How many times do I silently berate myself? It’s easy to do. A quick peek in the mirror in the morning – yikes, look at all those wrinkles! Indulge in an extra piece of toast loaded with jam shortly after consuming a tasty nutritious breakfast – did I really need that? Ten minutes late for an appointment – oh my gawd, not again! The one thing I can’t find fault with is my ability to catalogue my inadequacies.
We have long struggled with our self-esteem. The thought of falling in love with ourself – respecting and admiring ourselves – makes us uncomfortable. It’s much easier to lavish attention on others. Particularly women, and a few men that I know pretty well, have been socialized to care for and nurture others, so our value lies in how well we do this. Given this outward focus in defining our self-worth means we are not so great at nurturing ourselves. We’re chronically self-critical. We constantly compare ourselves against unrealistic ideals, which can damage our sense of self and paralyze our relationships with family and friends.
But to be truthful, and to quote the popular Marianne Williamson in her poem, My Deepest Fear, “It is not that I am inadequate, it is that I am powerful beyond measure.” It is the inner critic with harmful and judgmental self-talk that gets in the way of living up to, and into, the best of who I am. After all, who am I not to be talented, beautiful, and brilliant? There is nothing enlightening about playing small and living in the shadows of what I might be. In yogic terms this is called AHIMSA: it is one of the precepts of right-living which means non-violence (non-violent to oneself and to others). It also has a lot to do with being courageous. Courage, after all, is not the absence of fear, but the ability to be afraid without being paralyzed.
At Mindful Living last month, we examined and experienced various ways we’ve been standing on the ledge of greatness. We also experimented with a collective Loving Kindness Meditation, in the Jon Kabit-Zinn tradition. We extended our prayful meditation to ourselves, to a beloved, to a person who we are neutrally connected to, to an individual with whom we’ve been challenged with, to the wider community and finally to the whole world. We prayed that we/you be healthy, to be filled with peace, to embrace silence and to be loved … did you feel our energy?
To offer some hope… here are a few reasons for cultivating a healthy sense of self-love:
- When you love yourself, things simply become lighter and easier. You will be happier!
- When your opinion of yourself goes up and you stop trying to get validation from other people, you become less needy and are able to muster up an inner stability even when the world seems uncertain.
- When you increase your self-esteem you will be more deserving of the things you want in life.