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Archive for April, 2011


How often do you truly celebrate who you are? Because many of us, myself included, spend so much time and energy focused on what we think is “wrong” with us, celebrating ourselves doesn’t often come that easy.

For me, I’ve spent much of my life—as a student, an athlete, in business, in relationships and in general—demanding perfection of myself and, of course, falling short and feeling inadequate on a regular basis. Most people I know and work with have some version of “I’m not good enough” that runs their life. Even though many of us understand this, living our lives from a true place of self-acceptance, self-appreciation and self-love is often much easier said than done.

The ultimate goal of being ourselves in an authentic way is actually about loving ourselves in a generous way. If we truly love ourselves, most of what we worry about and even much of what we strive for in life becomes meaningless. We may still have some worries, and we’ll definitely continue to have goals, dreams and desires. However, from a place of true self-appreciation and self-love, the fear behind our worries and the motivation for our goals dramatically changes from something we have to avoid or produce in order to be accepted and valued, to something we we’re genuinely concerned about or really want to accomplish.

On the flip side, if we don’t love ourselves, nothing much really matters. No matter what we conquer, create or experience, we’re never able to appreciate it or ourselves or be fulfilled in the process, because we’re constantly striving to be validated in an insatiable way.

Self-love is what we’re all searching for. Sadly, we spend most of our lives thinking that someone or something else can give us what only we can give ourselves. To be truly fulfilled in life, we have to find that love within us and give it to ourselves. No other person, amount of money, material possession or accomplishment can do it. It’s up to us. We have an opportunity to celebrate who we are for any reason and at any time.

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Self-acceptance is an invitation to stop trying to change yourself into the person you wish to be, long enough to find out who you really are. Robert Holden has a 10-day plan to help you figure out who this self is that you’re supposed to be accepting and how to say yes to your life.

Do you accept yourself as you are? It’s a simple question that many people find difficult to answer. At the deepest level, self-acceptance is either complete or not at all, but for most, yes/no feels too limited because you worry about all the things you would like to change about yourself.

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Fear is one of the worst, and most limiting, emotions in life. It’s also a fact. We’re all unsettled by something—after Katrina and all the hurricanes I grew up with in New Orleans, my greatest concern is rising water. But I think life is a process of moving items from the “scared of” to the “not scared of” list. So, you know what I’m not worried about anymore?

Failure. It doesn’t exist. “Failure” is just what happens when we lose perspective. I thought I’d failed when I got fired as deputy field director for the Dukakis campaign. If I’d known then that I needed to go through that in order to be ready to manage the Gore campaign, I would’ve seen it for what it was: an unavoidable low point, no more or less important than the experiences I call successes.

Being taller than others. I used to slouch, but I never fooled anyone. Now I take up all the room I fill, instead of apologizing for it with my body language.

Accepting compliments. I thought acknowledging praise meant you were arrogant, but I’ve learned that knowing your strengths enables you to make use of them. Golda Meir was right: “Don’t be so humble; you’re not that great.”

The “bitch” label. If everyone likes you, it probably means you aren’t saying much.

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Martin Seligman, PhD, the father of positive psychology, gave us a quick lesson on a classic optimism-boosting exercise—which he calls the ABCDEs. The goal, Seligman says, is to get you to stop thinking pessimistically, rather than teach you to start thinking optimistically (which rarely works). “This fix isn’t instantaneous,” he says. “But we’ve done studies on it involving thousands of subjects, and we know it’s effective.” So the next time you experience a setback—anything from a leaky faucet to a fight with a friend—walk yourself through these five steps:

A. Name the adversity, or problem.
(For example: “I didn’t get a call back after my job interview.”)

B. List your beliefs.
These are your initial reactions to the problem. (“The interviewer saw right through me. I don’t deserve that position. And he could probably tell I don’t believe in myself. I’m sure the other applicants are smarter, younger, and more qualified than I am.”)

C. Identify the consequences of your beliefs.
(“I’m going to quit my job search so I don’t have to suffer through this feeling of failure again.”)

D. Formulate a disputation of your beliefs.
Pessimistic reactions are often overreactions, so start by correcting distorted thoughts. (“I probably didn’t feel confident because that position wasn’t the best fit. It’s only a matter of time before I find an opportunity that’s right for me. And now that I’ve had practice, I will be better prepared to present my best self.”)

E. Describe how energized and empowered you feel now.
(“I’m more motivated to keep looking for a job that makes me happy. I won’t let fear stand in my way.”)

Practice this exercise as often as possible, and when you can, take time to write out the ABCDEs. Eventually, the sequence will become a habitual thought process. Seligman found that his subjects were still using the technique four years after he taught it to them.

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International Student Volunteer Sponsor Needed.

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Love much. Earth has enough of bitter in it.” — Ella Wheeler Wilcox

“What’s the earth
With all its art, verse, music, worth—
Compared with love,
found, gained, and kept?”
Robert Browning

“Everything that I understand, I understand only because I love.” — Leo Tolstoy

“We are most alive when we’re in love.” — John Updike

“We can only learn to love by loving.” — Iris Murdoch

“Love is everything it’s cracked up to be … It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for.” — Erica Jong

“In true love it is the soul that envelops the body.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

“We love because it’s the only true adventure.” — Nikki Giovanni

“‘Till I loved I never lived—Enough.” — Emily Dickinson

“The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved.” — Victor Hugo

“I have found that to love and be loved is the most empowering and exhilarating of all human emotions.” — Jane Goodall

“Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone—we find it with another.” — Thomas Merton

“Love is a taste of paradise.” — Sholem Aleichem

“We are told that people stay in love because of chemistry, or because they remain intrigued with each other, because of many kindnesses, because of luck. But part of it has got to be forgiveness and gratefulness.” — Ellen Goodman

“Even when love isn’t enough…somehow it is.” — Stephen King

“If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love.” — Maya Angelou

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  • “Happiness depends upon ourselves.” —Aristotle
  • “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” —Mahatma Gandhi
  • “The moments of happiness we enjoy take us by surprise. It is not that we seize them, but that they seize us.” —Ashley Montagu
  • “Even if happiness forgets you a little bit, never completely forget about it.” —Jaques Prevert
  • “One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats.” —Iris Murdoch
    • “The only joy in the world is to begin.” —Cesare Pavese
    • “It is only possible to live happily ever after on a daily basis.” —Margaret Bonanno
    • “The pleasure which we most rarely experience gives us greatest delight.” —Epictetus
    • “Remember this, that very little is needed to make a happy life.” — Marcus Aurelius
    • “I wake up every morning with a great desire to live joyfully.” — Anna Howard Shaw

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