Happy 2016, Positively Present readers! I'm so excited to kick off this new year with you. There are so many exciting projects in the works for the coming months -- new books, new products, new projects, and more -- and I can't wait to share them with you! To begin the new year, I'm starting off with a new type of post: Reader Request. I often receive emails, Instagram comments, blog post comments, etc. from readers asking if I'd write about a specific topic. I love when I receive requests because it tells me what you want to read and it inspires me to explore topics I might not have considered. If you have a request, contact me and I may just write about it for you!
The first Reader's Request is a great one because it's a topic I've struggled with it a lot over the past year or so, but one I've avoided writing about (for a number of reasons): protecting your heart. ('Bet you guessed it from the title, didn't you?) A few weeks ago, I posted an image on Instagram featuring the words "Protect Your [Heart]," and one of my followers asked me if I'd write an article about how to actually do that. As soon as I read her comment, I knew it would be a great topic to write about -- especially because it's something I've struggled with personally.
I'll be honest: I'm not the best at protecting my heart. I love love so much that sometimes I don't always make the best heart-related choices. For example, I cling to romantic notions of what I think something could be and ignore what it is. I'm often so hopeful things will work out someday that I often avoid dealing with what's happening now. (Healthy, I know...) When it comes to love, hopefulness isn't always a bad thing, but sometimes I'm so frantically hopeful that I swing the door to my heart wide open when it might be better slammed shut.
Because, you see, a wide open door can lead to some negative consequences. A door left constantly ajar allows others to come and go as they please. When you don't push the door closed, others can (and will) call the shots. When you don't remember to lock the door, sometimes the wrong kinds of people can walk right on in. A lot of us have a hard time turning the lock because we fear missing out on a possibility of love (even if we know, deep down, that it's not right); or we think if we wait a little longer or try a little harder, something will change; or we believe if we close the door on someone, no one else will ever come along; or we assume if we let a lot of people through the door, one is bound to end in happily-ever-after.
Whatever the reason (and all of us open-heart-door types have them!), keeping the door to your heart wide open at all times can result in a lot of unnecessary pain and heartache. On the flip side, so can closing off your heart completely, but for the sake of this article, we're going to focus on how to protect your heart. (If you struggle with letting love in, check out Let Go & Let It In: How to Stop Being Afraid of Love.) Even though, admittedly, I'm not the best at protecting my own heart, here are some of the ways I've learned to keep watch over my heart...
KNOW WHEN TO OPEN THE DOOR
Knowing when to open the door to your heart is the absolute best way to protect it. It's much easier to stop someone from coming in in the first place than it is to ask them to leave later. It's not always easy to know when you should or shouldn't open the door, but usually you have a gut instinct about someone -- and you should listen to it. Whether you want to admit it or not, you know, deep down, whether or not someone deserves to be invited into your world. Pay attention to what your initial reaction to someone tells you.
PAY ATTENTION TO HOW YOU FEEL
After you've let someone have access to your heart, pay attention to how you feel when you're with that person. Really take note of how you feel when you think about him or her. And, in particular, pay attention to how you feel after you spend time with that person. Sometimes, when you're caught up in a romance, you'll feel great with the person, but when you're not with him/her, you feel anxious or uncertain or even unhappy. Paying close attention to your feelings will give you instant access to insights that will tell you whether or not someone is worthy of your time and effort.
COMMUNICATE YOUR FEELINGS
Communication, in any kind of relationship, is so important. If you don't talk about how you feel with someone else, you're bound to have all sorts of problems and misunderstandings. (Full disclosure: I am literally terrible at this. I have gone years without talking about how I feel, which, I know, is absurd, and, as you might imagine, hasn't work out too well for me. Because I'm so bad at it, I know just how important it is.) The more open, honest, and communicative you are with someone else, the more you'll learn about him/her, and the more you know, the better you'll be at making decisions regarding your heart.
LET GO OF ATTACHMENT
This is probably one of the best heart-protection tips -- and tips for generally living a positive life. The only reason we have pain in our lives is because we're too attached to people, things, situations, or ideas. Detaching from people, in particular, is really hard. I recently read this article "Letting Go of Attachment: From A to Zen" and I found it super eye-opening and helpful. When you're not clinging to someone (or the idea of someone), you're able to have a clearer vision of who someone really is. The more clarity you have, the more you'll know whether or not someone is really good for you or not.
WATCH WHAT PEOPLE DO (NOT SAY)
You've probably heard this type of advice before, but it's vital when it comes to protecting your heart. People can say absolutely anything they want at any time, and it's easy to believe that words are enough. But they're not. What matters, when it comes to matters of the heart, is action. To protect your heart, pay attention not to what people say, but to what they do. For example, saying "I love you" means nothing if they don't treat you in a loving way. It's easy to get swept away with what's being said, but actions are the only thing that matters when it comes to protecting your heart.
DON'T FEAR BEING ALONE
A lot of us fail to protect our hearts because we're afraid of being alone, and we'd rather tolerate being treated badly than be faced with solitude. This is very bad for the protection of the heart because it can cause you to stay in situations that make you feel unhappy for much longer than you need to. One of the very best ways to protect your heart is to be okay with being alone. If you're comfortable with solitude, you won't stay in bad situations longer than necessary, and you won't settle for less than you deserve simply because you're lonely.
Protecting your heart is hard work, and I definitely struggle with it myself, but I hope these tips help you if you're struggling to find what's best for you. Most of us value our relationships so highly, but we don't always pay attention to how we really, truly feel when we're in (or out of) them. Protecting your heart doesn't mean closing the door to possibilities or love; it means making sure that the people and experiences you let in are worthy of your love.
Protecting your heart goes hand-in-hand with self-love. Want to empower yourself with some serious self-love and acceptance? Start loving yourself (or increase the love you already have for yourself!) with the inspiration and motivation found in Loving Your Self: An Empowering Workbook for Increasing Self-Love. Filled with uplifting encouragement, thought-provoking questions, and engaging exercises, Loving Your Self is an essential tool for mastering the art of self-love. Learn more about the workbook here and purchase your own copy here.