Being good to oneself is better than being good to everyone else: this is health and well-being. It’s like the wisdom you get from a long journey. Little by little, you leave certain situations behind and move forward lightly, free of the heavy weights of the past. It’s an awakening that empowers you to live life more fully.
Although the theory is easy to understand and lots of personal growth books are based on it, it’s actually very difficult to put into practice. To understand it better, we’ll give a little example.
Imagine you’re looking out the window at something that happens every morning at the same time. There is your neighbor, taking his little bonsai tree out to get some sunlight. He takes care of it with obsessive dedication: he prunes it, waters it, feeds it… we could even say that he gives it affection.
“When you love and respect yourself, someone’s disapproval is nothing to fear or avoid.”
– Wayne Dyer-
But you notice something else. Your neighbor has never seemed like an especially happy man. He has a job he does not like and he tries to please everyone. His selfless need to please has made him a puppet people are quick to throw away. Family, bosses, friends. In fact, his “threads” are stretched so thin that they have already begun to fray: your young neighbor has already had his first heart attack.
Every day, when you see him leave his beautiful bonsai, you wonder why he doesn’t attend to himself with the same dedication and love. Taking care of oneself is something that your neighbor should learn how to do. Perhaps he has relationships to prune, self-esteem to feed, and dignity to find again.
Being kind to oneself, a matter of logic and necessity
Epictetus said that “just as when we walk, we try not to step on a nail or twist an ankle. In life, we should conduct ourselves with the same attention.” That is, we should prevent others from harming us and we should protect ourselves. However, sometimes we do not; we neglect ourselves. We forget that it’s not healthy to stop being kind to oneself and instead put everyone else first.
In fact, we overlook the fact that trying to please everyone by postponing our own needs is not logical. Nor advisable. Also, letting our lives go by feeling bad about things — feeling empty, undecided, and frustrated — has a toll.
Remember that what is cared for thrives. What is defended and nourished yields fruit. Thus, something we should also reflect on is that there are moments when it’s necessary to leave our emotions aside and turn to reason. Separating out what we feel and remembering what we need should be a priority.
It’s true that emotional intelligence is popular now. However, there are very specific moments when the most logical and rational way of thinking is the one that works best. The reason? It’s this type of mental focus that most pushes us to make changes and make our lives better.
“Everything will be alright in the end. If it’s not alright, it’s not the end.”
– John Lennon-
Erich Fromm said that people have the capacity to live in a constant contradiction. This sometimes makes us say that if others are happy, I am happy. That if I tell such a person that I am well when he is well, even if that’s not true, he will accept me and I’ll be happy.
Such dualities are destructive. They are emotionally costly because meaning and reason should prevail instead. If you don’t like something, move away from it. If you do not agree, say so. Are you hurt? Defend yourself. Are you unhappy? Act differently.
How to be good to oneself
Being good to yourself starts from a sense of balance. It’s not a matter of always putting ourselves first, no matter the situation. Healthier well-being does not come from narcissism. It comes from understanding that to “be”, one must also “let be”.
To do this, let’s reflect on the following dimensions. We have to internalize them in order to bravely make them an integral part of our lives.
- Self-confidence. Believing in our own strength will allow us to be better decision-makers. Then we can go forward knowing who is good for our well-being and who is not, what we need at each point in time and how we can get it.
- Learn to rationalize your thoughts. When we stop being kind to ourselves, it’s almost always due to our exhausting, critical internal dialogue. It keeps us from growing, so let’s learn to tear down fears and stop being our own enemies.
- Be friends with life. Instead of wanting to be “friends with everyone,” let’s be friends with life. Be receptive to opportunities, to optimism, to a sense of freedom. Not to complacency and dependence on others.
- Discover the potential that is in you. When we discover our strengths and take advantage of our abilities and talents, everything falls into place. We start to feel brave enough to do things without depending on others. Things that are rewarding.
To conclude, remember that when a person feels good about themselves, their environment and circumstances start to matter less. Inside, there’s so much energy, confidence, and optimism that nothing can stop them. Don’t waste the treasure you carry inside.