How much of my time have I spent worrying about what other people think of me? Too much is the short answer. Before recovery in Al-Anon, I had no boundaries, no sense of self, and how I felt about myself and my life was largely determined by whether or not you approved. With no internal awareness, other people's likes and dislikes, moods and opinions were the compass I used to direct my emotional life. It was exhausting.

“Put down the magnifying glass and pick up the mirror.” One of the most precious gifts I have been given in Al-Anon is the freedom and encouragement to discover and validate my feelings. And this process began when I was taught to take the focus off of others and to look within for my own truth. At first this was an unfamiliar and uncomfortable process, but it was the only path to the security, confidence and peace I have always craved.

Today I know that my feelings are valid, and I've come to trust and rely on them. I know that other people have their own thoughts and opinions and know they are valid for them as well. But today there is a boundary between the two, and my sense of self is no longer linked to other people's approval. Today I enjoy the freedom and empowerment that comes from having and respecting myself.

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Author's Bio: 

Michael Z is a spiritual advisor and Marriage and Family Therapist Intern working in Los Angeles. He has been on the spiritual journey for over 11 years now, and leads workshops and retreats called, “The 12-Steps, A Modern Hero’s Journey,” that interpret the 12-Step journey through the archetype of the Hero’s Journey.

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