Working as a psychologist and psychotherapist in Beverly Hills and Valencia, conducting marriage counseling and couples counseling with couples of all configurations and backgrounds proved to be a transformative experience for me. It truly helped me realize the many things we have in common. One of these things is the importance of appreciation and self appreciation in our relationships.
Let me share with you my personal caveat regarding appreciation. I come from a culture, no names mentioned, that does not believe in appreciation and praise. Since I did not have a chance to develop my appreciation skills early on, I had to be a quick learner. The ability to express my appreciation proved to be an essential skill not only for my relationships with others, but also for my relationships with myself. I had to develop the appreciation muscle to assure I could express praise and gratitude to those around me as well as myself.
While developing this appreciation muscle I had one profound realization. We have only one tool basket, and the tools we use in our relationships with others are the same tools we are using in our relationship with ourselves. For example, over-critical and harsh approach to others is always accompanied by an overcritical and harsh approach to self. By the same token, a loving approach to ourselves is likely to help us be loving and caring toward others. This is where I finally got it! You know how people say: “To love someone else you gotta love yourself first?” I finally got what it truly means.
This understanding had me take one more logical step forward and realize that if I ever want to be in a loving and wonderful relationship or marriage, I have to learn to love and appreciate myself. Not having gotten these skills growing up, I found myself on a journey of personal growth and spiritual awakening. I owned this not only to myself, but also to the Beverly Hills and Valencia couples that work with me in couples counseling and marriage counseling. Being a psychologist and a psychotherapist means carrying responsibility for those who come to you for help. I was ready for the next step on my path.
Our journey is expansively unfolding and as we progress through our accumulating life experiences we become more and more aware of how multifaceted and multitalented we truly are. Nobody is perfect, and at times we also learn about our shortcomings. Having the knowledge and experience of our magnificent complexity and depth is essential to developing a profound sense of grounded self-appreciation.
The best way I know how to achieve this in depth familiarity with ourselves is through choosing a spiritual path. I would like to emphasize that we are not talking about religion here – not at all. Even if you do practice a religious tradition, you have to pick a spiritual path within this tradition. My clients in Beverly Hills and Valencia are at times surprised hearing this from their psychologist and psychotherapist. Psychologists rarely address the topic of spirituality, however, it is one of the key human experiences. Many couples coming to couples counseling and marriage counseling seek a deeper bond with each other, a sense of connection and belonging, which touches the deeper layers of our being.
Spiritual path is your own personal journey of self-discovery and of making sense of the Universe you live in. We can only appreciate what we know and value. Spiritual path is the journey we take to discover our personal meaning of life, our place in the Universe, the purpose of our life journey, the things we value in life, and ,of course, who we truly are. Knowing who we are is a key toward the understanding and appreciation of ourselves.
Practices of connecting with our inner core offer another venue of self-discovery and self-appreciation. For example, such spiritual practice as meditation, in its vast diversity of approaches, offers a unique way of quieting our conscious mind and strengthening our contact with deeper layers of our psyche. For some, these internal practices are the golden road of self-discovery and self-appreciation.
Internally driven meditative practices are not the only way toward self-discovery. For some, externally driven path may be better suited. Action in all its forms is a powerful tool of self-discovery. When our thoughts, feelings, and behavior is geared toward creating good in the world, we are on the path of learning and spiritual growth, leading to self-appreciation. One of my spiritual teachers said to me once: “Give what you lack, and it shall come back to you.” Several of my clients in Beverly Hills and Valencia pointed out that this insight helped them transform their relationships and continue making it better after their couples counseling and marriage counseling was complete.
The last key element of developing self-appreciation is having an attitude of absolute integrity. Regardless of whether someone is watching or not, do the right thing. Your inner core knows what is right. Once you are doing the right thing every single time it is easy to have an attitude of self-respect and self-appreciation. Using the words of Don Miguel Ruiz: “Always do your best.”
Thus far we have talked about several key elements on the path toward self-appreciation: choosing a spiritual path, engaging in internally and externally driven practices of spiritual growth, and abiding by the principle of absolute integrity. Once you’ve made your choices, found the right practices for you, and committed to your spiritual path, self-appreciation is only one of your many blessings, including wonderful and fulfilling intimate relationships.