After declaring this the Year of Self-Love, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about it — like, way more than I’ve ever done about any topic before. When you start looking for something (or, in some cases, the lack of something), you see it everywhere. That’s what’s been happening to me over the past few weeks. Self-love (or lack of it) is in everywhere, connected to everything. It impacts every single aspect of life in every single person, which is pretty crazy, as far as writing topics go.
At times it can feel overwhelming, the idea of transforming (or trying to transform…) every aspect of the self. But it’s also kind of liberating as well. There’s a freedom that comes with knowing that, though you don’t have control over so many aspects of your life, there are still things you can positively influence.
That being said, it’s still a ton of things to work on, and the only way to take on a huge project, in my opinion, is to break it down into manageable bits. So that’s what I’m planning to do — to pay attention to the parts of self-love that jump out at me each week and share them in some way here (while, of course, bringing positivity and awareness into the mix!). What’s been coming to the forefront this week is wanting.
The word “want” has two main definitions: (1) have a desire to possess or do something; and (2) lack or be short of something desirable or essential.
That feeling of desire — and of lack — is one of the things that stands in the way of self-love. And the more I started paying attention to the idea of wanting, the more I realized how much I was doing of it all the time. I started keeping a list, writing down all of the things I thought or said I wanted over the course of a few days, and it was kind of astounding how lengthy it got. Here’s a sample of some of the things I wrote:
- I want a the newest iPhone.
- I want to see wolves in the wild.
- I wish I had this cute sweatshirt.
- I want to declutter my apartment.
- I want a German Shepherd.
- I wish I had better filming equipment.
- I want the new Ban.do products.
- I wish I had a new book contract.
- I want to read the book Chasing Slow.
- I want to make more money.
- I wish I had some Tate’s cookies.
- I want this shirt in my size.
- I wish I could afford this class.
- I want to create a newsletter.
- I wish I had these silver sandals.
- I want to donate more money.
- I want all Adam J. Kurtz‘s stuff.
Most of these desires were “someday” types of things — “I want a German Shepherd one day” or “I could really use a new phone so I don’t keep getting that damn ‘Storage Almost Full’ message” or “I’m trying to keep only healthy food in the house but I could really go for a cookie right now” — and some aren’t even inherently bad. But, even if it didn’t feel as if my life was majorly lacking without those things (i.e., I wasn’t really bemoaning the fact that I couldn’t get a new dog at that moment), I had to wonder:
What is all this wanting doing to how I feel about my life and about myself? Do these thoughts — even if they don’t make me feel as if I’m lacking as a person — have a negative impact on my sense of self? And, more importantly, would I have wanted these things had I not seen them online, by complete and utter chance?
We all see so many images all day, every day, and many of them make us want something other than what we have — whether that be a physical product (like this cute notebook!) or an abstract concept (like love, success, etc.). I know not everyone might be exposed at the level I am — I’m a bit obsessive with social media and follow tons of brands and people who create cool things so I see a lot of stuff and ideas every day — but I still think most of us have those “I want…” or “I wish I had…” thoughts at least once a day.
All wanting isn’t bad, but the idea that I’m wanting so much, all the time, even in subtle little ways, seems very at odds with the notion of loving one’s self. Instead of celebrating all that I have, I find myself looking for new things to desire, and, while the desire itself isn’t negative, it’s often misdirected (and often does so in a way that negates self-love, positivity, and mindful acceptance). Desiring things absent-mindedly or by default isn’t the best way to create a life you love.
So, what do we do about this? We’re obviously going to want things (and by “things” I also mean people, ideas, jobs, achievements, feelings, etc.), and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that at all — so long as we’re wanting them for the right reasons and so long as they will, in fact, provide us with what it is that we desire. And that’s where the solution comes in. We have to examine what we’re wanting and we have to determine if it’s real.
Actually figuring out what we want (and whether we’ll get it from the thing we desire) isn’t always the easiest, but it doesn’t have to be too tricky. I made the worksheet above to help me sort through my own wants this coming week, and I’m sharing it with you so you, too, can track what you want.
My challenge to you (and myself!) this week is to do the following, using the worksheet:
- Pay attention to every time you find yourself thinking or saying, “I want” (or some version of it, like “I wish I had…”). Write what you want in the first column. (If possible, try to keep the list private so that you feel free to write whatever you’ve been wanting without any fear of judgment.)
- Reflect what you wrote in column 1. What makes you want that thing? What do you think will happen if you get it? If you don’t? Is it something that will have a positive impact on your life?
- Dig deeper. Consider whether this is something you do, in fact, really want or if it might be a reflex or habit. (For example, if a beloved brand comes out with a new line of something, do you actually want it or do you just think you do because you always get the newest items.). Also, assess whether the desire yours or if it’s based on what you think you should want or what someone else wants. And, of course, consider whether this item is, in fact, a symptom of something bigger that you want. (For example, you want a new lipstick because you want to feel pretty because you want to be confident. Could it be possible to desire — and pursue — confidence directly?)
- Contemplate whether this item is a solution to a problem. For example, let’s say you want a new notebook because you think it’ll be a great inspiration for keeping organized this year. The last column is where you can determine if that specific notebook is, in fact, necessary to get the result you want. Do you already have a notebook you could use? Is there a notebook that might fit your needs even better? Is this really about a notebook or is it about motivation or organization or something even deeper?
Reflecting on — and, in many cases, adjusting — our wants is an essential aspect of self-love. What we want (even if we don’t end up getting it) influences how we feel and think and act. For me, it’s often a default setting. I see something cool and my first thought is, I want that! I don’t always (or often…) purchase something simply because I want it (as I used to, when I was younger and hitting up the mall on an almost daily basis), but that reflex is still in place, and I honestly don’t think it has a very positive impact on me.
I thought learning to control my spending impulses was a great act of self-love and I feel proud of myself every time I don’t spend frivolously. But I think I can — and should — take it further, to break not just the habit of mindless spending, but also the habit of mindless wanting. Hopefully this worksheet is a start of a new way of seeing my desires — and, if you’re like me and struggle with the conflict between wanting and self-loving, I hope it’ll help you, too!