The Golden Rule says,
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
I’ve heard the problem with the Golden Rule is that we actually do it. How can this be a bad thing? It is, if we don’t love ourselves. How can we possibly give what we do not possess?
Is loving ourselves self-centered, even narcissistic?
We are containers for love. When we are full, it overflows to others. When we are empty, (operating from fear or self-preservation, for example) it becomes all about ME and flows nowhere. When love flows outwardly (with no strings attached) it is returned to us and others in surprising ways. That’s what makes this love ecosystem work. We must learn to “do for ourselves what we would want others to do for us.” Yet learning to love yourself often takes a lifetime of practice. <Sing it, Whitney!>
I’ve yet to discover a great leader, whether it’s a mom, dad, business leader or community leader who does not have an element of confidence that is rooted in goodness. Believing that they are on this earth to serve. This not about self-aggrandizement; it’s about finding your truth, then exploiting the crap out of it. Nothing feels better – nothing benefits the world better. (Check out this awesome quote by Marianne Williamson.)
Here’s little Valentine’s Day activity that may make you uncomfortable, but do it anyway. Write a love letter to yourself. (Below are some ideas for you to do this.)
I’ve written many letters over the years. Most of them are never sent. Some are to others, some to myself, some to God. A few years ago, I wrote a letter from current day me to 23 year old me. It was during a time when I needed to remember how far I’d come by reminding myself of some of the challenging things I’ve overcome. It addresses a time when I was young and was overwhelmed. In hindsight, I was actually doing better than I thought. You too may be wrong about a situation you found yourself in. You probably got through it better than you thought. I’ve hadn’t planned on sharing this letter, but who am I to ask you to do it, if I am not willing to as well. Here it is…
Congratulations! You are on your way to graduating from college. In the past two years you had a son, left a bad relationship and got a job at a junior college so you could take a few classes toward your degree. Then you packed your stuff and went back to school 3 ½ hours from home with an 11-month-old. You found quality childcare and moved from a dingy apartment to a nicer place. You chased down and got resources along the way to make this happen. You’ve got a lot of support, Alexia. You even won the hearts and respect of your professors. They gave you scholarships and rooted for you. You’ve worked hard to get where you are. Many people rallied for you.
Why do you suppose those people helped you? Why? It’s not from pity or because you are someone’s “project.” Here’s why, and time will prove this over and over again.
Listen to me:
You have a great willingness to love and serve. You have always been this way. It’s what drives you to make these sacrifices. Your son is teaching you at a higher level your capacity for love and it will only grow. You are super smart. This is a tough one for you. You’ve not excelled at school until now. Distractions at home and in your own mind and soul have been an obstacle for you. But you learn wickedly fast, you figure things out and see things through. You did it with your son, college, internships, housing and making a path for the two of you. I don’t think you realize what a feat all of this is. You have a beautiful spirit. It’s in you and it’s just blossoming. Don’t ever let people shut that down.
Here’s the hard thing, Alexia. You brought a child into the world with the full knowledge that he is yours to bring up and care for. You will struggle for a long time. People will try to help you by asking you to be patient, put your needs on hold and push you in a box. And you will do it – for love’s sake. But in a box is not where you belong, my friend. You want to be free. Free to be yourself, let that spirit soar to benefit the world around you. That’s what you want most.
Some people will strong arm you to be quiet. They will even taunt you. But you’re gonna WIN.
Your story will be redeemed.
Because love and forgiveness always win. This is your super power. You’ve taken responsibility for the things you’ve done. You’ve forgiven yourself and others. You’ve sought forgiveness. You, my dear, are the essence of love. Love and hate cannot co-exist.
Your heart must be so full of love that you move away from bitterness, fear and ugliness. You will want to stay there at times, but you must turn and walk away. Do this for me, please.
Alexia, you will win again and again – because you Love. And Love, my dear, always wins.
As you read this letter, you may wonder if I was all of those things when I was 23. Yes, I was. It was buried under a cloud of fear, anger and uncertainty, but it was all there. Seeing it on paper, helped me see how I persevered during a pivotal time in my life. I chose to forgive and love. Time has shown me that these beautiful traits are in all of us. They are expressed with our own “Love DNA.” It’s different for every person. But it’s there, usually covered up by negative thoughts that disproportionately occupy our mind space.
Uncovering the love and goodness is what makes us better leaders. It should be obvious, but it’s not. The world convolutes this into a game of false humility or extreme arrogance. It’s neither. It’s as genuine and pure as we can get in this really messed up world. It’s also truth and freedom when you walk it out authentically.
We’re all survivors of something, whether we appreciate it or not. And, as we look back, it was likely love and goodness that pulled us through.
Maybe you can take the challenge to drop a love bucket on yourself. I think you’ll find that it will not only benefit you, but others around you in unexpected ways.
Some ideas on how to write a love letter to yourself.
- Write a letter to your younger self, recognizing who you were, are and have always been.
- Write the letter to yourself that you’ve always wanted from a parent. This is a letter of affirmation for who you are.
- Write a letter dated a year from now (in present tense) celebrating all that you’ve accomplished a year from now. Put great things in there that you’ll accomplish over the next year. Build on your successes from the past.
- Write a letter releasing yourself from mistakes you’ve made along the way. If it needs to be from God or another person, make it from them.
- Write a letter acknowledging your accomplishments over the years. Seeing it on paper will generate a feeling of gratitude and pride.
It’s a love letter, so whatever you write, you must write it with LOVE. It must also be true. And you must believe it.
Writing with love means, no blame, no shame and a heaping helping of grace.
Go do it. Love yourself a little more this Valentine’s Day.
Leading leaders to the greater good.
Need help making changes or just need to open your mind to something new? Let’s talk. Don’t wait any longer. I work with leaders who want positive change for themselves and the world around them.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit AlexiaZigoris.com for more.