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Friday, June 13, 2014

Valuing Ourselves is Key to Our Health


We spend a lot of time finding excuses for not taking care for ourselves. We think others are more important or that we just aren’t worth it. Believe it or not this has a bad effect on our health both physically and mentally. Valuing ourselves is key to our health.

Like many, I have spent years avoiding the truth about myself. When I felt alone, I ate. When my parents were displeased with me, I ate. When a supposed friend was cruel to me, I ate. Later on when there were conflicts at work or demands I was worried I couldn’t meet, I ate. I ate to swallow down my anger, my fear, my frustration and my sense of inadequacy. I believed what others hurled my way. I lived the life of a victim. So many of us exist as a victim of our lives and circumstances. We don’t have the courage to face the truth about our value. Truth be told, we are way more valuable than any other person on earth.

If we don’t take care of ourselves both in body and mind how can we honestly do a good job of taking care of others? If we are in poor health because we do not find the time to exercise regularly how can we find the stamina and energy to achieve our goals and dreams? And if we eat the wrong foods and too much of them the reality is we will just keep gaining weight, feeling lousy, sleeping poorly, and generally hating the life we are living. This is a great way to limit our possibility and our longevity.

I have spent a lot of time “hitting my head against the wall” by repeating the same self-destructive actions over and over again. Then I realized I wasn’t hurting anyone else but myself, I wasn’t magically going to wake up skinny, rich and adored and I sure wasn’t improving my health by eating boxes of cookies, bags of chips and gallons of ice cream all by myself. I have faced the truth that my life is more important to me than a bag of bagels; that my dreams are way more important than drinking a six pack of beer; and that my health is so much more important than a dozen donuts. It has all come down to admitting that the most important person to me is myself. Without a healthy me I could have no fun, no plans and no future. Nothing could change unless I changed myself.

Valuing ourselves is reflected in our actions. Making a pronouncement may legitimize our intent but it has zero effect on the outcome. Changing habits and daily routines is key to manifesting how important we are to ourselves. Chris Powell of Extreme Makeover fame expresses it as making promises to ourselves. He coaches that we need to start with small promises to ourselves that are achievable and therefore promises we can keep. Keeping promises is a sure-fire way of proving how much we truly value ourselves.

What are some of the promises we can make? They should be as simple as going to bed earlier and by a certain time…or doing a certain number of sit ups each day…or cooking a certain numbers of meals at home each week…or taking a walk with a friend or your dog after work…or signing up for a class to learn something new…or going to the Farmers Market regularly in the summer to buy fresh vegetables…or designating a time each week to plan out your meals.

Ideally you start with one promise and keep it. Then you add on the next achievable promise, one at a time, one after the other until one day you have built the healthy life you want to be living, one promise at a time. This does not mean that it goes smoothly or there are not setbacks. There are times we will fail to keep our promises. When this happens, as Chris Powell also counsels, we need to forgive ourselves so we can let go of the disappointment, move on and start fresh. Forgiveness is significant in our ability to value ourselves. As the most important person in our lives, we are so worth being forgiven.

Valuing ourselves is key to our health. We will feel better, have more control over our lives, be able to go after the items on our bucket list and find joy in the life we have built-- one promise at a time. First we have to embrace that we are the most important person in our own lives.