About The Physical Aspect of ‘Being Preoccupied’ – A Personal Report

I occupy myself.
I’m occupied with myself.
I’m occupied with being myself.
I’m occupied with being occupied with being myself.
I’m occupied with an image of myself.

I’m standing on top of Hirschgarten Bridge in Munich. The traffic is buzzing around me.

I’m typing the beginning of a new article into my phone. Interestingly about ‘listening’.

To be honest, I was not able to listen to anything at all, because I was so harassed by my thoughts or let’s say ‘haunted by my own demands’:

“It’s really time to finish a new article.” “You have to prepare the photo project.” “And when are you going to practice italian again?!”

The circus of my mind blasted. My brain clutter occupied all my senses.

In a few minutes I would meet my friend Patrick to have a chat about a photography project in cooperation with some founders from Munich.

All of a sudden my stomach is contracting. I feel like I’m completely hungover – without having been drinking anything.

Something else happened the day before that drained my energy: After my first ever full-body Thai Massage I cracked.

The Thai Masseuse: “Relax your muscles.”
Me: “I can’t.”
My body: “What the fuck are you talking about?!”

The massage was very painful. I expected that. But what happened four hours after the massage blew my mind.

I was writing on my computer at a co-working space when my lower abdominals started to burn slightly. I just took a deep breath to ease the ache.

A few minutes later I could feel a stinging pain circling around my navel. It started from my diaphragm circumnavigating my ribcage down to the core of the muscles around my pelvis.

“You have to move your body,” Patrick who I was working with tried to encourage me. So I moved – even though all I wanted was to lay down.

The pain started to hulk up. I was whining and shouting at the same time while my legs could barely hold my upper body.

It became unbearable. Instead of the U-Bahn I had to take a taxi home. The driver nearly hospitalized me. “Fuck no, they wont help me! Drive me home!!!,” I protested loudly.

In cold sweat and tears – after a lengthy traffic jam – I finally reached home.

I needed help.

The only person I could think of was Ralf – the only fitness trainer I know. Despite the fact that we hadn’t talked in ages I dialed his number.

With self-evidence he examined the pain with me. “Your body releases tension. Of course it hurts,” he scotches my concerns.

Apparently a muscle tension or better say ‘adherence’ released amongst my inner organs. Finally ‘loosened’ they fell into place again. “Actually the masseuse did a good job, if this is the result…,” Ralf lifted my spirits pointing out that this tension must have persisted for years.

Just by talking to him I relaxed – as good as I could. I nearly had to laugh about myself now.

You might ask yourself: “What does this have to do with ‘being preoccupied’?”

Through this experience I realized HOW much I’m gripping. How much I can not ‘let go’ of the image I have of myself.

Back to Hirschgarten bridge:

I’m standing there with my phone in my hand trying to ‘get something done’.

It is a beautiful day. The blue of the sky covers the city like a cozy blanket. The sun gives her warmest warmth possible on this early November day.

In the distance I can see the famous twin towers of Frauenkirche. I turn my face towards the sun to catch some UV beams with closed eyes.

When I open them again I can see the tops of the mountains at the end of the street southwards. As the traffic lights stop the cars next to me this view let’s me repose too.

Gentle release is crawling up my spine. It broadens my chest and opens my heart. Smoothly my body is warming up from head to toe – and so does the expression on my face. Even my feet are warm now.

This was a moment of grounding.

This moment on the bridge reminded me that everything I need is right here. I can perceive the magic of the moment if I stop being occupied with ‘doing me’.

What do I have to do instead?

“Relaxxx,” the Thai masseuse would say.

“Open up to the moment.” “Allow yourself to be present in order to heal.” This is the advice I would give to myself.

Why is this all so fundamental?

I’m taking myself so serious that it hurts. Already during the massage I could feel the spots, where energy channels are blocked in my body. I understood how much I’m physically inhering my body. The clinging of my mind manifests in my physical body.

This is the opposite of surrendering to the moment.

I will never increase my productivity in a state of stress. I will never find connection with myself or anybody else in a state of stress. I will never be happy in a state of stress. And on top of it: I will never ‘be myself’ or ‘in my full power’ in a state of stress. Lao Tzu said: “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”

And most fundamentally: Stress is the root cause of illness (dis-ease). If I compromise my relaxation I’m jeopardizing my health. There is absolutely nothing more important than my body.

I’m struggling with stress ever since. Already in the first grade I remember my sweaty feet. Nobody cared about it during this time. But now I have the power to care for my stress-level myself.

My body showed me several times that I have to relax. In the past I suffered from heart-burn. There were times when I could only eat grated carrots and apple because my body wouldn’t digest a thing without making my throat burn like fire.

A couple of years later I could barely move my chest, because my muscles had built a so called ‘armoring,’ how Wilhem Reich, the initiator of body-oriented psychotherapy describes it.

Since years I’m carrying these tense muscles around. Yoga, meditation and targeted exercises help me to constantly release this tension.

Maintaining my health – more than anything else needs to be my priority. But not in a way of “I have to eat healthy”. “I have to quit smoking.”
No, fuck no. Well, of course smoking is bad, but I don’t want to make my non-smoking my addiction. Otherwise I will become occupied with ‘trying to eat healthy’ or ‘being a non-smoker’.

It is more important to listen to the signs of my body, to allow myself rest, when I need it, to listen to what my body really wants instead of being occupied with what I think I need to want.

A couple of months ago I wrote a similar article. Please check it.

What you think is your ‘goddamn right’ is your prison.
What you think is your desire is your addiction.
What you think is your self-expression is forcing your will on others.

Will I finally shatter my resistance and surrender to the battle?

 

My Peace is My Priority

I found a treasure in my heart and I will never let go of it again.

I’m taking my teachers serious. I treat my body as a temple.
I’m communicating clear.

All the lows are temporary.

What other people think, want or do is none of my business.
Nobody apart from myself knows what I need.
Nobody apart from myself has to understand me.
I’m not responsible for other people’s feelings nor am I responsible for their decisions.

My inner joy is my strongest force.
My playfulness is my power.
My love for life is stronger than anything else.

I don’t need to be perfect.
I don’t have to take advice.
I can just sit and smile.

With ease I welcome every situation and every encounter.
I’m pioneering my life according to my own rules.

Society is the last thing that can impose pressure on me.
As long as I feel joy I will guide my own way.
Nobody can take the life away from me apart from life itself.

I’m owning my experience of the world.
I’m owning my power.
I’m a child and I’m able to adjust to every situation.

I accept life as it is.
I’m finding comfort in the eye of the storm.

I’m not turning blunt.
I will feel even more.

 

We Grow When We Sleep

Yesterday I fell asleep before I could post anything. The casual pre-tooth-brushing-five-minutes-nap turned into a six hours pass out. I woke up when the dawn was already breaking.

But now I’m happy, because it inspired me to post something more meaningful.

The topic of my heart turned out to be healing. Cultivating self-love, spiritual growth, personal development, overcoming pain, reclaiming compassion – in the end it all comes down to the same thing: Healing.

Yesterday night after a two days storytelling coaching job I’ve decided to have a piece of pizza and a glass of red wine at this tiny pizza bar near Rosenheimer Platz in Munich. “What’s this?,” with childlike curiosity the guy behind me in the queue pointed at the pizza ‘salsiccia spinaci’. The spark in his eyes resonated with my wave-length. Unhesitatingly I sat down on his table to share a moment of company.

Immediately he opened up and told me the story of his past weeks. “I just came back from fusion festival,” he reminisced and reassured unintentionally that we belong to the same tribe.

It turned out that he just dropped his medicine studies. Becoming a doctor collided with his worldview. According to him being beneficial for humanity and working in the – irritatingly called – ‘health sector’ is a contradiction in this society. “We learn medicine for 70-year-olds,” he complained with a last trace of disillusionment. “Modern medicine is more about ‘interfering’ with the human body than about maintaining health,” he summed up.

You decide to be sick.

I could totally comprehend what he was saying. Taking responsibility for our own bodies should be something we learn in school, but instead we rely on a dubious system to keep us alive when we are sick.

“You decide to be sick, ” he advocated for our ability for self-healing. Through his words I found myself releasing a lot of tension that had built up during the past weeks of traveling and working.

Things like meridian lines, qì or kundalini energy are referred to in human history since decades. So, why would I not feel what is happening inside of my body if I learn to pay attention to it?

Dis-ease is what’s causing illness. And what is the state of health? ‘To be at ease’. Only when we find relaxation we find health.

I soaked up every word of the conversation – well aware that this encounter was a once in a lifetime one.

I smiled at the universe pondering the lessons of my past months: Healing takes time and not constant action. By re-acting all the time, by planning, by overdoing I’m ruining my (karmic) energy and in the end my physical and mental health.

“When you change your perspective things change automatically.” Briefly we’ve started talking about politics, but this quote applies one to one to the good old habits.

There doesn’t have to be a direct cure for everything. As soon as we are making an effort to change a small thing, e.g. what we eat, how much we sleep or how we work we eventually find great results:

Things fall into place automatically. We find the time for the things we love, our stress-level drops and in the end we might even become healthier.

I need a practical example for this: Since I’ve started to seriously reduce processed foods and industrial sugar my overall ability to focus had improved tremendously. Automatically I’m getting more stuff done (like this writing experiment). THIS is healing on a higher level.

It doesn’t take as much as I thought to become the human I want to be IF I’m willing to honestly change my point of view, question what I thought was ‘me’, if I’m willing to seriously try new lifestyles…

Through these changes I rattle the fundament of my thinking patterns and eventually the truth reveals.

By nature our body will heal if we choose to.

When we are planting a seed we just need to water it. If we are looking at it all the time and try to convince it to grow faster nothing will happen, but we will stress ourselves out.

Our body is a living entity of organs, chemical processes and microorganisms. It is a part of nature. An autonomic system of nerves and neurotransmitters takes care of it. I don’t need to ‘be aware’ of it all the time. It is better to let it be sometimes. By nature our body will heal if we choose to.

“We grow when we are sleeping.” – I woke up with this sentence in my head this morning. It really made me smile as normally I would have been disappointed that “I got nothing done” last night. Instead my body decided to get some rest before I could even tell him to do so.

There is a built in regulation system that protects me if I let it. By trying to control it all the time I hinder it from doing its job.

I can’t believe it took me such a long time to understand the connection between my stress level, my immune system and my productivity.

Again it became obvious to me: If I want to grow I need to let go.

 

Morning Conversations

Good morning human,

who? Yes, you!

How are you today? You don’t know? You look worried. What’s up? Is the future scaring you? Don’t worry it does only look threatening from the distance. And what are you carrying on your shoulders? Oh, it’s the past. Drop it, it’s too heavy. You don’t need it as long as you stay with me.

Why don’t you leave it where it is? It will get heavier and heavier. You can’t move on like this.

Please human, why can’t you see that you have everything right here?

And why are you in such a hurry? Yeah right, slow down a bit. Take a look around. It’s nice here in the present moment. Can you see the blue of the sky? The green of the trees? This planet is here – for you too. And what are you doing? You are creating your own reality instead of appreciating this one.

The light breeze that plays in the tree tops. It is the same breeze that gives you your life energy.

I invite you to take it all in. As deep as you can. Every moment you are invited. You want to meet me more often? Don’t forget to breathe, because it is your mean of transport.

My door is always open for you. I’m here for you.The past is gone. You can remember her, she is a close friend of mine too. But we never get to meet.

And the future? Well, I’m paving your way. If you walk with me I will guide you. You want to see a map? Well, maps are something you invented. You don’t need it. All you need is to trust me.

I will hand you the right tools, I will prepare you. I will show you the direction. But only if you take the time to stay with me.

What’s up? I can see you rushing again. Only by watching you I get dizzy. You are getting lost.

Please take a moment to inhale deeply. As deeep as you can. And now again and again and again.

Here we go. Do you notice something?

Stay present, stay here.

Where are you going.

Don’t disappear.

I’m always here for you.

“The Now”

 

Reclaiming Happiness

On a random morning a little girl grabbed my hand in the hallway. She was neither my daughter nor related to me in any other way. “Mama, unten”, she pulled my arm pointing down the stairway in anticipation. Her mom was waiting for her in front of the door together with her sister. We proceeded down the stairs with care. It took a few minutes until her mother could welcome us with a warm smile.

A “dankeschön” from this two-year-old and the blink of gratefulness in the eyes of her mother would make this start of the day a special one.

These little fingers squeezing my hands reminded me of what real happiness is. It is connection. It is understanding. It is trust. It is this feeling of being in the right place at the right time.

Happiness is being in the flow. It is merging into the presence. Being one with the moment – without any obligations. It is a moment of unity in this highly individualized world.

When was the last time you experienced a moment like this?

In Wrong Pursuit of Happiness

How many times are we wrapped up in our head? In our personal reality?

We are busy ticking off to-do-lists, achieving the next career level, finding the right partner or financial investment. We network, we ‘do business’, we socialize, but are we happy? Are we really connecting with each other? Or are we so caught up in our bright future?

“We have been taught that freedom is the freedom to pursue our petty, trivial desires. Real freedom is freedom from our petty, trivial desires.” I stumbled upon this quote the other day. Adam Curtis is talking about addiction here, but isn’t our obsession of pursuing material (or immaterial) wealth also some kind of addiction?

Instead of pursuing our real needs we are misleading ourselves with substitutions.

Are We Slaves to Our Desires?

We mistaken ‘fulfilling our petty trivial desires’ with ‘happiness’. And this is what makes us feel discontent: As long as we are only longing for satisfaction we are pursuing happiness from an ego perspective.

What do I mean by that? We are compensating our search for meaning / figuring out what we really want with substitutions. ‘Making a living’ on this planet seems to be a very big issue for us whereas an ant can easily subsist.

But ants are might be a topic for another article. Back to us: Pursuing our desires – that means we value what is ‘of use’ for us. With this attempt we bound our ability to connect with the people around us. And where we are meant to find connection we are closing ourselves off.

This is addictive behavior. All we do is consuming fast food for our soul. We fill ourselves, but we don’t nourish us. We are so busy ‘creating’ ourselves that we don’t conceive that we are already here. We think we are freeing ourselves, but in reality we trap ourselves.

Everything that is accessible has to be achieved as fast as possible. Delay of gratification outworn its significance in our society. Like an addict always looking for the next thrill we blur our senses.

In the end our desire ‘to be happy’ is what holds us back from being happy.

The Circle of Happiness

What we don’t understand is that we find happiness only by connecting with each other in the real world. Life is what happens in the hallway or on the street or at the dinner table. Life is real time experience.

The circle of happiness starts in the presence. It starts with being aware of the small moments. Being ready to connect with the outside world and the people around us at any moment in time.

Instead of aiming for a certain lifestyle we should re-discover our true values: sharing love, cultivating a sense of community, being ‘there’ for each other. ‘Creating ourselves’ should be replaced with ‘self-care’ or ‘creating healthy relationships’. This is what makes us happy.

It seems like the circle of happiness becomes a thing on this blog.

 

24 Hours

I have 24 hours to be my best self.

24 hours to sit with my feelings.

24 hours to settle in with every breath I take.

24 hours to connect with myself first – and then with the world.

24 hours to shine my light.

24 hours to be in service.

24 hours to live my life.

 

The Circle of Happiness or Why Self-Care is an Obligation

“When are you going to honour yourself?” During my morning meditation on my 31st birthday it comes crashing down on me.

My construct of negative thoughts can’t sustain itself anymore.

Like an avalanche boulders of anxiety, self-doubt, misgiving and hesitation fall off my back. Lightness captures my whole body.

My energy level rises headspinningly quick.

The ‘doer’ is taking over. There is only flow – no fighting, no dispute. The imprisonment is over. Finally the refreshing breeze of freedom is rejuvenating my senses.  

All the tension is released. The vibration amplifies apruptly. There is nothing but sympathy and concord. I’m expanding. Tears of gratefulness turn my face into a riverbed. The salt water washes away the remains of my resentments.

Every fiber of my body screams “FORGIVE YOURSELF”. Release is imperative.

Happiness updates its definition. Destiny welcomes me with open arms. I saw it coming, but it doesn’t downgrade my reverence.

It is here – doubtlessly: The reward of my journey.

For a long time I was obsessed with improving my productivity. A long time I tried to learn as many skills as possible – I still do to some extend. I wanted to read one book a week, learn two languages at the same time, learn coding, web design, improve my motion design skills, produce music and get better at writing, public speaking, coffee making, barkeeping and so on and so on.

‘On the side’ I wanted to volunteer, learn sailing and in the meantime I was trying to meet my friends, find a boyfriend, eat healthy, start a business, travel… Hahaha, now only writing this down I feel dizzy. How could I think I would ‘succeed’ with this ‘attempt’? And how could I think I would be beneficial for others? And at the end – beneficial for the planet? (This is what I’m modestly aiming for.)

Nowadays my life choices maneuver me further and further away from the work-hard-play-hard mentality.

After all the ‘paradigm’: “If you are not stressed out you are not working hard enough.” still dominates the heads of us westerners. This applies to all areas of life. ‘Having time’ for oneself doesn’t seem to be worthwhile in a society where any activity is always on our fingertips. If you are not busy, you are doing something wrong.

Our time is scheduled from the day we are born. Isn’t it crazy!?

Anyhow: I ended up being completely exhausted with my attempt to do as much as possible. I’m surprised my nervous system hadn’t collapsed yet (Knock on wood!).

Beating The Torturer

“Before you can save the world you need to know who you are.” This was a piece of advice by a friend I couldn’t get a hold of in years. He addressed my – let’s be a bit pathetic here – desperate try to ‘do good’  in this world.

What he meant was that I always searched for the me in the outside. By achieving or doing something that I considered as meaningful I expected ‘to move along’ the path of self-discovery.

In reality the opposite was the case: The more I did the more I moved away from my path. I moved away from the core of my being.

Instead of finding out about my deepest needs I jumped head over heels from one challenge to another. Don’t get me wrong – challenges are good in order to find out what you are capable of. But by being obsessed with challenges I only distracted myself. I wanted to proof myself that I’m strong enough to accomplish everything. If I wouldn’t succeed I would beat myself up.

There was this voice telling me: “You are not doing enough.” – every single day. A voice that kept beating me up with reproaches all the time.

Something big had to change. Taming the torturer in my head – this became my real mission instead of being my own punisher.

“We better be nice to ourselves. Nobody wants to hang out with assholes.” Unfortunately I don’t know who this quote belongs to. Maybe I flung it into my notebook myself.

In any case – the message is clear: Be nice to yourself. Have self-compassion. Love yourself more. How many times have I been repeating these phrases? How long have I been trying so hard to cultivate this compassion with myself? I even wrote about it many times.

Become One With Yourself And Then Become One With The World

Before you can connect with the world you have to connect with yourself first. And how can you connect with yourself if you are your hardest critic?

In order to spread love and positive energy on this planet you have to love yourself first. Treat yourself like you want to be treated by others – it sounds so simple and platitudinous but yet it is crucial.

We can only make a contribution to this society if we attempt every action with a positive mindset. If we want to make the world a better place we better be happy. Happiness is contagious. Malcom Gladwell explains it very well in “The Tipping Point – How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.”

“We normally think of the expressions on our face as the reflection of an inner state. I feel happy, so I smile. I feel sad, so I frown. Emotion goes inside out. Emotional contagion, though, suggests that the opposite is also true. If I can make you smile, I can make you happy. If I can make you frown, I can make you sad. Emotion in this sense, goes outside-in.” Malcom Gladwell

Demasking Your Desires

Recently I found out that in order to cultivate this compassion I have to go through the process of what I call ‘demasking my desires’. My journey is re-conditioning. Back to root level. And only from there I can carry out something.

The process of learning about my needs is a painful one. The pursuit of carving out my personality provokes disappointment and loneliness. Like a snake I’m peeling myself as I grow out of my old skin. Over and over I shuffle off one layer at a time. Every layer requires its own technique. I really need to take the time to learn about these techniques.

Why is it such a long and complicated process? If I don’t take the time to question my desires I eventually won’t find out about my real needs. I need an example for this:

If I have the desire to get drunk every weekend or I’m obsessive about my relationship then I might distract myself from something. To be more precise: I distract myself from connecting with my own self and fulfilling my own needs.

I might want to ask “Where I am avoiding life at the moment?” This process requires honesty and courage. It is not easy. It’s time-consuming and there are a lot of forthright questions to answer.

Self-compassion is crucial for this process. Self-compassion is nothing else than self-care. And self-care is another word for self-love.

Self-care is not just treating yourself once in a while, it is nurturing yourself with what you need for your survival. And what do I need? I need to do what makes me feel the best version of who I am. It is my obligation to take these needs seriously.

Repeat After Me: “My Energy Resources are Limited.”

I only have a certain amount of lifetime and according energy to spend on this planet. It is important to spend it wisely. Okay, pseudo-hyper-human, repeat after me: “My energy resources are limited.”

So, in which area am I going to invest my energy? In the area where I’m not good at? In the area where I have the most deadly learning curve? Haha, ‘nice try’ the universe is laughing out loud.

When do my eyes sparkle the most? What parts of my job do I enjoy? Who do I admire and why? When do I feel myself the most? When do I feel the most alive?

The answers to these questions are the ones that are pulling us in the right direction. What draws our attention smoothly is where we find fulfillment.

When our eyes sparkle the most we are able to connect with each other and share our gift. When we feel the least exhausted and the most alive we are able to share. And this is also when we are able to be in service for other people.

So, it is my obligation to make sure that my glass is always full. Nobody can benefit from me when I’m not my best self.

Yes, it is that simple. This is following your bliss. This is self-care. It sounds pretty straight forward, but getting there is the challenge of a lifetime.

Since I started to invest in my strengths, I manifest positive change in my life. I become the change that I want to see in this world. The circle of unhappiness had ended and this is the beginning of a new circle. The circle of happiness.

Finally I’m following my excitement and the excitement is following me.

Treat Yourself With Not Giving a Fuck

There are always people who disagree. People who are disappointed, because I don’t do what they want me to do. It took me an disproportionate time to understand that it doesn’t matter what anybody thinks of me or expects of me.

I want to be my best self and this is why I take care of myself. I can only serve a higher purpose if I’m in peace with myself. It’s not that I want to not give a fuck, no, I have to. It is healthy for me and necessary in order to live up to my own values.

Self-care is crucial in order to fulfill our purpose on this earth.

So, “When are you going to honour yourself?”

 

Rules Of The Road

This is a worksheet. It started off three years ago with a page in my notebook with the title “Things To Consider” and it issued into this blog. Haha, but I condensed some of the things here. There is no order. Everything is crucial for my survival.

  1. Surround yourself with people who are lifting you higher.
  2. Express your gratefulness as often as you can.
  3. Be happy and let the world know it. Happiness is contagious.
  4. Don’t put too much value and truth in words, ideas or concepts, but trust your intuition.
  5. Have always positive intentions. Think ONLY positive (I always thought it is normal to have doubts all the time, but no, it’s not. If negative thoughts loom, don’t make a movie out of it. Just stop it. Think about something else.)
  6. Appreciate endings, because they are always new beginnings.
  7. Drop your perfectionism. Forgive yourself mistakes immediately. Best case scenario: Drop the word ‘mistake’ from your vocabulary completely, because there are no mistakes in this world.
  8. Be as loud as you want. Be as quiet as you want. Be you.
  9. Don’t re-act all the time. Be passive at times. Only act, when it’s necessary. (Kung-Fu)
  10. Stay grounded and always balance your energy level. Don’t let emotions take you over.
  11. Never forget: You’ve got a treasure in your heart. You’ve got all the beauty inside of you. Just release it. Turn it into energy. You’ve got the power – use it.
  12. Don’t be afraid of the nothingness. It is taken care of you. Everything you need is right there.
  13. You don’t have to do anything. Do what is good for you. Say no to everything else.
  14. You don’t need to be “professional”. You don’t need to be anything. Just be you.
  15. You can heal yourself from the inside. And life itself can cure you.
  16. Keep in touch with the planet. Mother nature needs you (how you are).
  17. Be in service. Be available for the people around you. Listen, give hugs and smile at people as much as you can.
  18. You are welcome. Everywhere you go.
  19. Don’t be scared. Trust.
  20. Stop reaching for more. Be happy with less.
  21. Don’t forget who you are, but don’t take yourself so f*cking serious all the time. You are just one of many human beings. So stop trying to be a saint.
  22. Don’t see the obstacles, but see the opportunities.
  23. Slow down. Take a break. Never rush. It’s unhealthy for you. Impatience is your enemy.
  24. Don’t hesitate, but do not hurry.
  25. Follow your excitement.
  26. The force is with you.

Amen.

 

Love Yourself More

Alright, the process of renewing is continuing. I can literally feel the shell bursting. Before I started this article I thought “Okay, this will be short but intense.” – A fertilizer for my growth – a brief reminder of how far I’ve come. But there is so much more to it: Welcome to the story of my life.

“You don’t take yourself seriously” – A few months ago a friend of mine put a finger right into a wound. A wound I didn’t even know it existed.

“Love yourself more” – This is a phrase I heard a lot over the past few years. “Put yourself on number one”, only recently a couchsurfing host pointed out to me – witnessing my struggle to find my own priorities.

It made me think. Within the past five years I’ve tried hard to live my life up to my own believes. Maybe too hard? I’ve changed jobs, rooms, cities and countries. I’ve ended relationships. I’ve started new ones. I’ve tried new things, I’ve travelled, I’ve improved my physical fitness and so on and so on. Some of my changes you might witness on this blog.

“Do what you love.” – This expression too became omnipresent in our highly individualized world. Well, so I did! Everything was supposed to be good. But it wasn’t. I stressed myself out. I stressed myself out, because I was struggling to meet my own expectations. Was I happy in the meantime?

Of course not. I always felt like there is something missing. Even if I thought I had all I wanted, I felt this numbing anxiety. But where was it coming from? I had to dig deeper.

What I found was a hole – a hole I was always closing my eyes from. I filled it with a lot of things. Temporary pleasures like partying, alcohol or sex gave me a superficial satisfaction. Working hard gave me a feeling of purpose. But at the end even sports and physical challenges just seemed to be a substitution. But a substitution for what? Only when I started to observe the dark corners of my psyche the cover-up crumbled. The process is still ongoing.

The more honest I become with myself the more the truth discloses: Now I know that I was looking for love in the wrong places. I had to find it within myself. What I have been trying to pad was a lack of self-love.

I was looking for love in the wrong places

To be honest with you, it was only about five years ago, I was 25 years old and I didn’t have the slightest idea who I was or who I wanted to become. I thought I had, but I hadn’t.

Self-doubts were shadowing any future prospects. I couldn’t see myself or anything else clear. I didn’t know what I’m passionate about. I wanted to write, I wanted to hike, I wanted to travel, but I couldn’t find the motivation to do it. I was scared. I always found excuses.

Now I know that I felt obligated to follow a beaten track. A path that wasn’t mine. I thought I would have to find somebody to walk this path with me. Slowly it dawned me that I have to find myself in the first place.

I always had the feeling there must be more to life, but I couldn’t quite grasp what it was. In the past there was always something missing – with or without a boyfriend I was unhappy – neither physically nor spiritually satisfied.

A long time (actually all of my life) I thought I have to change. There must be something wrong with me. I must be mentally sick or something. The truth is that I didn’t take my personal needs seriously. That’s why I felt like shit most of the time.

Five years ago I did not know my journey will be about self-love. I would fight my fears and expand my comfort zone in the name of (self-) love.

Love is in the air and stuff. But how do I receive it?

How to foster self-love

So far so good – apparently I was looking for love. The question was how to cultivate love in my system? This is only partly an “How-to” guide, but more an arbitrary list of thoughts and assumptions that crossed my way during the last months. I’m curious what you have to add.

1. Stop lying to yourself

Before I started my journey of self-love I kept up an idealized image of my self. Disregarding my own nature I tried to be somebody else. Painfully I learnt that this leads only to physical and mental suffering.

Don’t try to be somebody you are not. Look into the mirror and see your true nature. Be true to yourself. Be authentic, but most of all be honest with yourself. Acknowledge your roots and be proud of who you are.

2. Stop looking for approval by others

A long long time I was aiming for acceptance instead of striving towards my own goals. I was hoping to find somebody to “fix” me and help me with my life. In the meantime I was living somebody else’s life not mine.

If you are looking for approval by others you are losing credibility. You give away responsibility for your well-being and slowly you are losing your self-esteem. Stop being a people pleaser and please yourself first.

3. Lower your expectations on yourself

Harder, faster, better, stronger – this is the slogan of our time not only when it comes to technology. Self-optimization became common courtesy, but the slavedriver is only in your head: The inner judge – your chatterbox – is the one who is convicting you for being insufficient.

Don’t get me wrong – self-discipline is required to make changes. But what you have to optimize is your way of thinking from “I have to become better” to “I’m okay how I am”. Self-criticism is the opposite of self-love.

So please, please you chatterbox in the back of the head – stop judging. Instead of heightening the expectations on yourself accept who you are: A human being and not a robot.

4. Accept your flaws and shortcomings

I’m still working on examining my strengths and weaknesses. During this process I learnt something essential: When you are able to give yourself a warm smile as soon as you discover weaknesses then you are able to transform them.

What you consider as your negative traits are might be ulterior talents or advantages? As soon as you take a look at your personality characteristics these supposedly negative attributes convert into your personal gifts.

5. Appreciate your individual gifts

In order to love yourself more you have to honour these personal gifts. You have to say yes to your uniqueness. Take a moment of appreciation and gratefulness – it is worth it. Believe in yourself. The world needs you how you are.

6. Give yourself time to heal

This is a tough one. Up to today I’m asking too much of myself. Most of my life I was busy beating myself down for not meeting my own expectations.

Over and over my body told me to stop, but I wasn’t listening until recently. I found out that I need the time to lick my wounds and recover from life-changing events like breaking up with my boyfriend or changing my environment rapidly. Allowing myself to heal is essential in order to achieve anything in my life.

Walk your own pace and household with your energy. Take your time to make the steps that are required to become the person you want to be. You only have this one life – so why rush?

7. Take your personal needs seriously

If you don’t take your needs seriously you end up suffering. Imagine a dog who can’t go for a walk or doesn’t get fed? Will he lead a happy and healthy life?

We can only nurture one another (friends, partner, family or even society) if we satisfy our own needs first.

I was standing in my own way by not taking myself seriously until I realized, that only I know what’s good for me. As soon as I started listening to my inner voice I found out about my personal needs. It is important to mute all the distraction and start listening.

8. Be compassionate

I don’t say you should feel sorry for yourself. No, actually self-compassion is the opposite of self-pity. Self-compassion is being warm, kind-hearted and friendly towards your inner self. When you are able to put a warm smile on your face, when you encounter negative feelings, fears or unsatisfied desires, then you are starting to love yourself. It is being supportive like you are to your friends.

9. Relax every day

Take a break. Go for a walk. Do some yoga. Meditate or just breathe in and out consciously every day for five minutes or an hour. Carve out this time for yourself. It will help you to clear your vision. (Note to my distracted self.)

9. Trust in the Process

Like every plant, every animal, every river and every cloud you are a part of nature. It is already taken care of you. Don’t worry too much. Just trust.

What I am really saying is that you don’t need to do anything, because if you see yourself in the correct way, you are all as much extraordinary phenomenon of nature as trees, clouds, the patterns in running water, the flickering of fire, the arrangement of the stars, and the form of a galaxy. You are all just like that, and there is nothing wrong with you at all.

~ Alan Watts