Saturday, June 11, 2011

On Loving Yourself and Embracing Your Personal Brand - Right Now

Several weeks ago, I gave a presentation to a local job search support group on “How to Discover and Market Your Personal Brand.”  If you are interested in viewing it, you can do so here: How to Discover and Market Your Personal Brand.

As I was putting together this presentation, I noticed myself feeling some anxiety about putting myself and my brand out there – I felt like somehow it was premature to discuss my brand while I still consider myself a work in progress.  Authenticity is important to me and important to branding – and I didn’t want to somehow misrepresent that I'm some expert who has it all together when I don’t - I'm just as imperfect as everyone else.  There was an inclination to assume that I should wait to present who I am and what my key strengths and contributions are until I have everything 100% figured out – until I have finally “made it.”

Similarly, on the dating front, many of you know that I am currently focusing on trying to stay single and celibate and get really comfortable with myself – before I re-open myself to love and enter the dating pool once again.  At times, I find myself making a list of all of the things I need to do before I will someday be prepared to meet my next life partner – e.g. I want to cultivate a regular meditation practice, figure out which hobbies are most important to me, develop a regular cleaning / housework routine, figure which qualities I am really looking for in a mate, and grow saavy and confident at knowing and speaking my truth so that I can address conflict in a timely manner.  That is a lot of accomplish before I am “ready” for love!

Have any of you ever made lists like these in your life?  For example, are any of you waiting until you do “X” (make partner, buy a house, finish your degree) before you have kids?  Are you any of you waiting to do “Y” until you propose or get married?  Are any of you waiting to get to “Z” before you have the courage to open your own business or branch off into your dream career? 

I bet you have…we all have ways of robbing ourselves of the present moment, of delaying gratitude, of withholding love from ourselves until we achieve our inner critic’s demands… but what if you have already arrivedWhat if all we ever really have is right now?  If you knew that this was going to be the last week of your life - how much would you or I care about all of the things on our list?   Would we be ready to set aside our excuses and pursue our dreams later - or right now?  Would we be ready for love later – or right now? 

This afternoon, I attended a Young Adult Dharma Council Retreat with Howard Cohn on love and how we open and close ourselves to expressing and receiving it.  As part of the retreat, we worked with the idea of lovingkindness – giving love and kindness to others and ourselves.  For many of us, giving love to ourselves is the hardest part.

As part of my healing and growth process, I’ve been loosely following the 12 steps, and several of those steps deal with making amends to others you have harmed in your life with your dysfunctional behaviors.  Through recent reflection, I have determined that my conflict avoidance, disorganization, and discomfort with being alone have allowed me to bring harm to several individuals in my life – mainly ex-partners and old friends.   This past week, I wrote them emails to apologize for what I have done and say my peace.  While I wouldn’t say doing that was easy, it actually felt fairly natural for me to do so once I put my mind to it. 

The harder thing for me to do is make amends to myself – to forgive myself, quit being so hard on myself, quit holding myself to such a high standard – particularly when I am focusing on all of the negative patterns that I have brought to my life so far!  Bringing love and care to myself is less easy to do – my perfectionist and people pleasing tendencies run deep and get in the way of truly honoring and appreciating me – accepting and loving myself just for who I am – right now – no improvements necessary.

This afternoon at the retreat we learned a new lovingkindness technique that worked really well for me.  Howard (or Howie as they like to call him) told us that when we are having difficulty feeling lovingkindness towards ourselves in meditation to instead picture people in our live who love and support us unconditionally or times in our life when we have felt loved and supported unconditionally and bring those feelings and images to mind.  For example, picture those people giving you a big warm hug or caressing you or gently showering their love and attention upon you.   In my case, I pictured my mom and dad, my good friends here and across the country, and my Biodanza circle, and I immediately felt a dramatic positive change in my constitution.

We then had the opportunity to draw a picture to capture those feelings or one of those experiences that we brought to mind, and I drew the following picture of our Biodanza circle from class:

We then had the opportunity to share our picture and our feelings with a partner and later the class at large – and I felt a weight lift off of my shoulders and true feeling of connection – to the people I had pictured in my reflection and my drawing as well as the people in the class with me and the world at large. 

Someone asked the teacher why it is so much harder for us to love and care for others rather than ourselves, and he said that he heard of a recent Harvard Researcher Amy Cuddy who has found that people evaluate other people based on how warm and kind they are while they evaluate themselves by how competent they are (the article/blog that I believe he was referencing is linked here: Matter Over Mind).  

If you changed the game and focused on how warm and kind you are rather than how competent you are, how would things change?  It might not change your entire life but it certainly might change your experience of the present – which is all we really have in the end.

On my journey of self-discovery, I am learning that the destination is less important the myriad of stops and experiences along the way.  If we rush hell-bent to get to the end of the journey, we’ll miss the magic and wonder – the turns and twists up and down and along the way.  What is that saying?  Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans?

I’ll close for now with one of my other favorite sets of voiceover quotes from Grey’s Anatomy episodes.  These ones are from Episode 5.23 – the season finale of Season Five when Meredith Grey's fellow intern George dies and the life of her fellow intern Izzie hangs in the balance – an episode that brought me to tears the first time I saw it – and one that brought home to me just how special everyone in my life – near and far – are to me – and how precious every moment is.  For those of you who know me personally – thank you for the moments we have shared together and the way that you have changed my life for the better by being in it.

Doctors spend a lot of time focused on the future. Planning it. Working toward it. But at some point, you start to realize, your life is happening now, not after med school, not after residency, right now. This is it, it’s here. Blink, and you’ll miss it. 

Did you say it? I love you? I don’t ever want to live without you. You changed my life… did you say it? Make a plan. Set a goal. Work towards it. But every now and then, look around. Drink it in. ‘Cause this is it. It might all be gone tomorrow.

I lied - one last thing - I’ve included the link to a song which I’ve been listening to lately which really brings these sentiments for me to mind  – “Everything, All at Once” by Correatown.  It’s less panic-inducing then the voiceovers; more peaceful – it sets my mind at ease while reminding me what's important.  You can listen to it via YouTube below: 

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