Medicine for Healing

Last week after a Chinese dinner, I opened my fortune cookie and read these words:

Love yourself first and everything falls into line.

In the past my first reaction would have been:  What?  Love yourself first?  That sounds inconsiderate and selfish.  But instead, the words on that little strip of paper made me smile.

After decades of experiencing chronic painful symptoms and a great deal of anxiety, I finally discovered the key to healing that had been within me all along.  The key that unlocked my innate power to heal was indeed self-compassion, kindness, and love. 

A war had been raging inside me for most of my life.  My inner critic was on duty 24/7 demanding me to be a people pleaser, good sport, hard worker, high achiever, great mother, caring spouse, and loving daughter.  Yet my body was screaming at me, trying to get my attention – something’s out of whack!!! 

I did not listen to my body for decades and lived with the incredible discomfort  attributed to carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive strain injury, psoriatic arthritis, severe spinal stenosis, piriformis syndrome, sciatica, herniated discs, thoracic outlet syndrome, plantar fasciitis, generalized anxiety disorder and more.

Many of us (especially females) were reinforced by our parents, teachers, and caregivers to neglect our own needs and desires and tend to others – to basically ignore ourselves.

As a child I received loving approval when I engaged in people pleasing behaviors. And since our brains are wired for survival, I learned to perpetuate these patterns to ensure my own “safety”.

It felt “scary” to honor my own needs, so I used self-pressure and criticism to keep me feeling “safe” as I continued to ignore myself and push away my own needs.

This intense self-pressure accompanied by emotional suppression generated sustained unconscious muscle tension in my body –  which eventually became chronic and debilitating pain. 

I came to understand that these habits and patterns can be changed. I slowly began to practice self-acceptance which was incredibly challenging for me.  I also noticed that when I practiced self- care and chose to honor my own needs, I was filled with an unbounded generosity of spirit toward everyone else! 

The first step is self-awareness.

Remember to be gentle with yourself.  Speak to yourself as you would to your dearest friend.  Listen to the voice of loving kindness within you.  In each moment remember to choose what feels kind, affirming and accepting. Say yes to yourself!

Throughout the day ask yourself these powerful questions to shift your focus from people pleasing and approval addiction to self-care and self-awareness. 

  • What do I need right now? 
  • What is the kindest thing I can do for myself in this moment or as soon as possible?

Yes- we are BUSY with work, school, parenting, household obligations, etc. and may not have more than a few minutes to honor our needs.

Yet, the act of simply asking these questions immediately flips us out of the vortex of self-pressure allowing the space to open for self-compassion.

Creating a “Bliss List” of treasured pleasures will connect you with your inner place of love: playing and/or cuddling with your baby, child, lover or pet; listening/dancing to or singing/playing music; watching the sunrise or sunset; walking in nature, laughing with friends………..

Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors

for you where there were only walls.

                                               Joseph Campbell

And remember, YOU hold the key!