Too many people seem to believe that they are not allowed to put themselves first or go after their own dreams out of fear of being selfish or sacrificing others' needs. The Self-Love Experiment rectifies this problem. Whether you want to achieve weight loss, land your dream job, find your soul mate, or get out of debt, it all comes back to self-love and accepting yourself first. Shannon Kaiser learned the secrets to loving herself, finding purpose, and living a passion-filled life after recovering from eating disorders, drug addictions, corporate burnout, and depression.
Shannon walks you through her own personal experiment, a simple plan that compassionately guides you through the process of removing fear-based thoughts, so you can fall in love with life. If you want to change your outcome in life, you have to change your daily habits and perspective. Shannon takes you on this great journey into self-love and true self-acceptance.
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The Self-Love Experiment
Fifteen Principles for Becoming More Kind, Compassionate, and Accepting of Yourself
By Sharon Kaiser
Penguin Random HouseCopyright © 2017 Shannon Kaiser
All rights reserved.
Difficult Roads Lead to Divine Destinations
Today I am committed to caring for myself. I can look in the mirror and smile in gratitude for who I am and how far I've come. I can truly say, "I love myself." But it hasn't always been this way. I spent over three decades at war with myself. I hated my body; it was to blame for everything in my life. The failed relationships, the missed opportunities, the rejection and ridicule — it was my body's entire fault, so I thought.
For years I would pinch my extra skin, cry out into the dark night, praying for a thinner body, a different frame, a smaller stomach. I hated myself because I despised the way I looked. The majority of my thoughts were obsessive about how large, ugly, or unworthy I was. I couldn't look into mirrors without saying hateful words about how I felt. I thought my life would be better when I was "not me" but smaller, thinner, not so chubby, not thick or round. I wanted to change so badly, but every failed diet resulted in lower self-esteem, more guilt, and even more self-sabotage. Even when the diets worked (for a short period), when I lost all the weight, I still hated me. I thought I needed my body to change in order for me to have a happy life. But when it changed, my inner critic never did. I'd lose ten pounds and gain twenty. This continued for two full decades until I found myself almost a hundred pounds overweight and experiencing a complete disappearing act of self-esteem.
I found myself crying in the hotel bathroom, ashamed to look in the mirror. I was hours away from going on Seattle's morning television show to talk about my first book and sharing tips on how to be happy. I was teaching others how to be happy, but I couldn't find one good thing to say about myself. That was the moment when I realized something needed to change.
Sure, I was happier than I had ever been. A few years prior I had just barely made it through some major life changes. I left my corporate job in advertising, moved across the country, left a man who wanted to marry me, and overcame eating disorders, drug addiction, and clinical depression to follow my heart and become a writer. Here I was, living my dream life, but it still felt like a dream. I didn't recognize my body, or who I was. I wasn't fully in love with my life because I didn't love all of me; I didn't think I mattered. I spent so many years trying to help and be there for other people that I had sacrificed myself. My needs were never met. I wasn't living to my fullest because I still hated my body.
It was at that moment, when looking into the hotel mirror, that I made a promise to myself. I said, "Shannon, your full-time mission is to find self-love. It's time to become your own best friend."
The next few years I went on a deep inward journey, what I call the Self-Love Experiment, and I discovered the most beautiful thing in the world: Me Matters.
Me Matters is an acceptance of self and a knowing that you are perfect as you are, for the imperfections are what make us beautiful. It is years of trial and error, books, courses, and personal exploration refined and tuned into a solid guide, the fifteen principles to true self-acceptance and love.
The miracle came not in my body changing but in the change in my heart. I looked in the mirror and said, "I am committed to you. I am going to learn how to love you."
And in finding love for self, everything changed.
This book is the result of my exploration, which I use in my life and in my own personal coaching practice. Hundreds of clients and tens of thousands of readers worldwide have used these tools to help them be more compassionate with themselves and learn how to trust their own inner guidance. When you trust yourself, you make better choices. But in order to trust yourself, you need love.
After going through the Self-Love Experiment, I could finally accept myself for who I was, as I was. Learning how to love me has been the most difficult thing I have ever had to do. Not because loving yourself is particularly hard, but because I had to unlearn all of the things I was conditioned to believe about self-love: I can't love myself because it is selfish. I am not good enough unless I am a smaller size. I don't belong unless I lose weight. That I can't have what I want, or be successful, or be accepted, or regarded as attractive if I am overweight. I believed I couldn't love myself if I had weight to lose.
The thing is, I would lose that weight and nothing changed. On the outside, people praised me, complimented me. I was treated much differently, sure, but on the inside, I still disliked me, I still avoided mirrors. Weight was never the problem. I was still at war with myself within my own head. The battle persisted for thirty-plus years. Until I discovered the Self-Love Experiment, a revolutionary approach that I created out of a personal need to end the madness and discover a more compassionate way to live. I use to say things like "I will be a TED Talk speaker when I lose the weight," "I will travel the world when I drop fifteen more pounds," "I will start dating again when I lose thirty pounds." These "when I's" kept me from living my life in the moment. They kept me on the outside of my potential. It wasn't until I committed to me, through the Self-Love Experiment, that I discovered what self-love is: inner peace.
Today I love myself. I know how hard it is to live a life where you are at war with yourself. I know it can be hard to believe you are worthy of love and acceptance. I, too, once thought self-love was selfish, and I spent years avoiding my heart's desires because I didn't think my dreams mattered. All that changed when I discovered real self-acceptance. The Self-Love Experiment is about learning how to trust and love yourself. I retrained my brain to focus on loving me instead of condemning me. One step at a time I transformed my relationship with my self. It started with a desire to change. That spun from learning how to care for myself with compassion, which led to finding self-respect. In one of my favorite books, Living with Joy by Sanaya Roman, she writes about self-respect and knowing your worth:
What is required to feel good about the self is not the same from person to person. What you require for self-esteem is not necessarily what another person requires. It is important to discover what makes you feel worthy, confidant and happy about who you are. Self-respect at the highest levels comes from honoring your soul. This means speaking and acting from a place of integrity and honesty that reflects your highest self.
For most of my life I related to the world through my weaknesses. I felt ugly and overweight, so naturally I projected that out into the world. Learning how to love myself started with identifying my own set of beliefs about myself and removing ones that didn't serve me. I know personal development is not one-size-fits-all, which is why this book isn't going to tell you how to love yourself, lose weight, get out of debt, or find your soul mate. Instead I will give you tools you can apply to your life to make the most out of your life. And when you do this, what you want comes to you. My approach is much different. Why? Because if we want new results, we need to approach things differently. Because you've most likely tried the courses, gym memberships, diets, and books that say this is the way, and maybe it worked for a while, but you fell back into old patterns, beliefs, and habits that didn't align with your true self. Maybe you've tried to be more kind to yourself, and maybe it worked for a little while, but you want it to stick. Like real romantic love, falling in love with you is not a one-size-fits-all approach; sometimes it is fast and easy. Other times it is slow and steady.
I learned we first have to learn how to trust ourselves. This book is a road map and guide to be true to you, because with self-trust everything else can flourish. When you learn to identify your own value system and align with your own truth, you can stand proud in who you are and make choices with confidence and clarity. Most of us don't have a solid relationship with ourselves, so we lean on others for approval, we try to mask our insecurities with overdoing, overworking out, overspending, overeating, and at the end of the day we feel exhausted and tired. We don't have the energy to take care of ourselves, so we settle. We settle into bigger bodies, lower bank accounts, unhealthy relationships, lost dreams yet to be manifested, and we get comfortable being uncomfortable. This becomes our regular way of life.
The Self-Love Experiment serves to reverse this. Because deep within all of us is an inner drive to rise up and show the world that we really are magnificently beautiful in all our natural glory. You don't have to change yourself to fit in; the Self-Love Experiment is a revolutionary process to give you permission to be who you are, as you are. Imagine ending the endless battle against self, the little voice that says, "You messed up, you aren't where you are supposed to be, you don't belong, you are never going to figure it out, you might as well give up." It's time to let that little voice go. It's time to seriously let that little voice go.CHAPTER 2
The "When Is Tomorrow Going to Be Today?" Syndrome
Before I found self-love, pretty much my entire life I felt like I was waiting for my "real life" to begin. I spent the majority of my teens and early twenties trying to get out into the "real world." But once I landed my so-called dream job in advertising, it felt nothing like what I hoped. My doctor diagnosed me with depression, and I was suffering from eating disorders and drug addiction. I was still waiting for my "real life" to start. I longed to be a writer, but fears around letting go of all that I had worked for separated me from my "real life." Yet letting go of who I thought I needed to be in order to become who I really am was the greatest choice I ever made.
I finally got up enough courage to leave the advertising industry and find happiness free from depression, and here I sit several years later with three bestselling books and a booming business as a life coach and speaker. Yet every once in awhile I still feel like my "real life" is just around the corner. I am living it, the dream life I was waiting for, yet it doesn't always feel like my life.
My professional dreams have come true for the most part — the national TV appearance hasn't happened yet, nor has a famous actress played my life story on the big screen — but I've had half a decade of doing what I love.
That should be enough. But is it possible humans are conditioned to always strive for more? We long for tomorrows to help fulfill our todays. It's the "when is the tomorrow going to be today?" syndrome. Most of us have an elusive expectation as we wait for happiness to come in; meanwhile our life is happening now. So here I sit, living the "real life" I have been waiting so long for. When I pictured myself at this point, I imagined I'd be sitting next to Oprah, with Elizabeth Gilbert praising my latest literary wonder, on the TED Talk stage with a standing ovation at the end, and in a white dress barefoot on the beach with the love of my life.
These sweet visions still exist in my dreams. But they are not yet my reality. Is it possible our dreams distract us from reality? Here I am, living the life I spent years only dreaming about, but I can't shake the feeling that I am not quite where I think I should be. It's human to want what we don't yet have, and when we get what we want, we often skip right over the joy to keep going on to the next dream, always in pursuit of happiness. This book is about catching yourself, and instead of reaching outside of you for some far-off joy, you will learn how to cultivate a sense of self- awareness for joy in this moment. We will no longer allow our fear-based voice, the ego, to stay in the driver's seat, which is what happens when we focus on the destination more than on the journey, or we can turn our attention to the present, which invites in real happiness.
This constant quest for more, reaching for untapped dreams that live only in our hearts, burns to be realized, but before my Self-Love Experiment, it was never enough, I never felt whole. Every time we get what we want, we just turn our attention to the next big thing.
The real challenge is learning to see we are whole and complete in this moment. Just as we are sitting here right now, we are enough. Those dreams are nice to have, but they don't make or break us. Life is the process and unfolding of glorious challenges filled with moments of inspiration. We just need to recognize this truth.
When we get honest with ourselves, the painted version of our perfect life is often better than our reality because we imagine ourselves free of insecurities and flaws.
It's not just these experiences we aspire to have but also who we think we will become in those experiences. In our minds, most often we are worry free, thinner, smarter, richer, our problems are worked out, and we are free to just be.
Before I started writing this book I was, admittedly, still waiting for my ideal life to begin, but the Self-Love Experiment taught me how to enjoy the journey instead of wrapping my happiness up into some goal yet to be realized. Because the truth about transformation into the unknown is inevitable but manageable.
When I sat down to write this book, it became obvious that I would have to go deep into my own patterns to teach this method and really practice it to show that it works. In order to allow happiness in, I'd have to stop chasing life and accept that this is it. I learned the wanting will never stop, but when we want the future more than today is when we fall into problems. When the wanting turns out to be waiting, we fall into the "when is tomorrow going to be today?" syndrome. When we want something that is not yet here — a bigger bank account, a smaller body, our soul mate, the dream job, etc. — it puts a focus on lack. Instead of reaching for happiness in the moment, we feel inadequate because we have yet to reach what we aspire to, hoping it will come tomorrow. This is why so many diets fail, why some people who win the lottery go bankrupt, and why divorce and depression rates are so high. It's the lack mentality that keeps us from being present or achieving lasting results. And not just the lack from falling short of our goals but also from feeling unworthy of our desires in the process.
We all have certain habits that block us from being our best self. Many are unconscious or so ingrained in our daily routine that they often hurt our success at healing. Look at every experience as an opportunity to learn and grow.
If you really want to change your life, you have to try something radically new, which I did. Instead of resisting who I was, I looked in the mirror and said, "I accept you." Instead of wishing, hoping, praying for someone else to show up, I revised my thinking to accept what is. I chose to accept what I can't change. I looked in the mirror and said to myself, "Instead of hating you, I'm going to learn how to love you." I released the tension. I stopped the struggle.
We want to be farther along, in a different body, have more money and more recognition, more of anything we don't have. This constant push keeps us just on the outside of our potential; we can never truly reach our best selves when we deny ourselves the true experience of living in each moment. People often ask me if I regret having eating disorders earlier in my life, or if I wish I never went through depression. I always respond by saying I love that part of me. I needed to experience those lessons to become who I am today. I needed to experience a plus-size body to prepare me for my future self and lessons my soul wants and needs me to learn.
You agree to learn more about yourself by going through sometimes challenging situations. When we resist we deny ourselves the lessons available to us. Most of us try to get through the discomfort as quickly as possible. We feel stuck and want desperately to get unstuck, but sometimes the "stuckiness" is where we find results. Pema Chödrön says this beautifully:
In life we think the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem. The real truth is that things don't get solved. They come together for a time, and then they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart. It's just like that. Personal discovery and growth come from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for sadness, for misery, for joy.
Misery is self-inflicted; when we are expecting the idea to overcome the actual or needing things or people or places to be different for us so we can be happy.
Let the hard things in life break you. Let them affect you. Let them change you. Let these hard moments inform you. Let this pain be your teacher. The experiences of your life are trying to tell you something about yourself. Don't cop out on that. Don't run away and hide under your covers. Lean into it.
What is this storm trying to tell you? What will you learn if you face it with courage? With full honesty and — lean into it.
Excerpted from The Self-Love Experiment by Sharon Kaiser. Copyright © 2017 Shannon Kaiser. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Random House.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
The Self-Love Experiment Resources xi
Why This Book? Why Now? Xxi
Part 1 Beauty in Breakdown: There Is Purpose to the Pain
Difficult Roads Lead to Divine Destinations 15
The "When Is Tomorrow Going to Be Today?" Syndrome 21
Part 2 The Self-Love Experiment
The Magic of Self-Care 38
The Magic of Self-Compassion 53
The Magic of Self-Trust 62
The Magic of Self-Acceptance 68
Disappear Your Fear 75
Part 3 Surrender to What Is: The Art of Letting Go
Let Go of Trying to Get There 89
Let Go of the Fear That You Won't Be Accepted as You Are 94
Let Go of the Outcome 99
Let Go of Fear-Turn It into Fascination 104
Let Go of Thinking You Are Off Track or Behind 113
Part 4 The Journey is the Reward: Or at Least It's Supposed to Be
Appreciate the Struggle 125
Appreciate Where You Have Been and All You've Been Through 136
Appreciate Who You Are Becoming 147
Appreciate How You Look 152
Appreciate What You Have to Offer 157
Appreciate the Unknown and the Space in Between 171
Part 5 Me Matters: Show Up for Yourself
Show Up for Your Body 189
Show Up for the Experience 193
Show Up for Your Doubts 198
Show Up for Your Inner Child 205
Show Up for Your Dreams 209
Show Up for Joy 214
Show Up for Yourself 217
Show Up as You Are 221
Part 6 The Self-Love Principles
1 Accept Where You Are. It's Just a Point on Your Journey and Everything About It Offers the Possibility for Further Growth 231
2 Be Who You Needed to Be When You Were Younger 234
3 Thinking You Don't Have a Choice Is a Choice 239
4 To Get What You Want, You Have to Let Go of What You Don't Want 242
5 Strive Every Day to Be a Better Version of You 246
6 How You Feel Is More Important Than How You Look 249
7 Things Don't Happen to You, They Happen for You 254
8 When You Nurture the Inside, the Outside Will Flourish 257
9 The More You You Show, the More Your Life Will Flow 260
10 You Get What You Focus On 264
11 Your Dreams Are the Invisible Architecture of Your Life. Trust Them. Honor Them 267
12 Your Relationship with Yourself Sets the Tone for Everything in Your Life 271
13 When You Heal Yourself, You Help to Heal the World 274
14 You Are a Gift. Remind Yourself How Lucky You Are to Be Alive 277
15 Self-Love Is Not About How You Look or What You Do, It's About How You Live 280
Dear Me (A Letter to Your True Self) 283
We Are Clouds 287
Conclusion: It's All Perfect as It Is 289
Thank Your 291
The Self-Love Experiment Journal Prompts 293
Letters to Self 295