When we think of taking care of ourselves, what comes to mind?
Pumping up at the gym?
Ordering the chicken salad at lunch over a cheeseburger?
Jogging every morning at the crack of dawn?
These methods of self-care are important (of course and we SHOULD take an active interest in our own health), but even MORE important is keeping our minds nourished and focusing on our emotional fulfillment. We need to work on what’s in our heads and our hearts before we even start to worry about the size of our ass or the flatness of our abs.
Here’s the secret—if your head and your heart are healthy and aligned, the rest of your body will follow. It’s all about your emotional state and getting right within yourself. When you are engaged with yourself, when you’re growing, learning and working to get your needs met, you will start to love and care for yourself. You will start to nurture yourself.
What happens when we’re nurturing to ourselves? Just like a mother nurtures her child, we WANT to feed and nourish ourselves in a healthy way. We meditate. We spend time working on our spiritual and emotional growth and fulfillment. We don’t zone out on soft addictions. We spend time doing the activities that make us feel good. When we love ourselves, we’ve discovered the importance of self-care to meet our own needs.
Suddenly that hole we’re trying to fill in ourselves isn’t there. We don’t reach for the fries. We don’t reach for the milkshake. We don’t view 5AM spin class as a method to punish ourselves into being who we want to be. We don’t “eat our feelings,” drink to escape, or bury ourselves in our work.
We can work ourselves into a sweat at the gym. We can set fitness goals and train for years, but if we aren’t working on the stuff underneath—the real stuff—we will never find true health and happiness.
Sometimes you meet a person who just has “it.” You know what I mean? You meet them and go, “Wow.” This is someone who stands out and gets noticed—maybe they’re in terrific shape and you can tell they really take care of themselves, but you aren’t noticing only their physique. It’s as the French say, that je ne sais quoi (literally that “I don’t know what”).
What you’re noticing isn’t stunning beauty. They might not be the best-looking person in the room, or even conventionally attractive. What you’re noticing is his or her level of engagement. People who really stand apart from the crowd, light up a room and draw others in do it because they are fully engaged and dynamic. People are interesting because they are interested.
It’s got nothing to do with looks or being in top physical form. It’s not about being the best dressed, having the most expensive suits or a designer dress. It’s not even about confidence.
Here’s the deal with confidence—Confidence is an illusion. It’s bullsh*t. We project confidence onto someone because they appear to be more confident or competent than we are. They seem to exude a quality we don’t see in ourselves. Confidence is a trick brought on by preparedness and ease in a situation. People who appear truly confident (not ego-centric, but self-assured) are rarely that way naturally. More often, they’re simply prepared. They understand their role in the game and are ready to do their best. If you want confidence in a meeting or on a date, it’s as simple as preparing beforehand. Know what you’re doing before you walk in. It’s that simple.
Whether it’s a job interview, a board room or in our social lives, if we want to be engaging and interesting, we must be engaged with and interested in others. Not because we’re hoping for reciprocity or because we have an agenda. We must aim toward authentic, genuine interactions.
So many of us go into interactions with a false self, as Nietzsche discusses, we have a false consciousness and sense of morality. We are all frauds. We’re protecting our false-self. We’re wandering around interacting with others and giving in a way that may appear unselfish. We may even BELIEVE our own BS and think we ARE unselfish.
In reality, we’re acting in a way to get those around us to fill the gaps in our needs and yearnings. We may think we’re acting unselfishly, benevolently and kindly. We may think we’re interested in others and engaging out of a genuine desire to get to know them, but for most people we are really bargaining to be “okay”—to fill holes that aren’t being acknowledged. We want others to like us. We want others to help us be listened to, respected, acknowledged and loved. We think we can scratch their back and they’ll scratch ours. If I appear to listen to you, you’ll listen back.
The problem is, if I haven’t taken responsibility for my needs at some level, and my needs are being met—If I’m not genuinely present with my needs, then who the heck am I to think I can authentically engage with you in meeting both our needs?! That isn’t genuine, authentic engagement.
Step one in your transformation to a life of deeper fulfillment is to learn how to yearn. We talk a lot about needs, wants and yearnings, but they’re certainly not interchangeable.
There’s something vaguely old-fashioned about the term. It has an Old Testament ring to it. Or sounds like what a heroine in a Victorian novel might say as she stares out the window of her gothic tower waiting for a lost love to return. As a result, you probably haven’t used “yearn” in a sentence recently. It feels awkward on your tongue, uncertain in your mind…and hardly the dynamic power and fuel of transformation.
When we talk of transformation, we are not talking about a formula but rather about something deeply personal that emerges from within—a unique, new you. Take a moment to reflect upon what you yearn for. Let your mind go blank and listen to your heart. Imagine if your soul had a voice and could articulate what it wants most in the world. Or, more simply, consider what you desire deeply, what would turn your good life into a great one.
Still nothing? That’s okay. Yearning is a natural capacity you can develop.
Or maybe you’ve come up with a list of things you yearn for that are actually wants—you “yearn” to be rich, you “yearn” to travel around the world, you “yearn” for freedom, you “yearn” to have your boyfriend or girlfriend agree to marry you, you “yearn” for a gigantic television. It’s okay, too, to mistake wants for yearnings—we all do it, but it rarely leads to transformation.
The good news is that we know what you yearn for—and it’s exactly that yearning that generates transformation. The things you yearn for are the same things that everyone in the world yearns for. Specifically, we yearn:
To love and be loved
To be seen
To achieve mastery
To be affirmed
To connect with a higher power.
–Transformed! The Science of Spectacular Living
These yearnings are universal. We can identify them within ourselves and get in touch with them. Once we recognize them, and understand them, we are opening ourselves up to much greater possibilities.
When we start to uncover and discover our yearnings, we learn how to care for ourselves MORE. We learn how to seek out and ask for what we yearn for. It’s about taking care of yourself first. We learn to open ourselves up to the adventure of life, to engage and see our interactions with others not as a step to blindly fulfill our wants and needs, but as ways to share emotions to meet yearnings and discover enriching, deeper connections.
It’s exciting when we realize how close many of us are to starting our transformation. For many of us the desire to love ourselves, to live a life with purpose and to reach our full potential is very strong. It drives us, but we allow doubts to creep in.
We tell ourselves we don’t deserve fulfillment. We believe lies about ourselves we’ve been told for years—perhaps even since we were kids. We take the familiar route, not because it’s easy, but because we’re afraid to take the emotional plunge.
It’s time to stop being afraid. Living a life with purpose will bring you the fulfillment you desire. Finding your reasons, finding love for yourself—a caring and ability to nurture yourself—is powerful, tangible, visceral. It will give you that certain “something” when you walk in a room. It will make you far more attractive, “confident” and interesting than hours at the gym or trips to the spa could give you.
If you’re ready to care for yourself more and start living a life of purpose, please read more at The Wright Foundation to learn about upcoming events, opportunities, and ways to connect with coaches who can help you discover the life you want today!
Dr. Bob Wright is an internationally recognized visionary, educator, program developer, leadership and sales executive, best-selling author and speaker. He is a co-founder of Wright and the Wright Graduate University.
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The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.