

One more thing, though – a big part of owning my power is also making the choice not to shame myself (and feel guilt) if I should choose something defined as “less healthy.” Life is about moderation, and life is about choices. A bowl of ice cream or a side order of French fries is a choice – it’s also a choice to feel happy about it and enjoy it fully, or to feel guilt about it and remorse. THAT is truly owning your power. So, just as my friend has embraced her own power by creating a mantra by which she lives her life, so can you. Every morning you have a choice to make on how you will approach your day. And every night, when you are lying in bed about to fall asleep, you have the power to choose how you will look back on your day and your choices. It’s up to you. Once you begin owning your power, the rest will naturally start falling into place. Amazing. And it all begins with you….with your choices.

THree THings

Body – What do you choose to drink first thing when you wake up in the morning? Water or coffee? Which one is more consistent with living optimally? Coffee is fine, but when you wake up, your body has become more dehydrated overnight. A glass of water might wake you up faster than the caffeine would.

Mind – If you find yourself feeling guilt about something – it’s probably an old pattern of belief. Pause. Give yourself a break, and see if you can make a decision to think differently.

Spirit – Honoring yourself is the greatest gift. It will give you the strength to take the initial steps toward living optimally.

In Love and Light,

Martina