This week I thought I’d write something about encouragement, and why it is vital for us as human beings and as spirits in a human vehicle. Encouragement seems to be rather overlooked in this fast-paced, achievement orientated world. You’d think it wouldn’t be but from my experience it is. Not only is a little bit of encouragement necessary from others but it is also, and probably more important that we learn self-encouragement.
So, what actually is encouragement? The Oxford Dictionary defines it thus:
The action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope. Persuasion to do or to continue something.
Secondly, why do we need it? In my experience encouragement is important for our souls. Life is a hard, miserable slog without encouragement isn’t it. Without it we get weighed down and sometimes end up not knowing whether we’re on the right path or not, or whether the work we do is appreciated or good enough. Of course some might say that being given encouragement just strokes the ego and maybe it does some times but a world without any encouragement is bland at best and gunmetal grey at worst.
Moreover, when we have those periods of barrenness in our lives, and for some (like me) who suffer from clinical depression, a bit of encouragement goes an awful long way. It helps us to have hope in a new day with new opportunities and possibilities.
For me, encouragement is tied closely with compassion. How can we have compassion for someone and fail to give them a bit of heartfelt encouragement? The two go together like toast and marmalade (ok, maybe not if you hate marmalade but you know what I mean).
So, what about self-encouragement. After all we are usually pretty good at giving it to others but when it comes to ourselves we tend to falter. Again, it is closely tied to nurturing ourselves. Most often we are so busy looking after everyone else that we forget about ourselves, forget to encourage ourselves. So how can we do this important thing?
Some things I have found extremely helpful in my goal of learning to self-encourage is to use affirmations. They are even better if you write them yourself – keep them simple and keep them in the present tense. Be kind to yourself. If you’ve achieved something, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, tell yourself how much you’ve achieved, after all it is important to give yourself a pat on the back. Sometimes we really struggle with the small things and when we achieve them it is something to crow about believe me.
Another thing that has helped me in self-encouragement is NOT to compare myself to others. Ok, I admit I’m still working on this but mostly, when I stop comparing myself to others then the things I do and achieve have more meaning. It really doesn’t matter what other people are doing does it? Not in the grand tapestry of life that you yourself weave. It doesn’t even matter if other people think what you do is insignificant – have a bit of faith in yourself and your achievements because they matter to YOU!
STOP with the ‘shoulds’ and the ‘ought to’s’ already! Banish them from your vocabulary because they are definitely the enemies of encouragement. As long as we try we cannot fail. In fact I think we should possibly banish ‘failure’ too from our word packages. If ever there was a word that is so DIScouraging it is that one.
Look to nature – go smell that rose you pass on your way to work, look at the trees in bud, glory in the pussy willow just bursting forth its furry little buds, stroke your cat, watch him or her at play, watch a sunrise, go feed the ducks…in fact go out and enjoy natures whether it’s your own back yard, a local park or a forest.
Foster a climate of positive feedback in your home, your work place, your pagan community. There is still so much negativity about and it is up to us as individuals to do something about it. Remember like attracts like and that goes for encouragement too!