So, how do we keep the ‘cottage from going cold’? How do we get in touch, and keep in touch, with our self-worth? How can we reignite or reinforce our self-worth, and add to our feeling of being valued?
By being open to receiving love.
Each and every one of us is ‘wired’ to have the capacity to feel loveable – we needed that wiring as a baby – but to actually feel loveable in our later years we first have to be open to receiving love. And, when we are open to it, we can receive it from anywhere. It’s all around us. We ‘let it in’ when we accept the affection from a family member, friend, lover, pet . . . and when we appreciate a kind act from a stranger, the time someone spends with us, and the smile that says “Good morning”. They are all acts of love, and on some level they remind us that we are worthy. They fuel our self worth.
1. Accept compliments graciously. Each time we bat a compliment away – ‘Oh, thanks, but that’s not really true’ – we are telling ourselves we are not worthy. What a debilitating message!
Conversely, each time we accept a compliment – ‘Thank you very much!’ – we slowly become accustomed to the vague possibility that maybe, just maybe, the comment has merit, and that perhaps we do deserve some recognition.
If we accept compliments often enough there will come a day when they mean something, and we think to ourselves, ‘yes, I guess that compliment is valid’ .
‘But Mark, I feel uncomfortable accepting compliments. The person giving it might think I’m vain, or self-deluded.’
Yes, that is what you’re fighting against. By accepting it, you’re stretching your comfort zone. But your job is to accept the compliment, not determine its validity. Even though you feel uncomfortable receiving a compliment, accept it graciously. ‘Thank you,’ is sufficient. It will get easier with practise.
If you find yourself batting a compliment away, retract your statement and thank the person. ‘No, I accept your compliment. Thank you!’
‘But what if the giver of the compliment thinks I am vain or self-deluded for accepting it?’
They shouldn’t be giving you the compliment in the first place. It’s they who have the problem. If they don’t think you are bright enough to see it’s a patronising compliment, they are underestimating you. They lack perspicacity.
If the person expects you to bat away the compliment, confound them. Don’t bat it away. Don’t bat away any of their compliments. Pretty soon that person will stop giving you compliments unless they genuinely believe what they say.
Whether you think the person is genuine or not, graciously say ‘Thank you’, and pretty soon the only compliments you will receive from that person will be genuine ones.
‘If I begin accepting compliments I might become cocky, or big-headed.’
That’s the fear, isn’t it? By the time you have finally begun to let the compliments ‘in’, you will know which compliments you deserve and which ones you don’t. It’s the people who lack discernment who develop the ‘big heads’. You’re safe.
I’m asking you to learn how to accept love, whether or not you think you deserve it. Succeed in that and you will notice a big difference in your self-confidence.
2. Keep a Compliments Diary.
Every time you receive a compliment, put it in your Compliments Diary. I do. Sometimes when I need encouragement to keep writing this book I read them. They hearten me.
The very act of including a compliment in your diary will give yourself the message, ‘I earned this compliment and I deserve it.’ That’s a good way to feel valued.
If keeping a Compliments Diary sounds egoistic or self-indulgent, do it anyway.
3. Be gentle with people. When someone likes you it’s because they feel good in your company. Let them continue to feel good in your company by being gentle with them, rather than harsh.
How do you benefit? By being gentle with other people you will learn to be gentle with yourself.
4. Act as though you love yourself.
In her book, ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’, Brené Brown says we don’t have to love ourselves; we need merely act as though we love ourselves. That’s good enough.
She’s right. I found a dog and couldn’t find her a home. So, although I didn’t want a dog, I let her stay at my place. I looked after her well because it was the right thing to do: two long walks a day, plenty of pats and encouragement, quality food, visits to the vet . . . but I didn’t love her. However, I acted as though I loved her. And, because I acted as though I loved her, I came to love her.
Some arranged marriages work the same way. The participants initially don’t love each other, but if they treat each other well they come to love each other.
If we treat ourselves well – if we refrain from insulting ourselves, and if we make the right decisions for ourselves . . . if we act as though we love ourselves, that’s good enough. It’s giving ourselves the message that we are worthy of being treated well. That’s giving ourselves a form of love. Each time we retract a self-insult, and each time we make the right choice for ourselves, we get closer to rekindling our own self-worth.
‘I do something for myself every day. It might be picking a rose or putting clean sheets on the bed, or squeezing a juice, or lighting a candle. Small things. But I do them with the awareness and deliberateness that I’m am giving myself, my senses and my body, a gift.’
Gay McKinley, in her book, ‘On Becoming Good Enough’. P109.
In short, the first big tip for feeling valued is to aim to let love in, whatever form it takes. Be open to receiving love, whether or not you think you are worthy of it. There is an infant deep within you that knows precisely what to do with love. It has the capacity to soak it up and feel worthy of every little bit it receives. All you have to do is be the conduit and let that love in. Once you’re in the habit of letting it in, the rest will take care of itself.
Granted, it’s not easy. But if you apply the tips and succeed in letting love in, you will re-ignite your own self-worth and feel valued. Yes, your self-worth will still always be fragile, but you will have given yourself a big lift in your self-confidence, and added to your resilience.
‘Your task is not to seek love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.’
Rūmī, 13th-century Persian poet.