YOU, as much as anyone in the entire universe, deserve your love and respect.
Life is hard sometimes. It’s impossible to live well without encountering struggle, and there are some seasons in our lives that are especially heartwrenching.
For Angel and me, one such season occurred over the course of 15 months when we were in our late-20’s. It was a period of profound loss, beginning when we lost our jobs and our livelihood in the downturn of the economy. It was a scary and financially uncertain time for our family. “Unhappiness” is the simplest word to describe how we felt.
As we were learning to navigate our new reality, we were hit with a devastating loss: the death of a mutual best friend from sudden cardiac arrest. The loss of such a key figure in our lives was intense! And just as we were beginning to get back on our feet, Angel’s brother passed away unexpectedly as well.
With so much loss in quick succession, there were days when getting out of bed was our biggest accomplishment. This is the nature of struggle, but as the days turn into weeks, months, and years, we learn to press forward. We learn that we are resilient. And we hold a greater appreciation for what we have and the people who are dear to us.
Sitting here now, years later, I can honestly say that Angel and I have learned great lessons from that agonizing time in our lives. We’ve learned how to cope with the hard times, the pain and disappointment, and above all, we’ve learned the vital importance of self-love and self-care ? the magic that makes smiling again (and again) possible.
The truth is, everyone experiences unhappy circumstances on occasion, but there’s a big difference between experiencing bouts of unhappiness and living a habitually unhappy life. That’s what chronically unhappy people do. And although there are some exceptions (clinical depression, etc.), a vast majority of these people’s unhappiness stems from their own self-neglect.
Over the past decade, Angel and I have helped thousands of unhappy people rediscover their smiles, and in the process we’ve learned a lot about the negative behaviors that typically hold them back. Self-neglect always stands at the very top of this list. Even if you are generally a happy person, neglecting yourself is a habit that can easily creep up on you.
The key is to give yourself the extra attention you need and deserve.
Resisting and ignoring your own feelings and emotions does not serve you. It leads to stress, illness, confusion, broken relationships, fits of anger and bouts of deep, dark depression. Anyone who has experienced any of the above knows that these states of mind are horrifically unhealthy… and when you’re in the habit of self-neglect, your standards for living nosedive, and it’s near impossible to escape.
So, right now, ask yourself: “Do I love myself enough to never lower my standards for the wrong reasons?”
Find the strength to say “YES!”
It’s about living honorably. It’s about doing the right thing, for YOU, no matter what, even when nobody else is going to know or understand. At the end of the day, your reputation is what other people know about you. Your honor is what you know about yourself.
You have to admit, to a certain extent, you have spent too much of your life trying to shrink yourself. Trying to become smaller. Quieter. Less sensitive. Less opinionated. Less needy. Less YOU. Because you felt broken, and you didn’t want to be too much or push people away. You wanted to fit in. You wanted people to like you. You wanted to make a good impression. You wanted to be wanted. So you could feel healed.
And so for years, you sacrificed yourself for the sake of making other people happy. And for years, you suffered.
But you’re tired of suffering, and you’re done shrinking. Right? Good!
It’s not your job to change who you are in order to become someone else’s idea of a worthwhile human being. You are worthwhile. Not because other people think you are, but because you are breathing your own air, and therefore you matter. Your thoughts matter. Your feelings matter. Your voice matters. And with or without anyone’s approval or permission, you must be who you are and live your truth. Even if it makes people turn their heads. Even if it makes them uncomfortable. Even if they choose to leave.
You may have been broken down by adversity, but YOU are not broken. So don’t let others convince you otherwise.
Heal yourself by refusing to shrink.
Choose to take up a lot of space in your own life. Choose to give yourself permission to meet your own needs. Choose to honor your feelings and emotions. Choose to make self-love and self-care top priorities…
(Angel and I discuss all of this in more detail in the “Self-Love” and “Adversity” chapters of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
True strength is in the heart and soul, not in muscles. It’s about having faith and trust in who you are, and a willingness to act upon it, regardless of the adversities and judgments you’ve faced. Decide this minute to never again beg anyone for the love, respect and attention that you should be showing yourself.
Today, look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I love you, and from now on I’m going to prove it!” When you practice self-love and self-care, you give yourself the opportunity to be happy. And when you are happy, you become a better friend, a better lover, a better family member, and a better YOU.
How will you choose yourself today? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts with the community.
Also, if you haven’t done so already, be sure to sign-up for our free newsletter to receive new articles like this in your inbox each week.
Photo by: Beth Parnaby
Thank you Marc and Angel. As much as I know to choose myself, I think I need to print this out and post it up where I can see it every single day!
What helps me choose myself and love myself more:
1. Spending time working on things I love.
2. Spending time with wonderful people.
3. Reading blogs and books like yours to keep me motivated and mindful.
That is such a true statement. Why do the giving people give too much? I am so sad right now, but feel this article can help me to overcome the adversity in my life. At least it gave me a shred of hope. Thank you.
Marc Chernoff says
Beautiful reminders, Christine! Thank you for the kindness.
A quote I picked up from your book awhile back: “You are the victim of the thoughts and beliefs you live by.”
So simple, so profound, and so true. I now have this quote taped to my bathroom mirror and I read it every morning as I get my day started.
My own self-defeating thoughts and beliefs are something I used to desperately struggle with, but I’m happy to say that I’m in a much better place now. Thank you for continuing to guide me.
I agree. I learned the importance of self-love and self-care about 8 years ago at the age of 45. It has radically changed my life and I’m happy and content most every day, even when I’m down I find some small reason or way to be grateful, show some self-love and care, and not fall victim to my own thoughts. And another quote I remember is “don’t believe everything you think”…
I’m seventy four years young and have yet to learn that I need to love myself.
I grew up thinking I was ugly and dumb because my older sister called me a ‘Dumb, Ugly Idiot’. I have gone through my whole life believing
what she told me over and over.
I have finally come to the point of believing I’m Not Ugly or Dumb!
Now how do I start loving myself? I’m trying…
Marc Chernoff says
Mara, I’m glad you resonated with that quote. I love how one small quotation can have such a profound impact on a person. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.
And, Pat, it’s inspiring to hear that you’re working through these old liming beliefs and making progress.
Thank you for this article! I will choose myself!
Rose Costas says
Thanks for this enlightening post. When I think about self love and self care most times I tend to think about the physical. Very rarely would I think about taking care of my mind and my inner self. It is of vital importance that the entire person be taken care of.
I really appreciate this reminder.
Marc Chernoff says
You’re welcome, Rose. Thank you for the continued support.
Donna Lynn says
“…a vast majority of these people’s unhappiness stems from their own self-neglect.”
As a small business owner, mother & wife, it’s true that we often put everyone else’s needs before our own. I’m working harder to put myself first and play large in whatever ways look right for me as I grow and evolve.
Thanks for another outstanding article!
Seetha Demarco says
You two are amazing!! I read and share your articles on a daily basis … It’s no coincidence that each message holds such profound meaning and speaks to us ALL !! Thank you for all you do..
As I read this, I felt as though you were speaking directly to me. I went through a 9 year period of being very unhappy due to not only what others were doing to me, but also due to a very self destructive path I chose. At the time I didn’t realize what I was doing to myself, but eventually I was able to see that the way I was living couldn’t possibly have a positive outcome. It is amazing how hard it is even when you realize the problem to climb back out of the self destructive behavior. I can honestly say at this time I like the man I see in the mirror, and I’m enjoying life more than I ever have. As you said above, I was broken down, but not broken. I needed some self-love and self-care, and it has made me a much better person. Thanks for this post. It is very meaningful to me.
Jan Ramsey Brick says
Oh my goodness. Such beautiful wisdom here! Today I choose to take care of myself physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
I’m so very much looking forward to learning more from you two next month at the “Think Better, Live Better” event. 🙂
I’ve noticed this more in my workplace than anywhere else. Several times over the years I’ve had to stand up to others to do what’s right, not what is popular. What has gotten me through it is reminding myself that these are my coworkers, not my friends. I don’t go to work to impress people or make friends. I go to work to make a living.
wow. thank you. bless you both.
I’m gonna have a nice peaceful bath tonight, just for me. Thanks!
I’m trying hard to care for myself better. Thank you.
Carry Kay says
I’m separated from my soon to be ex and I’ve met someone about three months ago. I go to spend the weekends with him and I’m back on Monday to handle my home daycare. I have 3 grown daughters, one with child and 1 1/2 yr old. The one with the babies has been so disrespectful about me going there she thinks I’m putting him first. What she doesn’t understand that my girls will always come first before anyone, period. Shes a spoiled brat and wants all the attention and thinks I need to cater to her all the time. Is it wrong for I me to enjoy myself on the weekends with the man I know is my soulmate and makes me very happy? It’s my time to enjoy life for me, when we are together I have a beautiful calming feeling with no stress or tension. I’m so blessed to have found him at this time in my life.
Sometimes when you are living honorably, you have to put others ahead of yourself. Caring for oneself is important, but you also have obligations to your family, friends, and the society you live in. It’s important to remember too that loving and caring for oneself should not always come at the direct expense of others. .
Helen dillon says
Absolutely love this post. You are both great. I am learning to love myself and respect my standards. Even though others don’t agree. It not easy but I’m fighting. X
Michelle Quaife says
Thanks so much for sharing your journey and what has made you who you are today…lately I have been thinking to myself these very words and ideas you share here…so its nice to have them validated and confirmed…
Today I plan to have fun with my inner child and let her come out and play. She likes dragons so I’m learning to draw them on a online tutorial, and I am going for a walks to the the beach and sitting and listening to the waves…
Hope you all have a wonderful day,
Cosimo Galletti says
Thanks for the great read Marc. It is such an important orientation to place yourself first. I am reminded of the episodes of “Most Important Person” from Sesame Street when I was a kid. The song lyrics told us that we are the most important person in the whole wide world and we hardly even know us. I will often remind people I work with of this song because as you state in your article we spend a lifetime learning to forget this. It is so important that we help ourselves to learn and grow so we are always in a position to be helpful to others. It also creates a level playing field when people are struggling with trying times to know it is OK to take time and focus within. Thank you so much for the opportunity to comment.
Alice Cummings says
How do you know what is right and wrong self care when you have learnt not to listen to your body to please the inner voice saying you are selfish to do such and such?
Uhhh…boy talk about impeccable timing. Really baled on your life coach program. Even though it is the only thing sitting next to my computer. Reading this was the smack across the back of the head I needed. I follow suit on a couple of things….OK, let’s get honest almost everything you wrote on this. I just just started a good job making more money than I ever have. Still living on the land in my 5th wheel with the horses. It is a good life and it is a hard life. But non of that will matter if I don’t get back on track. I think for me not following through is anxiety based. And a lot of this is habitual. I believe that is why I stopped the life coaching…fear. I keep reminding myself that I made my parents trauma, my truth. And I shrunk myself behind that false truth. They had been thru some horrific events in their life and used alcohol to medicate. You can imagine the cycle that started.. Why keep that legacy going? I think you both are awesome. I will pick the course back up humbly but with a renewed sense. Thank you.
Thanks Marc and Angel for another eye opening message! I have decided to date myself for the next year and to work towards being my best friend. So far I have to admit we’re very happy (lol) but recently some loneliness too.
For me a huge component to self care is to stay connected to others. I’m working on growing my social group as I’m a new empty nester. I get massages, journal every day, workout daily, eat lots of kale and chase as many sunsets as I can. Dating myself is liberating and I feel peaceful and grateful.
Thanks for another incredible message!
I needed to hear this today! Living my own truth has been something I have been working toward since I first started reading self-help books about 20 years ago. I have struggled attempting to fit the mold that someone else had designed for me, remaining silent to “keep peace within the family”. Just recently, I reached my limit with the bully’ish behavior and spoke out against a family member and since have been pushed aside by the family members who have created an unholy alliance with him. On one hand, I am hurt by this, but on the other, I am liberated. They were all hyper-critical and I learned early-on in the relationship that I would never be able to please them-though I tried to do what I could to keep the criticism at a minimum. No more! My favorite part of the above is: “It’s not your job to change who you are in order to become someone else’s idea of a worthwhile human being.” I am a good person, worthy of love and respect. Finally, I choose me. I refuse to “shrink” simply because someone else needs to feel bigger by making sure everyone else around them is small.
Thank you a million times for this message today! Happy Thanksgiving to both of you!
So true and fascinating how we choose to be our own worst enemies rather than own best friend. For me, your blogs always are spot on.
This one speaks to my heart. True happiness is the one journey that we choose and can’t afford not to take. Thank you for the valuable road map.
at the age of 61 I find myself trapped in a loveless marriage for financial reasons. When one sees no way out, and trust me I would be homeless if I left, one must become a philosopher so I’m working on it. Young people, please be careful who you choose to spend your life with and heed any inner warnings. Otherwise you find that you throw pieces of your life away and no amount of positing thinking can get you out of it.
this past summer I walked out on my religion. for the past five years I started doubting a few things but kept going. I did it so I wouldn’t disappoint my family and friends. and maybe my faith would grow strong again. It didn’t, I became angry, sad, and depressed. I developed a toxic attitude and behaviors. all my life I followed this path until now.
now I’m so glad that I left. my life is not perfect, but I had to leave to figure things out. I lost a lot of friends and disappointed my family. my family at least talks to me, while most of my former friends don’t. the only thing left is a bit of guilt that bugging me. but I know that it will pass. thank you guys for all the help you’ve given me.
J.D. Meier says
> there’s a big difference between experiencing bouts of unhappiness and living a habitually unhappy life
I found that if I change my physiology, I change my results.
If I catch myself falling into a slump, or sliding into the unhappiness habit, I remember what it feels like to feel strong, or to feel full of zest, or what it feels like to feel fully alive.
And simply by trying to “remember the feeling”, I snap myself into a better disposition.
Hello Mark and Angel!
Thank you for the beautiful article.
I like the quote “Heal yourself by refusing to shrink!” I have written it in post-it note and glued to my working table.
Would you mind helping me out to get clear idea on “How would I know if I love myself or not?”
Thank you so much again for your emails they really do help at times I need to hear things like this ?
Marc- one of the best and most timely messages you have sent since I began following you and Angel. Thank you. I really needed to hear this today.
You know, i’ve spent years in therapists offices. And there has been times that was needed. But the older I get the more I realised that largely I just didn’t have good people around me to guide me and pass on life wisdom like this. I’m getting so much out of your site, I wish I found it years ago. But no – screw that – no regrets. Life is now. And I feel like i’ve come across it now because i’m READY to hear it now. I’ve been a mess for years and recently hit rock bottom. But you know what I realised? The thing I feared the most happened. And yet i’m ok! I can’t explain it but I feel like the only way is up and i’m inspired. Thank you. (And there’s nothing like hitting bottom to finally start getting that it’s not worth worrying what people think of you. What matters now is what I think of myself)
I just recently turned 40 and I’m completely lost or empty or just simply existing. Just three short years ago I was always going somewhere, taking selfies, just felt so good because I never looked that good. I had lost a lot of weight, after being overweight my whole life. As I was driving home one day I was sitting at an intersection waiting for the light to change and I had a seizure. I hit oncoming traffic head-on. When I woke up in the hospital I had two broken legs and underwent five surgeries. They didn’t know if I would walk again. Thankfully I was the only one hurt. After much therapy and determination I finally walked 9 months later at my daughters graduation. But, I was mad, I was mad at God for letting me live. I will never be the same. I can’t go to the store and walk around like other people do. So I stay home. I hate leaving my house. I disappointing people because I’ve come such a long way. I can’t remember the last time I laughed or smiled. My husband used to be so patient with me now I feel like a burden. I just ordered your book and I read and print your e-mails. You are my last hope…
I know exactly what you are going through. My partner has gone through the same situation, seizures occurred out of the blue, accidents (multiple times), hospitals numerous times… etc… Its tough, and its been ongoing for a dozen years or so…. Early on she went through some tough times until she decided it wasn’t going to stop her dreams… She is now an accomplished mountaineer and adventure seeker, mother, wife and a person with epilepsy. She has done more with her life than most anyone I know, maybe directly because of this illness, then she may have done otherwise… I’m inspired by here and hopefully you will be as well.
Keep your hope alive.
Reading this, I felt you were describing and talking directly to me. I have been shrinking myself to fit other people’s needs for most of my life and have been working to try to find and stand up for myself. Sometimes much easier said than done and have days that are better than others. But, I am not giving up!
It was a battle. I had fallen into self defeating thoughts. Beating myself up. Over a simple message I received a few days ago, it’s content burning a hole in my head. I tried to ignore it, laugh it off. I recognized I was spiralling down. Blaming myself. “I’m just overreacting, blowing things out if proportion, like I always do,” “what is wrong with me!?”,”I’ll hurt their feelings and make them feel like they’ve done something wrong”, “just don’t say anything, it’s your own fault for taking it that way anyway, it’s probably nothing.”…
Today I decided to choose me.
Today in a what would seem to many a small action, I stood up for myself. I explained how I felt, and simply asked someone to clarify. After I sent the message, I even had to fight and stand my ground with my thoughts, they were trying to make myself feel guilty for sending a response.
Didn’t matter if I said some of the words wrong, or might’ve made them feel a certain way with my response, I felt I did what was best for me.
After reading this article, it made me realize the internal painful mountain I had climbed. How much progress I had made, even in something so small. I am proud of myself. I’m ready to look in the mirror, and finally say, I love you and I’m going to prove it! One step at a time 🙂