Counseling in Old Saybrook
and greater CT, NY & PA
Say hello to yourself, it's your first step of being let in on some of my favorite therapy secrets. We all consciously or subconsciously look for love and affirmation "out there." But I want to get really real about the fact that you already have it. It's in you, waiting for you. Recently, a client in her 60's asked me, "But isn't it too late to try to come to this now?" My answer will always be: It is never too late to come home to yourself. Needless to say, she started to get jazzed about life in a way she hadn't for a long time!
Real transformation and authenticity is always an inside job. It's grounded in the radical idea that you are already whole as you are. You entered this world perfect, complete, and enough; and you still are. What would your life be like if you loved yourself inside and out, with true compassion and kindness? It's a funny thing, but what tends to happen is that your own genuine love radiates outward from within, and amazingly, all that love you've been seeking finds its way back to you. So again, say hi to yourself! Let's get on with this journey!
"This chick is crazy, today isn't my birthday!" To that I still say, "Happy Birthday!" Imagine yourself on the day you were born. You arrived perfect -- conjuring awe and amazement. Your family marveled at everything about you, from your wrinkled brow to the delicious folds in your thighs. Fast forward to today. That baby is still you. Whole, perfect, you. Can you conjure that pure love and send it to yourself when you need it the most?
After that eventful day, life began to happen to that baby. This month we're going to dig into how our experiences in the world have a way of transforming us into emotional Swiss cheese instead of a firm, solid wheel of Parmesan. Culture, attachment, trauma, shame, loss, self-talk, feedback, expectations, etc, etc.... it's all there, for all of us.
Today, and every day, I want you to fill yourself with the kind of love that enveloped and defined you when you arrived. Happy Birthday, and congratulations on being beautiful inside and out, absolutely perfect, and completely enough in every ounce of your being.
Therapy (and life) is about PROGRESS not *perfection*. When we want badly for something to change or when we want to transform ourselves in an important way, it can make loving ourselves TOUGH. This post is about focusing on making slow and steady progress this month in loving yourself in an authentic, aligned way. It's also about progress in the bigger picture and with other goals. I remind my clients (and myself) regularly to slow down their expectations and focus on the micro-growth. My clients get super grateful for this reminder/rule of therapy with me.
To love yourself means to be incredibly kind to yourself. Patient with yourself. It means paying attention to yourself in a connected and compassionate way.
Here is my #1 tip for you to begin practicing Progress and not Perfection: Ask yourself, "How am I doing today? Is it better than yesterday? Last week? Two weeks ago?" If the answer is "Yes.... I think I'm doing a little bit better...," then next ask yourself, "How? In what ways? What's improved?" Be specific. My clients find that asking this question helps them identify really tangible areas of growth, change, and improvements they would have missed otherwise, such as, "I did not wake up anxious in the middle of the night the past two nights," or "I cried twice this week instead of daily." They feel awesome about this! And it's worth feeling awesome about, because it's progress!!
Likewise, you can use the same guidelines to set goals for yourself that expect progress instead of perfection. Start today by saying to yourself, "I'll know I'm making progress when...." If you can do this now and throughout your life, you'll find yourself being a real friend to yourself. And that's a beautiful thing. Progress really is perfection!
Before we can move to loving, let’s talk about liking. What are the parts of yourself that you really like? (ie: your kindness, how you support others, your tenacity or creativity). Try to be as exhaustive as you can. Take your time, I'm sure there's a lot to like!
Now what are the parts of yourself you find yourself sometimes wishing were different (ie: I can be judgmental, or I get really anxious and shut down in important situations, I have trouble staying optimistic)? Rather than criticize yourself, berate yourself, or hold yourself hostage over these parts, I want you to redefine those qualities as your GROWTH EDGE.
A growth edge is an area where if you slowly began to learn new behaviors and make change, your life would possibly improve or open up.
When you think of your flaws or challenges as Growth Edges, it can help you be gentler with yourself. It normalizes your humanness and creates more space for you to explore the many alternative ways of moving through your world.
How does it feel shift the way you think about your difficulties? Those areas, along with all those fabulous parts you identified before, are part of your Whole Self. Imagine yourself wrapping your arms around yourself with acceptance and kindness; weak spots, blind spots, challenges, and all.
We place so much meaning onto our physical selves: "good" "bad" "ugly" "pretty" "acceptable" "unacceptable" "enough" "not enough" "lovable" "unlovable" "damaged" "shameful" "flawed" "better than" "less than" to name a few.
How much time and energy do you spend focusing on your perceived physical flaws or shortcomings?
When I notice my own attention or emotional energy focusing on assessing my physical self, I reorient myself with this mantra:
“My body is a vessel for moving my soul through this life.”
This practice uses simple breathwork to help you reduce anxiety and stress throughout your body. By mentally and physically anchoring yourself through your breath, and using the flow in your nose and out your mouth, you’ll slow down your nervous system while also quieting your mind. Taking care of yourself means loving yourself, and your breath is free and always available to you!
At the end of the day before bed or as you lie in bed, take one minute to list three things that you did for yourself that day that reflect self-love. This includes a positive thought you had about yourself; a demonstration of your strength, resilience, or self-agency; something you did to take care of yourself; a compliment you gave yourself; a way you admired yourself or encouraged yourself; a way you were kind to yourself; a moment in which you let go of self-judgment, to name a few.
This helps you recognize impact you can have when you truly show up for yourself.
If you tried yesterday's exercise to reflect on how you show up for yourself, and you found it difficult, this is normal. It may have raised awareness that there is more self-criticism or negativity with yourself than you would like.
Basic awareness is essential to change; and to being able to build your ability to treat and talk to yourself with more compassion, kindness, and flexibility.
Rather than try to force yourself not to have any negative thoughts or criticisms, simply begin by noticing them. You can start by listing a few of your most common negative thoughts, or you can simply try to catch them as they come up in the moment.
Then, imagine attaching them to a balloon. Let go of the balloon and watch it soar into the sky, up up and away, and out of sight. Practice this letting go whenever possible. You will find it begins to help you gain freedom from attachments to your thoughts.
Write down one affirmation for yourself that you can turn to when you need to get grounded in yourself.
For example: "I am worthy," "I am whole," "I am human," "I am a thinking, feeling, breathing person," "I am love," "I am enough."
Engage this affirmation as often as you need it, or as often as possible. It's also a wonderful way to replace negative thoughts or criticisms that you become aware of and release.
Within this engaging book that unpacks the science of female sexuality lies an empowering invitation to know, embrace, and fully love yourself as you are. Emily Nagoski's message -- that we are all unique, all normal, and all wonderful -- is transformative.
Stop reading this post. Attain this book now. Change how you understand your whole self. Change your life.
It's Valentine's Week, and it's the perfect time to cultivate and harness feelings of love and well wishes for yourself and for others in the world. Open yourself up to the expansive power of loving kindness, and you will discover that everything you will ever need is already within you.
Click this link for 9 minutes of loving kindness: https://www.uclahealth.org/…/05_Loving_Kindness_Meditation.…
Loving yourself means doing whatever you need to do to feel good inside and out. Don't withhold joy, beauty, or pleasure. Instead, feel free to envelop yourself in joy, beauty, and pleasure.
Loving yourself also doesn’t mean creating rules about doing or not doing something. Rather, it's about allowing yourself, without judgment. Wearing makeup, not wearing makeup; exercising, not exercising; dressing up, dressing down; going out, staying in... it's all a choice. The only rules are to KNOW YOURSELF, and to know exactly what it is that makes YOU thrive inside and out.
Loving yourself means doing whatever YOU need to do to feel awesome, amazing, empowered, connected, at peace, beautiful, and well – WITHOUT apology or explanation.
If you find yourself clinging to love from someone who doesn’t wholly love you and show up for you, then let them go.
Loving someone who doesn't love you is not reality. It’s unmet attachment needs playing out. It's is hard work, and feels scary, but do the work of letting go. In the end, you will give yourself the gift of returning fully, in love, to yourself.
Don't wait for someone else to treat you right.
You treat YOU right. Now. Every day. Always.
When you learn to do this, you will ALWAYS be able to show up for yourself, no matter what.
When you let someone else’s actions, behavior, or expectations determine your emotional state, you give up your power over yourself.
Your emotional autonomy does not disappear just because someone else is influencing or impacting you.
Whenever you realize you're allowing someone else to take away your power by deciding how you feel or how you move through your day, do this instead: First, notice how you feel, naming the feeling. You can also name what it is that you experienced or received that did not feel good. Then, ground yourself back to yourself. Ask yourself how you'd like to feel, or ask yourself how you were feeling before the negative feelings came along (chances are it was much more calm or positive!) Returning to your self and to your own reality as your anchor.
When you stop allowing the outside world to sway you, you become all the strength and stability you need.
The way you love and receive love is closely tied to your attachment bonds and needs. Understanding this, and identifying your own attachment patterns, is transformative.
The power of attachment lies in the unconscious space underneath our closest relationships. This book will help you see how attachment guides and shapes your behaviors, choices, and experiences with yourself and with others.
Knowledge truly is power; and knowledge about your own attachments will forever change the way you understand and experience relationships, freeing you up to know, love, and get closer to yourself.
Remember that what you focus on expands. Wherever you place your energy and attention is what will grow and take on life.
Where do you spend your energy? Mentally, emotionally, and physically? When you notice your attention shifting to negative thoughts or feelings, remember that the more they take your focus the more space they take.
Make a commitment to yourself to return your focus to what you wish to expanding, such as self-love, self-acceptance, and emotional peace in your life.
Learning to fully experience your own difficulties is a huge part of loving and showing up for yourself.
Often times, when we encounter difficulties, we do what we can to ignore, move through, or distract from them. But even when we do this, our mind is still working on them, and our body still feels them.
This meditation will help you be present with yourself as you work through the physical and emotional experience of a difficulty. Practicing this when you notice yourself struggling will help you grow in incredible ways.
You can return to this meditation time and again to facilitate your own healing and change: https://www.uclahealth.org/…/04_Meditation_for_Working_with…
Where do you find yourself battling life? What would it be like to find peace and acceptance in these areas, rather than constantly push against them? What would you do with that energy you'd now have available to you? What would open up for you?
Practicing acceptance paves the way for loving yourself, but for having the power to own your reality.
Gain awareness of the explicit and implicit expectations you bring into your life.
Expectations color how you experience your entire world. They show up in every interaction, relationship, and encounter. They create your dreams and inform your hopes and goals.
Can you ask yourself, "what am I/was I expecting?" when you notice yourself feeling something strongly, having a negative experience, or setting a standard for yourself or someone else?
Awareness about the role of expectations in your life can help you live with greater peace and compassion.
Yesterday we talked about the role of expectations. One place expectations show up big time is in our relationships with significant others.
In a couple, both bring different, and often largely unspoken, expectations to their shared life. This usually results in complaints or dissatisfaction, which can break down the bond. Why am I talking about relationships during a month that's supposed to be all about loving yourself? Because our relationships often take up a lot of space for us. They can be a barrier to fully knowing ourselves, because our emotional and mental energy is tied up in them. By freeing yourself in this area, you free yourself to return to yourself more fully.
This exercise asks you to choose REQUESTS over complaints, then choose ACCEPTANCE of what you can not change. Choose two or three things that would change your world and how you feel loved if your partner did them differently. Rather than deliver this desire in the form of criticism to your partner, deliver it in the way of a clear, measurable, and attainable request, ie: Instead of, “You’re never the one to plan a date! It’s like you don’t even care about me!” Say, “It would mean everything to me if you’d plan two dates for us a month. Could you do this, starting next Friday? Knowing you’re doing that would send me the message that you really care about me, and that you’re thinking of me even though I know your work takes up a lot of time and space for you.” Your partner will be relieved to "have the answer" to bringing you happiness, and you will feel empowered that you were clear about what you want.
When your partner completes your requests, deliver thanks and praise. Everything else, practice letting go of. They are merely a function of being two different people in a shared life experience. You will both behave, think, and process differently. When you can allow each other to be true individuals, together, that is the definition of real love.
Instead of waiting for someone else in your life to change they way they behave or act, summon your strength to begin to be the change that you wish to see in others.
Living that change, being that change, instills a sense of agency in yourself to create and experience the change you wish for. It’s empowering and life shifting. And since what you put out tends to come back to you, you will feel that very difference you were seeking to receive yourself.
Feeling as if you've failed breeds shame. Shame is like an emotional jail; it will hold you hostage and halt your growth.
Yet failure is an inevitable part of life. In fact, failure is an ESSENTIAL part of life. When you fail, or feel you've failed, if you can remember this, you will be able to treat yourself with much more compassion and understanding.
If you can reframe your experiences of failure as opportunities for growth and learning, and work to understand them through this lens, then you will empower yourself for growth and change from pain.
This is to experience life's difficulties and hurts as valuable and transformative. This is healing. This is self-love.
As women, trauma is unfortunately an almost inevitable eventual part of our narrative. This book will transform the way you understand and access any trauma history you carry with you, big T or little T.
When we experience trauma, our body remembers it. Often times clients will arrive to therapy struggling with anxiety and panic. Commonly, they have had an experience that felt traumatic but that hasn't been discussed, treated, and addressed.
This book will help you understand how trauma impacts us both physically and psychologically, and provides valuable insight for ways to treat and heal from traumatic experiences.
As soon as you work to accept that we are each unique and different (and remind yourself of this as often as possible) you will begin to also more fully accept yourself.
Living in this world will become far easier for you and love will open up within you.
You can either return to the emotional road you wish to pave for yourself, or you can continue with the emotions that were already carrying you down their own road.
For example, an emotional mantra might be: “I am peace" or "I am love" or “I am safe.”
In a moment of emotional overwhelm, you can then ask yourself, "Am I being peace?" or "Am I being love?" If the answer is "No" then you can take a hard right, reorient yourself to your own road, and go down a healthier, more self-loving emotional path.
Give yourself the gift of working through the tough stuff. Anywhere, anytime.
Here's an app that uses solid therapy tools to help you work through difficult thoughts as they arise. I still recommend working with a therapist on your full journey of self-love, but this app can help you fully process and explore other more healthy, compassionate ways of thinking and feeling on your own or between appointments.
It is called CBT Thought Diary. Download it, and test it out using a thought you found yourself totally stuck in. You'll find it will help you open up and transform your negative experience!
YES! The answer is YES!
On this final day of FebYOUary, I invite you to take a moment to recognize that you will be spending now and the rest of your life with.... Yourself. No matter what else happens, who comes in or out, or what changes, you will be you. Which means you have to have yourself. Hold yourself. Show up for yourself. Know yourself. Be yourself. Challenge yourself. Understand yourself. Be kind to yourself. Love yourself.
This month we focused on many areas of this, including:
Letting Go (of thoughts, attachments, beliefs)
Honoring your body
Opening yourself to learning about your sexuality, mentality, beliefs, traumas, and relational patterns.
Mindfulness and meditation in helping you inhabit yourself more fully, stay present, and heal past or present wounds.
Building emotional resilience and awareness.
... And so much more. I have loved every moment of this journey with you. Thank you for sharing it with me, and I hope it has been as helpful in laying a foundation for you as it has been for me to create and share for you.
Stay the course of falling in love and staying in love with yourself.
When you look out at the world from a place of solid self-love, you begin to transform your experience inside and out.