Christine Arylo, Oakland author of "Madly In Love With Me," shares thoughts on self-love:
Q You call yourself a recovering "achievement junkie" and "doing addict." How did you break the cycle, and how would you describe yourself now?
A Note that I am a "recovering" achievement junkie and doing addict, which means that everyday I have to be aware of my tendencies to overwork, overdo, and bite off way more than I should chew.
I wish I was the sole achievement junkie and doing addict on the planet, but I know from the work I do, especially with women, that there are many of us out there. Most of us have been living from the "self-esteem" handbook which says something like, "You can do and be and have anything!" Unfortunately the result is that we feel pressured to do, be and have it all, and so instead of being happy most of us are overworked and overwhelmed, and we don't know how to do our unsustainable lives any differently.
About 5 years ago, I decided to give up the pursuit of being super woman for the practice of self-love. This transformational process helped me give voice to my inner critics and their slave-driving ways so I could see why I drove myself so hard, why no matter how much I achieved it was never enough, and why I literally couldn't give myself permission to relax or rest. And with that new awareness I became able to start making choices based on self-compassion, self-care and self-empowerment instead of self-criticism and unrealistic expectations of what I should be able to get done in a day or a lifetime!
Q You've worked with women and girls around the world on these topics. Are there common threads no matter where you go?
A I've talked to tens of thousands of women and girls ... and women from the age of 8 to 88, and this lack of self-love is rampant everywhere. We just don't talk about how hard we are on ourselves, how often we settle in our careers and relationships, and how much we look for approval, recognition and worth -- love -- from the outside instead of the inside.
This is why I created the International Day of Self-Love on February 13th to ... take away the social stigma and misunderstandings about loving yourself.
Could you imagine if we lived in a world in which every child born, was raised knowing how to love themselves -- practicing self-acceptance, self-care, self-empowerment, self-honor, self-compassion -- without guilt or fear? Not only would we see eating disorders, sexual promiscuity, addiction, suicide, stress, unhappiness and disease decline, we'd grow children that, because they weren't spending so much energy criticizing and de-valuing themselves, could do so much more for the world around them.
Q Do men need this too?
A Everyone needs to be able to love themselves, including men. The lack of self-love and misplaced self-worth just shows up differently for men than women because the social conditioning of each differs. Women have learned to tie their self-worth to how much they give, how much they can get done or achieve and how well they take care of others. Men have been conditioned to tie their self-worth to how much money they make, how masterful they are at their jobs or how well they provide financially for their families. Men, just like women, experience big swings in their sense of self-worth when they aren't fully engaged in practicing self-love on a daily basis.
Contact Angela Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org, read her Sunday Give 'Em Hill column, or follow her on Twitter @giveemhill.