Sometimes what we long for is right in front of us, and like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, we already have what we need.
Each day, I see patients searching for a solution to their suffering that can come as feelings of emptiness, anxiety, stress, low self-esteem or depression. They may expect that solution to come in the form of medication or counselling.
An example is the burnt out accountant or business owner, giving 100 per cent of himself to his work, leaving nothing for friends, family or self. Another is the perfectionist student, struggling to keep up with her extracurricular achievements and maintain an A+ average.
There are many unhappy in their own bodies, concerned about their weight or magnifying perceived imperfections. Some with wavy hair like it straight, those with straight hair want the waves. Some with big body parts want them smaller. Some with smaller body parts want them bigger.
When you look at those you love unconditionally — children, parents and friends, do you wish them to look different or “better” or to be anything other than who they are?
What we all need is self-compassion, an essential aspect of emotional wellbeing.
It’s not what we usually think about when we say self-love that most might associate with narcissism — a self-centred obsession with a superficial self.
Self-compassion is an extension of the authentic love we more freely give to others.
Through the habits of negative self-talk, guilt, perfectionism or self-neglect, we can become our own worse critics and fail to give ourselves the care we need.
Through the magic of self-compassion, our world becomes a better place — even if nothing else has changed. We struggle less. We are happier, less judgmental and more accepting of ourselves and others. When we look in the mirror, we smile instead of furrowing our brows.
How can you nurture self-compassion?
Practice this loving-kindness meditation borrowed from Buddhism. Picture someone you care about, someone who makes you smile when you think of them – a child, parent or friend, and say in your mind, “May you be happy, healthy, peaceful and safe.”
You can nurture compassion for others, by imagining their faces and saying, “May you be happy, healthy, peaceful and safe.” Foster self-compassion by saying, “May I be happy, healthy, peaceful and safe.”
Be mindful of critical, judgmental thoughts towards others and yourself. One key to a happier marriage is to offer five honest positive comments for every negative one. Be a good partner to yourself.
A good parent ensures the children are well fed, exercise, play safe and get enough sleep, yet so many good parents don’t extend that care to themselves. Be a good parent to yourself — eat well, don’t skip meals, avoid recreational drugs and limit alcohol. Engage in daily exercise and get enough rest.
Being human, we are by nature imperfect, yet we are still beautiful and worthy of love. Be kind to yourself, and may you be happy, healthy, peaceful and safe.
Davidicus Wong is a family physician and his Healthwise columns appear regularly in this paper. For more on achieving your positive potential in health, see his website at davidicuswong.wordpress.com.