Do you routinely make deadlines for meeting registrations? Paper revisions? Promotion and submissions? Most physicians easily make professional deadlines, but how often do you honor commitments to yourself?
Similarly, do you have a friend who plans to go with you to the gym and then is always a no-show? Do you have a hypercritical friend who routinely tells you, “you are a terrible mom!”? Do you have a weirdo roommate who forces you to eat until you are sick, leaves your car a disaster, and wakes you up at 1a to tell you that everyone hates you?
You would never let anyone treat you this poorly, but how are you treating yourself? Are you the terrible friend or weirdo roommate to yourself?
This Valentine’s Day, consider how you show up in your most important relationship: your relationship with yourself. If you don’t 100 percent believe in you, you are operating at a fraction of your productivity. The secret of making full professor faster by working less and not sacrificing you is to have unconditional love for yourself.
1. What got you here won’t get you there. Many people say that they have to be hard on themselves to achieve. That philosophy may have gotten you to this point, but it won’t get you to the next best version of yourself. It is a recipe for burnout, weight gain, poor sleep, and strained relationships.
Similarly, some will say that they will love themselves when their life changes. That’s not how life works—your life changes once you love yourself. If you don’t have unconditional love for yourself now, you’ll still feel that something is missing once you reach full professor. Circumstances (i.e., promotions) don’t create feelings; your thoughts create your feelings.
2. Your happiness is determined by how you talk to yourself. Pay attention to how you talk to yourself. Would you want your child to have these negative thoughts? Have as much compassion for yourself as you want your child to have for themselves.
Remember that you already have the capacity for unconditional love. You loved your child the day s/he was born, and your child did nothing to deserve it: She didn’t write any papers, and he had no invited lectures. Turn that lens of unconditional love on you. The heart feeds itself first; be the heart.
Our culture mistakenly teaches us that love is created by external factors, such as a partner, flowers, chocolates, and status. But love, like all feelings ever generated, comes from our thoughts. This Valentine’s Day, look at your thoughts. Is there an opportunity to create more love for yourself by picking thoughts that serve you?
3. Consider adopting this thought: You were born with 100 percent value.When you find yourself rushing, slow down to ask yourself why the rush. Most people rush because they think life will be better over there once they achieve a certain status. This implies where and who you are not good enough. You are enough. Over there is no better than here. Learn to be happy right here in this moment.
4. Once you have unconditional love for yourself, all the time wasted worrying about what others think about you, rehashing conversations, and negative self-talk can be redirected to massively accomplishing your goals. You will be unstoppable. You won’t be afraid to fail because you know your value. You won’t need anyone else’s external validation. You won’t chase your boss’s praise to feel better about yourself. You will continue to accomplish but from a place of purpose and curiosity, which drives more achievement than ever before with less effort.
5. When you give your power to your job to make you feel valuable, you will almost always be disappointed. It’s not your job’s job to make you happy; that’s your job.No one else can love you to the degree you need because they are busy taking care of themselves, as they should be. The job of taking care of yourself is yours. Don’t let yourself down. Work out when you say you will work out. If healthy eating is a priority, feed yourself healthy food.
Similarly, for some people, Valentine’s Day can be a time of tension because the partner did or did not buy flowers, for example, which implies the partner should do certain behaviors to make you feel better. If you give your power away and leave it to your partner to make you happy, you will almost always be disappointed. Not because of your partner, but because of your thoughts about your partner. A holiday that is supposed to be filled with love now turns to a holiday filled with resentment. All thoughts are optional. Pick the thoughts that serve you.
6. There is another way. Drop the “shoulds” and “expectations.” Buy your own flowers. Love your partner for who s/he is. Request flowers if you want them, and don’t tie your emotion to someone else’s actions. Be the boss of your life; show up to take care of you. No one else will do as good of a job as you. Promise.
Actions to develop more love for yourself
1. Look in the mirror and notice the thoughts that come up. If they are not 100 percent positive, practice loving what you do love about yourself, and work on the rest.
2. Intentionally replace the negative thoughts with positive thoughts.
3. Write the story of you: How would you describe yourself with as much compassion and love as possible?
4. Journal about all that you have created, and revisit this list when you need a reminder of how amazing you are.
5. Create an accomplishment journal by journaling three activities you did well every day.
6. Schedule you on your calendar first. Commit to doing something for you every day that brings joy, even if it is only 5 minutes: read for pleasure, journal, walk, or sit in the sun.
7. Honor your commitments to you.
Christina Arnold is a pathologist and career coach. She can be reached at Your Path In Focus.
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