It never ceases to amaze me how much I learn from the clients that I serve, even after 20 years of being in the behavioral health field. I know that will never stop, and it is one of the biggest things I love about my career. Recently I had an amazing conversation with a person that really reminded me of how important it is to honor ourselves as we move through life, and how all of us would benefit if we were to strengthen this skill.
It all stems from a book they brought to my attention, that I immediately bought and have started reading. It is called Honor Yourself: The Inner Art of Giving and Receiving by Patricia Spadaro.
What does “honoring yourself” mean? Well, first notice what you think it means. When I looked it up in the dictionary, it means “to regard or treat (someone) with respect and admiration: to show or give honor to (someone): to show admiration for (someone or something) in a public way”.
Are you showing yourself respect? Respect is defined as “a feeling of admiring someone or something that is good, valuable and important: a feeling or understanding that someone or something is valuable and should be treated in an appropriate way”. Take a moment to reflect to see if you treat yourself with respect. Keep in mind that the way we allow others to treat us also has to do with how much we respect ourselves.
You are allowed to say no if you do not want to do something. You have the right to experience and seek out healthy love and belonging. You are deserving of good things, of recognition, and of support. If there are people in your life that consistently violate boundaries that you have set, it is time to begin to honor yourself and communicate in a healthy and respectful way what you need and what you want.
Let’s take a moment to discuss boundaries, as it is crucial to understand the role they play as we move through the conversation of honoring yourself. Boundaries are basically established “lines in the sand” that keep us safe. There are different type of boundaries; physical boundaries, such as fences, walls, doors, even our “personal bubble” that is largely determined to be around a four foot parameter around our physical body—or the length of your extended arms—is generally where we feel comfortable around other people. An example of when you know someone has crossed it when you notice someone is standing way too close behind you in the checkout line. These physical boundaries are generally accepted and respected, and it is commonly acknowledged when someone has a reaction when these physical boundaries are crossed. Unless you are invited to cross this physical boundary, you are not welcome, and that is ok.
Emotional boundaries are harder for humans to communicate and establish. Many people struggle with not upsetting others, a desire to be accepted, or feel like they do not have the right to set emotional boundaries with others. The result of this struggle may show up as symptoms of depression, anxiety such as excessive worry, excessive and pervasive sadness that is beyond the normal range of the normal feeling of sadness; feelings of frustration, irritation, and of burnout. Emotional boundaries sound like, “I do not like it when you do this”, or “I feel…” or “I need…”.
So when we are talking about honoring yourself, you must reflect on your boundaries. Is there work to be done in that area? Most of what counseling is comprised of is simply noticing what we spend a lot of time trying not to notice or feel. Reflection of the self leads to increased insight – this simply means, when we look at ourselves without judgement or criticism, and we just notice what is happening within us, we may begin to start realizing how things are tied together (that’s insight). When we do that, we are now cooking with fire! It is an amazing and empowered place to be, because it is as if we have begun to turn the lights on in a tunnel that was once dark. It is a great foundation to continue to build on as we move through our emotional growth.
Any work that we do to improve our human experience is work worth doing. Remember that it is called work because it may not be easy at times, but it will pay off in the long run. As always, do not be discouraged, and if you need support, consider seeking out a counselor that can help you walk through establishing boundaries so you, too, can begin to honor yourself.