(Lead image – Photo credit: Pavel Danilyuk, via Pexels)
We’ve all heard of the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. It’s straight-forward, easy to understand, and an important lesson in empathy. Less commonly practiced, I believe, is showing yourself the same respect you show to others. If the Golden Rule applies to all relationships, then it also applies to the way you treat yourself.
Several months ago, I had an eye-opening conversation with one of my dearest friends. She confided in me that her recent significant weight gain had been negatively affecting her self esteem, that she felt less worthy of love because of her outer appearance. I was taken aback – in all the times we got together (which was nearly weekly at the time), I had failed to notice any weight gain! I assured her that her self worth was not affected by her outer appearance; the shape of her body had no bearing on our friendship or her value as a woman. As I spoke the words, I was hit with the irony, or even hypocrisy of them. I had personally spent most of my life with a negative attitude about my weight and appearance, letting fluctuations affect my self-confidence. I realized that I was not showing myself the respect and grace that I would readily extend to my friends, and that I deserved kindness from myself.
Since that encounter, I have tried to use it as an example when battling anxiety and insecurities. I ask myself questions such as, “How would I respond to a friend going through this struggle? What advice and reassurance would I give her?” I find it has helped me in setting realistic expectations and I have become more forgiving of my own weaknesses.
In my journey for personal improvement and bettering my mental health, I have been fortunate to work with supportive and helpful therapists. Over the years I was able to identify a misalignment in my priorities – specifically, I was searching for validation from others but failed to give it to myself. I felt myself critiquing nearly every action I made or word that I said. Subjecting myself to such internal criticism on a constant basis had taken its toll on my mental health and overall well-being. Recognizing this behavior and actively addressing it has been freeing! I have felt increasingly joyful as I extend love and respect toward myself.
Knowing one’s divine nature as a daughter or son of God is a powerful tool in developing love and respect for oneself. If we truly believe that we are children of an almighty God, then our worth becomes independent of superficial characteristics or human faults.
This is not to say that it is wrong to hold ourselves to a high standard, or that our focus should be inward instead of outward. These things can certainly coexist. We can have high standards and ambitious goals, but can be forgiving of ourselves when our best efforts don’t measure up. We can treat ourselves with respect and meet our individual needs while still prioritizing the service of others. I believe we will find our capacities only increase as we love and respect ourselves in the same way we treat those around us.
I hope that each of us can apply the Golden Rule frequently – by treating others with respect and extending the same consideration to ourselves.