I was listening to an old interview with Louise Hay on the Hay House podcast, You Can Heal Your Life. Louise said when people started coming to her for help, she noticed that all of their problems fell into four categories, money, health, relationships, and creativity. At first, she tried to address each category separately in the advice she gave, and then she realized the best answer applied to all four: You must love yourself first.
She went on to say that from the time we are little, we’re told, “No. Stop that. Don’t do that. Do what I tell you.” Over time, we forget who we are and what drives us.
It was intriguing to me that she put creativity in its own category. Heaven knows we artists sometimes have a hard time loving ourselves. I heard about a study that showed the feeling of rejection registers in the brain in the same way as physical pain (learn more about that here). I told my husband, “Good Lord, writers ought to be called ‘the walking wounded.’ Remember in the early days of my career when I was getting 3-4 rejections a week?” I developed tools for dealing with all that pain, but I don’t recall one of those tools being self-love. I don’t remember ever soothing myself the way I would soothe one of my children who was hurting. I don’t recall ever saying, “It’s okay, Teresa. You’re going to be fine. I think it’s wonderful you’re trying so hard and following your dream. You’re so strong and special not to give up. And you are more talented than you give yourself credit for. Your time will come.”
To be honest, I probably would have felt silly doing that back then, but I’m getting more comfortable with loving self-talk these days. Maybe I have the loneliness of the pandemic to thank for that.
I recently started a new project with a friend who is getting certified in feng shui. She and I are working on my house and I’m loving the improvements. I feel lighter and happier and more energetic. She told me I needed to cull some books from my overflowing bookshelves, which was a difficult thing to hear. It’s like pulling teeth to get me to part with a book. But I did it. I selected 250 books from my stacks to give away. I was going to drive them all to the library, then I had a fun idea. I decided to put them out on my driveway for one day and give them away for free. I let many of my friends know, and then I eagerly awaited the day, which was today.
Several friends did drop in and walked away with armfuls of books. Just as fun was meeting the people who stopped as they were walking or driving by. I wanted my beloved books to go to people who’d appreciate them. One of my friends said, “Leave it to you, Teresa, to declutter your house and find a way to turn it into fun for the rest of us.”
Such a sweet compliment, but I did what I always do, I waved it away. To be honest, I almost talked myself out of this idea. It would have been easier to just drive them to the library. But I decided to honor the best part of me – the part that loves to give back, loves to share my passions, loves to chat with people, and loves to make others happy.
The day went exactly as I hoped it would. So when it was over instead of just cleaning up and moving on to the next thing, I decided to let my friend’s compliment sink in. Because if rejection causes pain, then today’s validation for my good idea surely increased my well-being. So, I tried a little loving self-talk to see how it felt: “Good job, Teresa. You had a clever idea and you didn’t dismiss it, you acted on it, as you so often do. I’m proud of you for creating such a fun event. It was invigorating to watch people leave happily with their books and to hear their expressions of surprise and gratitude that everything was free. You did good.”
Whew. This loving self-talk still feels a little silly, but I think I could get used to it.
By Teresa R. Funke
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