Oprah

A Theology of Self-Love

Thank you for letting this be a place where I process all kinds of things, even theology, as it pertains to our relationships.  I think it's important to do so since so many of us have roots in worldviews that come with the "stamp of God" on them. And those beliefs, whether we still believe them or not, impact us, which impacts our relationships with others. In a recent interview Oprah had with Jack Kornfield, a Buddhist teacher and American author, he made this observation:

"Our western culture has produced a society of epidemic loneliness and self-hatred."

Oprah & Jack Kornfield

One of my keynote talks is titled "Loneliness:  The Surprising Epidemic of the Busy & Social Woman" where I speak to what I believe is a world full of women who are scared of loneliness and therefore missing the information that loneliness offers.  It is far more prevalent than most of us dare to admit. That Jack mentions self-hatred as a sister epidemic is equally powerful, intrinsically connected, and incredibly relevant to those of us who value healthy friendships.

Most of us would recoil from the idea of self-hatred, but that doesn't necessarily make us good at self-love.

Since it's nearly impossible to connect meaningfully with others if we don't like ourselves; and because, conversely, I've found it's harder to forgive ourselves and show compassion to ourselves if we haven't practiced giving it to others-- we must talk about self-love when we talk about loving others. The two are definitely linked.

Some World-Views Resist Self-Love

Some women actually have some resistance to the idea of self-love, confusing it with vanity, arrogance, or narcissism. Whether it's gender roles, religious systems, or a false understanding of humility, many of us have been taught to love others without regard to loving ourselves.

To illustrate, in response to a status update about how excited I was to be interviewing Christine Arylo* (a friend of mine, and author of Madly in Love With Me who has been affectionately dubbed "The Queen of Self-Love") about ways we can all step into greater self-love this month of February, someone wrote this comment on my post:

"The more one who loves Christ, the more one will be drawn to be more like Him. Should that not be our goal. Also, the more we look to Christ, the more we shall distrust self."

First, it bothers me deeply to have anyone think that it's good for us to ever distrust ourselves, or imply that we shouldn't focus on loving ourselves; but you add cloaking it all in religious garb and I had a visceral reaction.

As I began framing my response, my husband wondered out loud if I shouldn't just leave it alone, reminding me that I can't go changing how everyone thinks.  I paused for a thoughtful moment, and then concluded that I, in fact, couldn't ignore it. Not this time.

Theology, or World-View, Affects Our Relationships

The former pastor in me cringes when I hear any picture of God being propagated that doesn't end up leading to greater love. Greater love for the divine, yes; but also greater love for others, for the planet, and for ourselves-- all things that Christians believe God created. In fact the Bible says "Love your neighbors as yourself!"

Self-love is actually made up of self-honor, self-respect, self-care, self-esteem, self-compassion-- and a lot of other things that my picture of God would want us all to have in vast supplies.

My picture of God, rooted in origins of Christianity, teaches that God wants us to have "life abundantly" that is filled with the "Fruits of the Spirit" which includes things like more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.

Any belief system that doesn't line up with making me more of those things is strongly suspect. Whatever name you might possibly use to describe the "More" that is out there, I hope your picture of that which is sacred, expands your life, rather than shrinks it.

In fact, going on a little rabbit trail for a moment, the science of behavioral kinesiology highlights this truth for us in a very practical and real way.  In learning that our muscles instantly become weak when the body is exposed to harmful stimuli, psychologists and scientists have been able to test perceptions, worldviews, and spiritual beliefs with the effects those words and concepts have in our bodies.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that the emotion that weakens the body more than anything else is shame. Just think about how little energy you have when you feel safe-hatred. Only slightly more powerful than shame, is guilt, followed by apathy, grief, fear, desire, anger, pride, and then courage.

Courage calibrates at 200 on the Map of Consciousness which is the tipping point toward strength.  It is of no coincidence that emotions such as willingness, acceptance, reason, love, joy, and peace (pretty similar to the Bible's list of fruits of the spirit!) make us stronger.

Any church, picture of God, or theology that uses shame, guilt, or fear to teach or "motivate" is actually weakening our bodies, shrinking us, and literally making it less likely that we'll ever become more loving people.

And I'm pretty sure that becoming more loving should be the point of any religious system.

My Theology Affects Me

But if I spoke out every time I heard damaging theology then that in itself would be a full-time (and very exhausting!) job.  So what provoked me this time?

Because it spoke directly to a place where I have been wounded before.

Several years ago, I was doing some intentional self-growth work, trying to increase my awareness around any self-limiting beliefs I might be acting from and the one that kept popping up for me personally was, "I am not worthy." (For others of you it could be other variations such as: I am not loveable, I am not safe, or I am not powerful.)

I resisted it, not really resonating with it, and so not wanting it to be true.  My self-confident little ego voice said, "That's crazy! I know I'm worthy!"  Where would I ever have picked up such a self-defeating and silly belief?

A week later I was visiting a friend and went to her church with her.  Imagine my horror when the worship leader on stage prayed, "Oh God, we're not worthy!  We're not worthy to be your sons and daughters...."

And it hit me.  I probably had heard versions of that throughout childhood-- this picture of humanity being evil, bad, untrustworthy, and unworthy of any of God's goodness.  How could it not have affected me?

The belief that I may not be worthy not only leads to a very denying, punitive, and condemning God, but it leads to a negative self-image, as well.  Not owning my worth can be directly linked to me not charging the prices I am worth, not asking for what I need in my relationships, or not believing I am worth being taking good care of by others and my self.

But I know now that I am very worthy.  BECAUSE I am a child of God, I am worthy.  All by myself, without me doing or saying or believing anything, I am valuable, worthy, and loved. The spark of God that lives in me ensures that I am worthy.

To be clear, I believe Christianity is an incredibly expanding worldview, just not the way it's always presented...

Some Christians are so afraid that to own our worthiness we might become entitled, unappreciative, or putting ourselves as gods.  In my experience, that can't be further from the truth.  Knowing our worth helps us see the worth in others; and I for one, become more appreciative of my God who created an abundance of love and goodness for me to keep living into and aligning myself with.

Shame has No Value in Loving Relationships

I hope your story is different from mine. I hope you have felt worthy your entire life.  And I hope that you have no resistance to loving yourself well.

But if you sense hesitation, shame, or fear, I hope that you'll take the time to examine your own negative self-talk and worldviews that might be limiting your ability to shine.

Because I believe so deeply that healthy and loving people create healthy and loving friendships, it's important to me that we--this community of women who value meaningful friendships--do the work of loving ourselves.

Let's practice being a best friend to ourselves so we can be it for others.  -------------------------------

* When I first met Christine Arylo, she intimidated me with her clear sense of calling and confidence. My temptation was to pull away from her so I wouldn't feel insecure or jealous.

Self Love Party Invitation

Instead, we've become friends. And I've become far more comfortable shining my own light in this world because of her modeling. We are now both in a group of women committed to supporting each other.  It is my honor to invite you to her upcoming free live-streamed event on Feb., 13, the International Day of Self-Love.  You won't regret taking the time to make a self-love promise to yourself this year.  And your self-love will give permission to others to shine brightly that we might all treat ourselves well so we can contribute to this world in the ways we're each called to do so.

 

 

Vulnerability, Weight, Nudity, and Judgment

I've been thinking about bodies, weight, and insecurities a lot lately. I was somewhat shocked when my last blog post ("The Judgment of Weight") skyrocketed to first place as the most read blog on this site. In hindsight, I shouldn't have been surprised as it hasn't gone unnoticed by me that nearly every woman's magazine puts the word fat or weight on their cover every single month. Clearly the subject sells.

And I know why.  We all want to be "acceptable."  Every single one of us goes through this journey called life trying, in our own ways, to "be enough," "prove valuable," and "feel loved." So certainly it would matter if we're told that there is something "wrong" with us.  Especially something so obvious to everyone else.

It's not my intention or training to talk about weight specifically-- whether we need to gain or lose, how to do it, why it's hard, or how it's affecting our health and longevity.  But from a relational perspective-- the judgment we have surrounding this issue has to keep being addressed. It's affecting all of us.

Your Weight Bothers Me

In some ways it doesn't seem to matter how public Oprah is about accepting her weight, how many Dove campaigns go viral, how many "over-weight" celebrities provide new role models, or how many more articles we read that emphasize health over weight-- we are still showing up with such deep judgments.

Less than half of the 1800 women who took the survey chose "neither" as their answer when asked to choose from pairs of words like ambitious or lazy to describe a woman they knew nothing about except that she was “overweight” or “thin.” (And in that particular question we were 11 times more willing to peg that imaginary woman as lazy!)

With two-thirds of Americans being overweight or obese you'd think we'd be more compassionate since the chances are high that if we're not personally in this category that someone we know and love is.  Ironic also that most of us claim we want to lose weight while simultaneously judging thin women as being superficial, mean, and controlling. If we believed that, why would we want to become that?

Those judgments are hurting us. Personally.

Not just because we risk dismissing potential friends because of our prejudice, though that's a strong reason to practice befriending those whose body types are different from ours.  But because we damage our own psyches when we judge others.

The judgments we are putting out there are the same judgments that are coming back and biting us in our ass--be it flat or plump. We think we might feel better if we devalue others,  but when we do, we are reinforcing the same judgments that we'll hold against ourselves.  We're putting energy out there that becomes our own critic, our own slave master, our own prison.

We cannot judge without feeling judged.  It's impossible. If we make the judgment about her, we're telling our brain that this belief is true to us. Which means that same brain will give us that message about ourselves.

What we say about others reveals way more about our own story than it does about theirs.  We are reacting to them from our own insecurities, fears, and doubts.

When we can't accept them it reveals that we can't accept ourselves. The two go hand-in-hand.

Getting Naked Literally and Figuratively

I felt a moment of that truth last week when a friend took me to a Korean style spa--a bathhouse where you wear the same thing you would if you were taking a bath at home. Ha!

The first two minutes are the worst.  Not used to disrobing in front of strangers (or my girlfriends who were with me, for that matter!) it does feel very vulnerable.

And then, it doesn't. Seriously.

A swimsuit just gives the illusion of being covered. Without it comes a freedom:  No sucking anything in, no pulling anything down, no adjusting anything, no worrying if it is in style, or flattering, or appropriate.  There was simply nothing to hide behind, nothing to judge, nothing to worry about keeping in place.

When we risk showing our scars, birthmarks, cellulite, rolls of fat, protruding bones, tan lines, faces without make-up, boobs without push-up bras, and wet hair-- we realize we're all way more alike than we seem to remember when covered with clothing.

To see one woman walk by with only a scar where a breast used to be--I was reminded how grateful I am for life.  To see one woman sitting on the edge of the jacuzzi with rolls of fat around her middle-- I found myself cheering for her courage, grateful for her acceptance, challenging myself to accept who I am, too.

As I accepted all the bodies around me for just what they were, letting go of any need to judge those who were willing to be vulnerable in the same space with me, a self-acceptance washed over me.

I felt beautiful even as I gazed at the parts of my body that can sometimes cause me shame.  I didn't feel it then.  I completely and totally accepted myself, even as my chest flattened when I laid on my back. Oh that we all had more moments where we could be that relaxed and at peace.

When I stopped judging those around me, I found it easier to give the gift to myself.

Or maybe it was when I first disrobed, proving I was willing to accept myself that I was able to accept all of them.

I don't know which came first. But I do know the two went hand-in-hand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To the Oprah-Haters and Other Women Who Devalue

Their conversation stirred me in a really deep and defensive way.  The example they set has now been forever etched in my memory as an illustration of who we can all become when we forget our own worth. On Sunday, in the Virgin Airlines terminal of Las Vegas, I overheard five women engage in a colloquy of criticism.  It began with one voice sighing, "ugh, you know who I hate? Oprah.  Who does she think she is?" and spiraled into ugliness at such an alarming rate. Apparently her weight, lesbian rumors, amount of money made, career choices, fame and personality were all somehow offensive to this group just shooting the breeze while waiting to board their plane.

Oprah Winfrey

Five adult women, presumably ending a girls weekend in Vegas, spent ten minutes spewing venom and anger toward someone I'd venture to guess that none of them have ever met. There is no need to repeat all the insults, only to say that it was eye-opening and heart-exhausting to witness them all participate in the hate-fest as though adding to the conversation made them each feel better somehow.

We Devalue Others-- Revealing Our Own Insecurities

As a student of relationships, I have long witnessed that we tend to devalue anything that threatens us.  We push down on others; hoping it raises us up.  It's almost as though we think life is a see-saw where only one of us can win.

I see it in break-ups frequently: the person that was most cherished only weeks ago is now criticized in an attempt to comfort us that we are better off without that person. As though we can't admit their worth and hold ours at the same time?

I see it in friendships where two women make different choices: the one who had the baby, took the job for money, decided to move away, chose a private school for their child-- both women, to hold the belief that they made the right choice, are tempted to devalue those who make an alternative decision.  As though we can't hold the belief that we could both be making the right choice for our lives, even if they look different?

I see it where there appears to be an inequality that provokes our jealousy: the person who seemingly has the fame, the power, the money, the happy family or the good looks receives the most criticism. Ironically we secretly want something they have, but instead of using their success as our inspiration, we attack them with our insecurities disguised as complaints. As though it's their problem for having what we want?

And therein lies the toxicity of devaluing: it says more about us than it does about them.

We Devalue Others--Heightening the Conflict in this World

If someone gave me a magic wand to make one wish come true, it would be to give us all the ability to see our own worth so clearly that we never had to treat people from our own fears and insecurities.

Think about it... What problem does this planet hold that couldn't be solved from our ability to see the value of each other? Of not needing to prove our worth? Attacking so we don't look weak? Devaluing another to justify our own choices? Putting up walls so we don't risk not being liked?  Not knowing our own worth and bestowing that gift on others is the cause of wars and political battles, inequality and injustices, suicides and bullying.

Ladies, I may sound dramatic.  But I'd argue that I have good reason to go there.  We don't have control over bombing other countries or solving all inequalities against gender, religious, sexual identity and race differences.  But we do have control over doing the hard work of holding a healthy self-esteem so that we can offer it to others.

We Devalue Others--Risking Significant Relationships

In a community committed to healthy friendships, it is important to me to challenge you to show up differently than those women.

  • I invite you to engage in conversation that ensure that others leave feeling better about who they are.
  • I invite you to own your insecurities.  When you see someone who has what you secretly want choose to be inspired by it rather than threatened by it.
  • I invite you to refuse to engage in any conversation that puts others down. Whether those others are people you know (i.e. your ex's, your family, your work colleagues) or people you may never meet (i.e. Charlie Sheen & the Kardashian sisters).
  • I invite you to do the work of holding firm to the belief that you are fabulous, talented and perfectly prepared to do your life calling.  You are enough.
  • I invite you to not see life as a see-saw, where someone else has to fall before you can rise.  There is room enough for all of us to be our best.
  • I invite you to give the freedom to others, including Oprah to do life her very best way even if you would do it differently.
  • And, I invite you to realize that if you want to bring change to this world, more people are transformed by affirmation and grace than by criticism and shame.

So, to the women in the terminal who felt they were in any position to judge Oprah, I say to you:

I'm totally okay with you not being an Oprah-fan, but I invite you to cheer for her as another woman doing the best she can.  I hope for you that you someday step into your own power and offer the world what you think she's missing. But cheer for her as she does her thing.  And I cheer for you as you do yours.  You are amazing.  You have worth.  As does she.

________________________

I'd love to hear your comments ladies!  Am I overreacting? Do you see your own tendency to step into devaluing others? What have you done to build your own self-esteem?

Oprah's Tears Encourage Our Friendships

While Oprah Winfrey is generally the one asking the questions, we've long known she's also wise in answering them. In Barbara Walters "Ten Most Fascinating People" special last Thursday, Oprah reflected on her life, her 25 years hosting the national Oprah show, her relationships and her legacy. The segment from that interview that seems to be garnering the headlines is the fact that Oprah teared up, requesting a tissue. And while teasers mentioning the lesbian rumors are effective for causing viewers to stay tuned, that would be missing the point of the tears.

Oprah Cries in Talking About BFF, Gayle Oprah's most emotional moment in the one-hour special came when asked to talk about her friendship with Gayle King. Barbara acknowledged how all women want, but few seem to have, the kind of friendship these two women share.

And in typical Oprah fashion, her reflections revealed three poignant lessons about womens friendship that must be fostered if we want friendships to mature.

  1. To Want Her Happiness: According to Oprah, Gayle has cheered for her success from the very beginning, celebrating Oprah's achievements with joy. "She was even happier than I was in those moments," said an awed Oprah. All of us want our friends to be happy, few of us want them to be happier than us.

    It is far too tempting for most of us to live from a place of jealousy, envy or competition. When we are discontent with our own lives, it is far easier to devalue others or begrudge them their joy than to take responsibility in finding our own contentment. Therefore, all too often the voice of fear we listen to says: If I'm overweight, I don't want you to become thin. If I'm single, I will feel worse if you find the love of your life. If my kids are causing heartache, it is simply too much to be happy for you that yours are making straight A's. If I hate my job, it becomes more difficult to cheer for you when you start your dream company.

    To live with a worldview that believes there is enough goodness in this world for both of us fosters friendship.

  2. To Log the Hours: A classic line in the interview was "For all the therapy I didn't have. For all the therapy I don't need, it is because of the thousands of hours in talking with Gayle." Both women could be amazing, healthy, joy-full women but if they weren't putting in the time, sharing their lives with one another then an intimate friendship they would never have.

    Only familiarity breeds friendship. It's why friendship felt easier in school or work--the regularity with which we saw the same people helped us feel closer. Now, with so many of us working from home, devoting our attention to our children and moving frequently, we have to be diligent to carve out the time to put in the hours for that friendship to develop.

    To live in such a way that we schedule consistent time to share life together in meaningful ways ensures intimacy in our friendships.

  3. To Affirm the Role: Oprah loves Gayle, no doubt about it: "She is the mother I never had. She is the sister every person would want. She is the friend everyone deserves. I don't know a better person." But when asked what provoked the tears after this statement, it was because Oprah questioned whether she had really told Gayle how much she meant.

    Amazing how easy it is to go through life assuming people know what an impact they have on us. And yet, as is true for most any worthwhile thing in life, it's not the attaining of something that is as hard as the keeping of it. Affirming people for their contributions, influence and inspiration in our lives bonds us more to the people we admire.

    To live with gratitude for the people who choose to journey with us shows that we see them for who they are in our lives.

Oprah has made her billions, given her millions and arguably changed the lives of just as many, but we'd be remiss to not notice that her tears were reserved for those she loved: Stedman and Gayle. May she inspire you to find your voice, live your best self and contribute to the world. But may her tears also inspire you to foster the friendships that matter along the way.