The secret to feeling good about yourself

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I think I’ve stumbled upon a major secret to feeling good about yourself.

And by major secret, I mean it’s always been hidden in plain sight.

It’s directly in contrast to our primal survival wiring, but it’s something proven over and over again in social experiments and probably in our very own experiences.

If you want to feel good about yourself, the answer is not in GETTING anything for yourself, but the answer is in…

GIVING to others.

I recently read a line in a book about a group of kids from a poor neighbourhood who, while not having much, were mentored to work voluntarily at some organization in their community every month for the whole time they were in school. Unlike many other kids in this neighbourhood, these kids went on to do good things for themselves and for their communities. They all said that the early-in-life giving had caused them to believe they had real worth in life, and it brought a sense of purpose and meaning to their lives.

Something about the last sentence structure flicked on lights for me: giving and worth.

As someone who used to tie my self-worth to how I looked or how much I weighed, this message sank deep. I tied my happiness and worth to what I could get from others: appreciation, approval and validation (based on how I looked). Thinking that this will make me feel good about myself.

Well I can tell you that didn’t work. No matter what lovely things people told me, I still felt like crap.

But giving…

By thinking about what you can give, by recognizing what you can do and contribute to the world – you get a real sense of purpose to life. You see your part in the world as opposed to seeing how the world revolves around you, and you see your value going way beyond the superficial and impermanence – that is the form of your body.

You put yourself to work on something that will serve more than just yourself, you see you have value to offer that the world desperately needs, and then it becomes much easier to see… that the shape of your thighs and the flatness of your belly really doesn’t affect the work you have to do at all.

Give it a try.

Think deeply about what you’d like to do or create if money wasn’t an issue. What would you do even if nobody asked you to do it? What would you do anyway simply because you wanted to do it?

I’d bet that whatever answers come up for you will not only bring you joy personally, but will also give back to others or the environment in some way, no matter how small.

And that truly is, the secret to feeling good about yourself.

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