In 1998 Martin Seligman, in an address to the American Psychological Association, included in his speech the belief that, while psychology had competently researched areas such as illness and depression, and how to help heal these issues, more emphasis needed to be placed on what Seligman called “positive psychology.” Seligman defined this as
… a reoriented science that emphasizes the understanding and building of the most positive qualities of an individual: optimism, courage, work ethic, future-mindedness, interpersonal skill, the capacity for pleasure and insight, and social responsibility.
One of the areas included in positive psychology that I feel is over-looked in far too many instances is treating ourselves with the same loving kindness and compassion that we offer others.
Think about it. You see a person trip and immediately ask, “Are you OK? Can I help you? What can I offer that would make you feel better?”
You, yourself, trip, and regardless of the help offered to you by others, you say to yourself, “I can’t believe I was so clumsy. I am such a klutz! How embarrassing!”
So where, I ask you, is the same kindness, compassion, and care that you offer to others? This is something I consider to be an essential element of what we must offer ourselves: loving kindness. If we don’t take care of ourselves, who will? If we don’t speak up for our own needs, who might?
Learning this lesson, and realizing that self-care, anything done on a regular basis to help enhance or maintain overall health and well-being, is far from being selfish. In fact, it is necessary so that we can be our most effective selves, both personally and professionally.
Do I take my own advice to heart? The answer to that can be found as I tell you where I am as I write this article: outside, on a patio, enjoying a softly blowing breeze, while on a trip with college girlfriends. Friends I made almost 40 years ago. This, I maintain, is one of the nicest presents I can, or have, ever given myself.
We nine women are diverse in marital status, sexual orientation, financial abilities, and political views. We are different sizes and shapes; some are athletic, and others will not be persuaded to establish a consistent exercise program. Yet for all of our differences, to the core, we are exactly the same.
We love our families and friends, experience life-cycle events, both happy and sad and face life’s challenges as they are presented to us. And we know, without a doubt, that, should there be a need, there will always be eight other people who care about us, and what happens to us. We will be there in times of joy to help celebrate, and times of sorrow for support.
These women may not be my biological sisters, but they are my sisters, nonetheless. Yes, I have close family members who thankfully offer the same love and support, but that is still not the same as what these special women provide. These are the people who knew me when, displayed patience and care as I went through life’s trials and tribulations, and were with me when I found my way back to the light. They, like loving kindness, are an essential part of my life.
Today, and often, I thank Martin Seligman. We have never met, yet he has helped define a special and important part of my life from which I have found immeasurable strength and support. He named as important something that could have been considered a trivial indulgence, this yearly get-away with friends from college. But there is nothing trivial about what this trip provides.
I am thankful that a light shines on this experience, and others similar in nature, that will enrich the lives of so many. Any component of self-care is one that deserves to be valued.