Loving Yourself

Accepting and loving your whole self is an important step toward enjoying life and overall well-being.

When a loved one comes to you for help, you most likely do all you can to offer them compassion, kindness, and support. Instead of looking for any imperfections, you see the light that shines within them and the caring connection you share. But what do you offer yourself when you’re the one going through a difficult time, perhaps in your career or with family and friends? Do you give yourself a smile in the mirror and remind yourself that you are strong and smart and will find a way to make it through? Or do you see a collection of imperfections to pick apart? Instead of offering yourself the compassion, kindness, and support you offer family and friends, you drag yourself down. But what is perfect and who is perfect?

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When discussing the idea of perfection, a friend mentioned his teacher had asked, “Do you see any perfect trees?” So, my friend asked me, “Are there any perfect trees?” I thought for a moment about the beautiful trees I encounter in the nearby park and along hiking trails. I responded, “But they are all perfect! They look different and grow differently but that’s what makes them so beautiful. It’s their imperfections that make them perfect!” He laughed in agreement, “Yes!” 

A tree’s branches reach outward, perhaps dipping to the ground or reaching high above, some twisting this way and that. The tree’s trunk and branches still stand strong even with these twists, turns, and knots. The tree doesn’t wonder if it is perfect or beautiful—it continues to exists as a tree. It roots firmly into the ground, reaches out with its branches, and grows colorful leaves, needles, flowers, and fruits. It provides shelter and food to birds and squirrels and it is being the perfect tree. When a branch breaks in a snowstorm, it isn’t suddenly less than the other trees—its bark heals and it continues to be a tree. It is a tree amongst all other trees, none of them looking or living exactly the same way.

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Now, think of a mountain. It stands tall, strong, sturdy, and stable upon the Earth. It takes up space outward and upward and it doesn’t apologize for its size. It doesn’t question whether or not it is as tall as any other mountain or if it has the right to occupy the land, taking up space. It weathers the storms that pass by and it continues standing strong and sturdy. It has all it needs to continue being the mountain that it is. We, too, have all we need within us to continue being a person worthy of existence and of receiving kindness, compassion, and support.

Who we are doesn’t have to be like anyone else. We don’t have to be like our sibling, neighbor, or colleague to be worthy of a good life. We don’t have to look like the people in magazines or movies to be beautiful. Who we are might not be perfect, but maybe, like the tree, it is those imperfections that make it so—perfectly imperfect. It is enough to be ourselves.

Once we accept ourselves for who we are, we can show ourselves the same compassion, kindness, and support we show our loved ones. When we feel overwhelmed, we can allow ourselves a moment to be still, to close our eyes and breathe slowly and deeply, feeling the ground beneath our feet—remembering that we have the resilience of the mountain. When we feel excited about something new, we can allow ourselves to learn and explore and enjoy the experience. When we show ourselves love in this way, our self-worth improves, confidence expands, and we feel better about where we are in life.

And as we compassionately care for ourselves, we can more easily show love and care to others. As we lift up ourselves, we more easily cheer for those around us. We are not lone trees on an open plain or solitary mountains rising abruptly from flat earth, we are a forest of trees and a range of mountains. We are a community of people. We might all look a little different and act a little different, but that’s okay. We can celebrate who we are and what we all have to offer that makes this world an interesting and beautiful place.

Can you visualize yourself as a tree or a mountain? What does that feel like to you? Do you feel taller, stronger, and more secure?