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The Stranger in the Mirror

Have you ever looked in the mirror and wondered who the person staring back is? The feeling of not knowing who you really are as a person separate from the roles that you find yourself cast in. How often do we define ourselves generically by descriptors of those roles rather than by our character traits? A mother, a wife, a father, a son, a daughter, a coworker, etc. These terms describe our relationships, but there is more to us than simply who we are to other people. Is that really how we want to be seen by those around us? Flat, non-dimensional characters in the play called life? Where we are content taking a supporting cast role rather than starring in our own lives? Sadly, often that is exactly what happens for many of us. We become so busy that we forget to truly live and are left wondering where the time went and who we are.

Recently, my just-graduated from college daughter was having an “existential” crisis in our kitchen. Like so many of us, she’s struggling with how to identify herself. She’s technically no longer a student, though graduate school applications are in process, and she isn’t yet working in her field of study. She has described as “feeling adrift.” There is no longer a label that she can slap on to describe herself succinctly that feels adequate. What’s a 22-year-old to do? Or a 32-year-old? Or a 50-year-old? Or a 103-year-old? See, this isn’t a question of age or experience, but a question of perspective. How do we see ourselves? How do we want to be seen? How do others perceive us? Do all these different perspectives align?

I’ve noticed when I pose these questions that people (clients, friends, family) are often taken aback when they contemplate their answers. Often, they find that how their loved ones, coworkers, or acquaintances would describe them is similar to how they would like to be perceived but, not surprisingly, their self -perception is much more negative. Why is that? Why are we so quick to look outward for a measure of worthiness but so harshly judge ourselves, and our contributions, as inadequate? I wonder what would happen if, as a society, we spoke more kindly to ourselves and left self-recrimination out of our personal narratives? Would we be happier? Less anxious? Less depressed?

Positivity, gratefulness, and mindfulness are all ways that we can choose to treat ourselves with more care. These practices can help ground us and keep us focused on the good in our lives and ourselves to help us better weather the storms that life hurls our way. So, take a minute, look in the mirror, and tell the stranger you see there all the things that you want, hope, and desire for them. Treat that stranger as you would your best friend, coworker, sibling, or child that needs a little boost. Encourage that stranger to find their inner passion and foster it. Tell that stranger how much they are loved, and one day, you just might believe it.

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How do I love me? Let me count the ways!

Learning to love yourself is probably the greatest work that you will ever do. Loving yourself means just as you are willing to rescue someone else, you are also willing to rescue yourself.

Learning to love yourself is a quiet thing. When you gain the desire and practice eliminating negative influences, attitudes, and people who bring toxicity into your life, you will begin to love your self as well as you love someone else.

Learning to love yourself has a ripple effect. The more you are willing to love yourself the more others you associate with will be able to love themselves. Loving yourself is a work that can only be done by you. Each time you decide to “not beat yourself up” you are inspiring and giving others permission to be kind to themselves.

Albert Ellis stated, “The art of love is largely the art of persistence.” When you embrace your own unique self and conquer self- hate and doubt, you are helping yourself and others to get rid of unstable, unhealthy relationships.

Have you ever pondered about your need to be needed by others? Are you sacrificing your wants and needs in order to please someone else? Do you usually put yourself last, and do something just for you only if you have extra time left?

Taking time for self-reflection can assist you to determine what areas where you are having the greatest difficulty treating yourself well. There are many consequences that you will experience when you don’t love and care for you! Some of these include: Keeping yourself from being in healthy relationships that could nourish your body, mind, and soul. Preventing yourself from living up to your full potential and discovering and nourishing the individual gifts that make you uniquely you. Not being able to pursue a chosen career or life dream. Not taking good care of yourself, your spirit, mind, and physical body. Not having loving fulfilling relationships with family, friends and others.

If you have experienced any of the consequences as stated above, if your relationships are not fulfilling and you are unable to set healthy boundaries, and tell others “No,” Consider making an appointment with me to discover how to gain the desire and the tools to truly LOVE and Care for YOU!

Make a new choice.

I can assist you to love yourself and have healthy, fulfilling relationships with others.

Sharon Salzborg declared, “One must endeavor to love oneself abundantly.”

Don’t wait. If you aren’t willing to care for yourself, who will?

Sue Hodges LCSW

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