by Ann Jenrette-Thomas, Esq., CPCC
On this Valentine’s Day, I want to take a moment to have you honor yourself. According to the American Psychological Association, lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to be depressed than non-lawyers. This is an alarming statistic, but one that I believe can be mitigate by taking a few steps toward loving and appreciating oneself.
I often hear people say, “I know that I’m supposed to love myself, but I don’t know how.” Despite how it may sound, self-love is not an airy-fairy concept. It has real-world implications. Self-love has a direct impact on your self-esteem, which in turn impacts everything from your self-worth, how you let others treat you, your health, and even your net worth! In fact, I firmly believe that when you fall in love with yourself, your life falls into place.
Loving yourself should be a no-brainer, right? Not so much. You see, while everyone can understand the concept intellectually, practicing it is a whole different ball game. Many of us had painful experiences that shaped the way we perceive ourselves. Perhaps the way your parents reared you made you doubt yourself or feel unworthy in some way. Perhaps you are constantly comparing yourself to the unrealistic expectations of what a “perfect” lawyer who has a “perfect” life ought to be. Perhaps an ex demeaned or criticized you and you believed the messages to be true. Regardless of the origin of the messages, the presence of those messages can be alive and well in your subconscious mind, therefore making it a real challenge to love yourself. After all, why would you love yourself when you secretly believe you’re unlovable?
While the challenges are real, achieving self-love is possible! In fact, I teach lawyers about the four cornerstones of Radical Self-Love. Radical Self-Love is a practice that helps you love yourself to the core. It creates such a strong foundation within you that you feel solid — unshakable — on the inside! Achieving Radical Self-Love takes consistent effort, but the results are worth it.
The four cornerstones of Radical Self-Love are:
1. Connect to the Divine presence WITHIN you. There is a wise, all-knowing spiritual source that is completely within you. It’s your Divine self or Soul. Take the time to cultivate a relationship with that part of you. Instead of searching for the answers on Google or by asking all your colleagues, try to connect with that powerful presence within. The key to connecting to the divine presence within you is to get quiet and really listen. This presence is always talking to you, but you have to be willing to listen to it carefully — it whispers most of the time!
2. Honor Your Body. Your body is a sacred temple. Without it, you would not be able to practice law. Yet, despite how amazing our bodies are, we tend to take it for granted until it stops functioning properly. As lawyers, we’re eating on the go, burning the midnight oil, and putting ourselves under tremendous stress. Instead, cultivate a practice of honoring your body. Drink plenty of water, get enough sleep, eat well and move your body, and make sure you have a mental break from your work. All of these are essential to help you operate at your prime.
3. Cultivate Emotional Authenticity. Instead of feeling their genuine feelings, many people try to numb them or avoid them. This emotional inauthenticity becomes toxic. It leads to a lack of clarity, unhealthy behaviors, and a reduced ability to access your logical brain (and we all know how crucial that part of the brain is for us lawyers!).
Instead of suppressing, start giving yourself permission to be really honest with yourself. Spend a few moments periodically to see how you are really feeling at that moment. If you feel the need to cry, give yourself a safe space to cry. If you feel angry, let it out physically by screaming (I recommend in a car with the windows rolled up), hitting a pillow, or simply jumping up and down.
The bottom line is that your emotions can be a great asset if you use them properly. If you allow yourself to feel your true feelings, the difficult feelings pass by easily and leave room for your authentic joy to shine. Suppressing them, on the other hand, only makes them last longer!
4. Master Your Mind. The fourth cornerstone of Radical Self-Love is to master your mind. Humans think an average of 15,000-60,000 thoughts each day. If you have subconscious beliefs about yourself that are negative (e.g., I’m not good enough, I’m not a great lawyer, I’m unhealthy, I’m disorganized, etc.), then most of your thoughts will tend to be negative and reinforce the negative beliefs. While there are so many ways to effectively challenge your negative thoughts and reprogram your subconscious mind for positive thoughts, one of my favorite ways is affirmations.
Affirmations are statements made in the present tense that reflect how you would like to feel about yourself. The key to making them really work is: (1) create an affirmation that negates the disempowering thoughts you have about yourself; (2) make sure that the affirmation is believable to you (if it’s too far-fetched, your mind will reject it, so take baby steps if necessary); (3) relax before reciting them in order to allow them penetrate your subconscious mind more readily; and (4) repeat the affirmations several times each day, especially before going to bed.
Each of the tips provided in this article only take a few minutes of your time. Try to do one thing each day in each of these areas and before you know it, you’ll be a self-love machine! Then notice how much more productive and fulfilled you’ll be.
What tips do you have for loving and taking care of yourself? Share them in the comments below.