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Love Yourself: The 90/10 Principle

Photo by Natalie Dybisz
Loving oneself is different from being arrogant, conceited or egocentric. Loving oneself means caring about oneself, taking responsibility for oneself, respecting oneself, and knowing oneself. ~Erich Fromm

I was going through a bad patch a while back. My self-esteem hit rock bottom, and nothing I did seemed to work. My relationships were a mess and my work was faltering. I felt unhappy and unsure of myself.

I have often wondered if The Mid-Life Crisis was smacking me. In retrospect, I think it was. And it was a good thing too, because I needed to change my ways a little.

Fortunately, my friends were there for me. While having coffee one day, a friend of mine lectured me, as good friends do when they’re tired of seeing you miserable.

She said “You’ve gotta love yourself before anyone else will love you”. Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard that all before, I thought.

You’ve probably heard people say that too.

It did get me thinking though. What does loving yourself really mean?

I remembered a wise man telling me that love is a verb. In other words, love is not a noun, a “thing,” a state that just happens to you. Love is a result of the loving things you do and the loving way you behave.

We all know that relationships don’t last when one partner says “I love you” but their behavior contradicts what they are saying.

Actions speak much louder than words.

So I knew I had to look at my relationship with myself:

  • Were the choices I made everyday based on loving myself?
  • Was I handling my emotions in a way I would handle them with someone I loved??
  • Did I think about myself in a way that reflected loving myself?

I decided I could do much better in all these areas. The obvious place to start was to change the self-talk going on in my head. So I worked on that, but I needed more…

I let the problem stew in my sub-conscious for a while (which is a polite way of saying I didn’t have the answer).

A few weeks later, while wandering down the hallway half-asleep in the middle of the night, a well-leafed book on my shelf seemed to jump out at me.

It was Steven Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective Families” — a book that my husband and I had referred to often while bringing up our 3 children, who are now in various stages of leaving the nest.I put it back on the shelf and returned to bed.

But at 3 o’clock in the morning, I suddenly woke up to the recollection of one particular chapter in the book, and realized it held the key to loving myself.

It was Steven Covey’s 90/10 principle.

Steven says that 10% of your life you cannot control. Traffic, grumpy bosses, spilled milk – these things happen.

90% of your life you CAN control – by how you react to the 10% you can’t. You can influence your attitudes, behaviors, thoughts, and words.

What was suddenly obvious to me was that 90% of my life was not working because I was not reacting to the other 10% in ways that were congruent with loving myself.

I realized that I had slipped into the habit of reacting almost immediately to what was happening around me without any attempt to control my reactions in any way. Because of that, my reactions were often negative and destructive andNOT in line with loving myself.

The book suggests widening the gap between an event and your reaction. In this space, ask yourself:

  • How can I respond in a way that adds value to my life and those around me?
  • How can I respond in a way that takes me closer to the big picture?
  • How can I react in a constructive way rather than a destructive way?

This was where I had to change. It was widening that gap between an event and my reaction that would allow me to choose action that would be a reflection of loving myself rather than a knee-jerk reaction of anger or frustration or some other negative emotion.

So I committed to changing my spontaneous reactions to more considered ones.

The question I paused and asked myself before reacting to anything was this: If I truly loved and honored myself, how would I react right now?

I didn’t always get it right but I persevered.

And, over time, I started feeling better and better about myself. I realized I felt more in control, and I was creating a life that served me better. The people close to me started reacting towards me in a more favorable way. Even the Universe seemed to be sending me happier experiences!

Obviously I would be happier if I could control all 100% of what happens in my life… But at least now I am much better at controlling my response to the 10% I can’t control. In the process, I’m adding immeasurable value to myself and to the people I love.

What about you? How do you deal with the 10% of life’s speed bump that you can’t control? What do you do to get out of a funk?

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About the author

Kirsten Long is a coach who takes people on a journey towards Self Mastery. She is passionate about personal transformation and shares her experiences and insights on her blog. Kirsten is currently offering TSN readers a Journaling Workbook that’ll guide you further along your personal journey towards loving yourself. Check out the Journaling Joys page.

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8 thoughts on Love Yourself: The 90/10 Principle

  1. To get out of a funk, I spend time by myself to process ‘why’ I’m in a funk. I’ll journal, meditate, and listen to music. I finally learned that I can’t control everything in my life. I learned to accept this. I may not like it, but I can accept that I can’t ‘control’ everything and everyone. I can only control me, my thoughts, beliefs, reactions, and emotions. Once you realize you have control over YOU, it will liberate you from the clutches of the ‘Control Monster.’ :)

  2. Mohan

    Completely agree with Amandah, well said. I’m too liberating myself from the “control Monster”, Once we are free, no one can control and life becomes ease as that of “air”, which leaded me to a new world of happy and satisfied World within me.

  3. Amanda and Mohan, thanks for your comments…. Accepting that we cannot control everything except our own reactions and beliefs is a big step towards living in contentment. Well done on the personal work you are both doing.

  4. I really liked this question from the article:
    “If I truly loved and honored myself, how would I react right now?”

    It seems like this question will be particularly helpful whenever I’m tempted to ‘people please’ and say yes when I really want to say no. Thanks!

  5. Kirsten Long

    Alison, thanks for your comment. I never thought of it in terms of people pleasing – and you are so right! I’ll remember that when I’m working with clients on this issue…

  6. Eric Cartman

    My mother died a few years back and I remember her important advice. Love yourself as no one else can , God helps those who help themselves .

  7. Hi Eric, thanks for your comment. Your mother sounds like a wise lady and her legacy is living on in you… so go teach others what you learned from her.

  8. I was well into my 30′s before I started to understand the principles of loving myself as a basis for building successful relationships, attracting positive energy from others, building self esteem, and banishing my inner critic.
    Up until then I just accepted feeling bad about myself and life in general.

    It then took me a long time to change my negative self beliefs, but what a different outlook on life and relationships opened up for me.

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