Being Thankful for Yourself
Self-love has never been my strong suit. The nuns taught me a lot about sacrifice, suffering, and suppression. I learned to sacrifice for others, that suffering is inevitable, and my feelings were not important. For many, those self-deprecating emotions were balanced at home by parents and relatives who highlighted strengths and praised accomplishments which gave a young person a sense of value and worth.
However, my parents and relatives were not the kind that told me I was smart, that my report cards—mostly ‘As’—were terrific, that I looked nice, or that I did well at anything. “What’s wrong with you?’ or, “Why did you do that?” was more the mantra. There was a lot of criticizing, yelling (my father was Italian), and finding something wrong with just about everything.
Loving myself and learning to be thankful has been a journey I’ve been on most of my life. It’s been fraught with self-doubt, lingering shadows of past experiences, and critical self-talk. A National Science Foundation study found that most of us have between 60 and 80 thousand individual thoughts per day. Up to 80 percent of those thoughts are negative. Believing something was wrong with the essential me created missed opportunities and flawed thinking. I was unable to recognize the beauty, love, and joy that surrounded me.
Self-love is about diving deep into the core of who we are and treating ourselves with the same compassion and kindness that we offer others. It’s recognizing our worth in the worst of times. It’s about knowing our value is not determined by external validation or accomplishments. Self-love is a lifelong journey, and it begins with the commitment to be our own biggest supporter, and a pledge to honor our needs and desires.
It was hard for me to be my own biggest supporter. I thought every criticism or askance look validated my unworthiness. I never thought of myself as a bad person, but recognizing aspects of me that were positive, unique, and worth being proud of often eluded my reality.
Thanksgiving has always been a time for appreciating the people in your life. For years, I found it difficult to feel thankful for much because I didn’t see what there was to be thankful about in myself. If I’m grateful for the many little qualities that make me who I am then it’s easier to see those qualities and appreciate them in others. I got tired of battling self-doubt and wanted to embrace every facet of my being.
I’ve noticed a big change in myself. Navigating the turbulent waters of self-discovery—accepting who I am, including celebrating my flaws that make me human—and seeking to deepen my connection with my inner self is a transformation. When that negative self-talk creeps into my brain, I now meet it head on and fight it. I find it scary being myself, but I do it anyway.
I try to think of the light within me that is connected to the light in everyone else. “There’s an exquisite feeling in knowing and loving yourself,” said Penache Desai, author of You Are Enough. “Then you can be thankful. There is nothing missing in you.” He said the more you deepen the love of yourself and settle into authenticity, the more you attract people and the life you want.
The way we see ourselves influences the way we see others. When I criticize myself, I’m not happy. If I’m not happy then I can’t be thankful. Through self-discovery and self-love, I can now look at the negative stuff and see it differently. “Be thankful for the bad things in life,” said Penache. “They open your eyes to the good things you weren’t paying attention to before.”
It’s still not easy for me to recognize my gifts, my talents, or my good qualities. But I’m getting better every day. When we appreciate ourselves, we form a healthier and closer relationship with our own selves. I practice positive self-talk by speaking to myself in the same kind way I would talk with someone I love.
I practice appreciation most days. “I am grateful that I can rely on myself, I’m grateful for how I’ve grown through the years, I’m grateful for my great health,” are just a few things I say regularly. Some are easier to believe than others. As I get to know myself better, I can see joy in so many different ways. I am thankful. ▼
Pattie Cinelli is a writer and fitness professional who loves feeling thankful. She focuses on ways to stay healthy, get fit, and be well. You can email her with questions or column suggestions at: email@example.com.
Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash.