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The Baby Picture

I used to tell my students that they should keep a photo of themselves as a baby displayed on their nightstand, dresser, or other prominent place. The statement always managed to garner some strange looks, which, in my case, wasn’t unusual. But once I went on to explain my reasoning, most of them understood. And agreed.

You see, it is virtually impossible to look at the sweet, angelic face of an infant and feel anything other than happy thoughts. There is no denying that a baby is precious. We are overwhelmed by the need to entertain and delight the child, and, certainly, to provide comfort, a sense of security. Would we ever consider uttering harsh words or criticism as we interacted with an adorable toddler? Would we be unforgiving or unkind? No, of course not. So when we are tempted to engage in negative self-talk or to think of ourselves in a critical way, a photographic remembrance of our innate innocence serves as a reminder of who we once were, before life wrote on the tablet of our lives. Deep inside, we are all still precious children. I think we forget that.

We are all born with a gentle spirit, surrounded only by loving awareness, the sweet memories of heaven brought with us to earth. But the more we live, the further we move from our essential nature, influenced instead by the world and experience. We internalize a lot of the judgment or shame that we have been given as children or through interaction with others. We strive to please, longing to find acceptance from those we encounter, all the while forgetting that accepting ourselves is more important. And as a result, much of our intrapersonal communication, the thoughts we have about who we are, are riddled with doubt, fear, and self-recrimination.

I sometimes think that this can be more damaging than any negative contact we might have with those whom we encounter. After all, if we are unable to love ourselves, then, how can we expect to be loved or love others? If we are capable of breaking our own hearts, then, how can we guard anyone else’s? We practice kindness through a bit of self-care. It makes sense in the pendulum swing of logical thought.

Somehow, it is important to fully experience what we feel in order to get a true calibration of who we are. That which wounds us, is most important. And just as we are all so very different, what offends one person may seem harmless to another. Those clues can give us some insight into ourselves.

Interestingly enough, I think that what we readily give away is what we need the most. It is an ironic twist, isn’t it? So paying careful attention to both what you say to yourself and others, will help you to truly understand what your soul requires to find its place of joy and contentment.

When you love someone, you are committed to their growth. You simply want for them to be a better version of themselves, and you willingly do your part to help them achieve success. So if we are to engage in self-love, to evolve in who we are meant to be, we must treat ourselves with that same devotion and invest that same energy. Living can teach us compassion, and that begins with being kind to ourselves. Give yourself permission to make mistakes and to learn from them. Above all, take good care of that child that lives within you. And by all means, find a picture of yourself as a baby just to remember how adorable you are!

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