By Stephanie Stanton, ABC Program Senior Coordinator
One of my favorite parts of my job here at Mountainside is running the Personal Empowerment Group. There, I have my greatest chance of inspiring others to practice self-care and connect to what’s really important to them. Some of the topics we have covered in the group are: knowing how to trust ourselves, complaining vs. gratitude, and identifying our energy, among others. I have come to believe that when we are connected to what we value most (i.e. nature, family, peace, service, etc.) we are our happiest, most empowered selves.
A couple of days ago, I came across an article that talked about the root of addiction being the lack of connections and love. I let this sink in for a moment. As humans, we have a natural instinct to form connections with others and sometimes when we don’t have others we turn to things such as food, shopping, or even gambling. This really was an interesting point and made me think. In order to connect and love others, we need to first love ourselves, and that is not always an easy task. We tell ourselves that we can always be faster, better, or stronger. We often abuse ourselves for the “bad” things that we do, and we are our own biggest critics. We waste a lot of energy on self-hate when we could be using it to bring positivity, light, and love into our lives.
I recently had a moment where I had to practice my own methods of thought and coach myself through some uncomfortable feelings. The experience taught me a lot about myself and the person I have grown to be. I can now comfortably and honestly say that I am committed to focusing on what feels good: creating the positive energy I so often teach my clients about.
At a family gathering I was hosting, my husband decided that he would rather not have his brother’s wife around and asked them not to attend. As a person who deeply values love, connection, and family harmony, I felt anxious about the situation. I found a lot of old feelings and behaviors surfacing. I had a compulsion to change my husband’s mind, to force him to see the light and practice non-judgment. I felt an urgency to mediate, wanting to make sure that hurt feelings were spared and to demand that everyone get along so I could feel ok. I was momentarily caught in a mode of codependent thinking and feeling somehow that I was responsible for reconciling the situation. I noticed stress response changes in my body: muscle tension and a spinning mind.
Right then, I committed to remain free from the negative thoughts and feelings that can be all-consuming. Cheri Huber’s book There is Nothing Wrong With You talks about self-hate: what it is, how we do it, and how to overcome it. She describes it as “the ultimate addiction.” And just like that I’m brought back to the article I mentioned above. Without a sense of love and belonging, addiction is a lot more prevalent. For me to get involved and try to change my husband would have been wrong: I would have given into self-hating behavior. I am so grateful that I am now able to recognize how I feel in those moments and that awareness is such a gift. It is something I speak about to my clients and that I hope they take with them when the leave. It is my wish for you to continue to practice this committal as well. I have come to believe that my own power comes from a place of centeredness and self-love, and I knew that had to be my focus.
Years ago, this issue would have felt so much bigger, and today, it was a hiccup – just another opportunity to choose peace, love, and empowerment for myself. Some situations and problems are easy to let go while others are more difficult and take more patience and perseverance. But with a little practice you too can choose to empower yourself and be the best you that you can be.