Why Is It So Difficult To Love Ourselves?
I think that the greatest conundrum we humans face is the conflict between who we really are and who we think we are. This conflict exists primarily on two levels - the human and the spiritual and I will address both.
At the human level we are either unsure or are already convinced that we are unworthy. This is who we think we are. (There are some people that truly know their worthiness, but they are so few and far between that they are hardly worth mentioning, except as examples. There are also lots of “poseurs” pretending self confidence, but they are really just muscling through their insecurity.) The origin of our feelings of unworthiness and unlovability come from the spiritual realm, which I will address shortly, but we also carry holdover feelings from our past life experiences too.
Our feelings of unworthiness are like hot coals that sit at the center of our consciousness. And we dare not touch them for fear that we might confirm the belief that we are unworthy, so we avoid them like the plague. And the lengths we will go to avoid confirming this “truth” are nothing short of extraordinary. But we end up confirming it anyway because we interpret the events of our lives through our bias.
The inevitable price for our avoidance is the creation of pain and suffering. And what starts out as emotional pain will eventually, if unhealed, move to physical suffering such as cancer or heart disease (note: dis-ease). In addition to the creation of neurotic behaviors prevalent throughout the society, some people will actually carry things to the extreme by literally throwing their lives away through drug or alcohol abuse or even suicide, to avoid facing the inevitable “truth” of their unworthiness and unlovability.
This premise gives clarity to the Buddha’s first and foremost teaching that, “Life is dukkha,” (pain, impermanence, suffering). The difficulties of life are not punishment, they are simply the inevitable consequence of the behavior of beings who have not finished what they came here for - to learn to love - especially themselves.
Spiritual teachers for thousands of years have urged us to adopt the one posture that will challenge our proclivity to feeling unworthy, and that is self love. At The Last Supper, Jesus gave the Disciples the 11th Commandment to, "Love one another as I have loved you.” But given where we are, even thousands of years later, the transition to self love feels as though it exists on a plane so far above us that it is virtually inaccessible.
Teachers have been only marginally successful at getting us to not lie, cheat or steal, but the prospect loving ourselves remains remote at best. It is a pretty big deal and frankly, at the present level of our spiritual development, we suck at it. And confronting the demon of our unworthiness is going to require a good deal more than slogans and platitudes.
To understand the origin of our feelings we will have to visit the realm of spirit, but before we do, there is an earthly consideration that must not get lost in the shuffle. As I have said, the concepts that we struggle with start out in the spiritual, but in order to be transformed, these feelings have to manifest in the physical realm where they can be pushed on, tested, challenged and in some cases even fought over, in order to complete their development.
You came to earth because there were areas of your consciousness that were not fully developed. You are fine already, but your awareness of that is incomplete. This is the conflict between who you are and who you think you are that I speak of. But you do sense your incompleteness and that limits your ability to be vulnerable and therefore freely love others and yourself. At the physical level those energies manifest as feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness.
The challenge for all of us is how to move from a place of limited understanding to one of more complete awareness. Remember, you have free will, so it could not simply be given to you. You had to accept the truth for yourself. Now from the human perspective what I am about to say sounds crazy, but from the spiritual realm it makes perfect sense - the most powerful way for the transformation to occur, was for you to start out being convinced of an untruth - in this case, that you were unworthy. And then over time, through repeatedly confronting this untruth, you would eventually realize that it was a lie. And the process I speak of starts in childhood.
The curse of being a human is that everyone grows up feeling as though there is something wrong with them. Think about that for a moment - everyone! Coincidence? Hardly. In the first place, there is no way this could be true, and that is the fail-safe in the process. You will win at this game, that is already designed into it. By challenging your false beliefs through your life experiences, there is only one place you can end up - in the truth. But to get there you have to come to believe the truth for yourself. And in doing so, you will hold the truth not possible by any other means.
But that is not to say that you won’t make the journey more difficult on yourself than you need. Step off the path and you will experience pain. That is not punishment. It is a signal to wake up and pay attention to what you are doing. But the choice is always yours. From the human perspective, it is a lousy way to do things, but from the realm of spirit it is perfect, and given that circumstance, guess who wins? But every step of the way, you make the choice whether to move with spirit or with ego.
What happens for most of us is that we get lost in our failures. If something doesn’t work, we blame ourselves and our shortcomings, instead of realizing that it was “simply” an expression of what we had not learned to do yet. Used as a learning tool, failure gives us the opportunity to examine our beliefs and see where they pulled us off the track. But, as I say, most of us get stuck in shame, self-doubt and recrimination and lose the opportunity to learn and grow from life’s lessons. That is why we get so many of them. . .
So, the Buddha was correct, “Life is pain.” But not because of inadequacy on your part, it is simply because you are engaged in this learning process called “Life.” And as you “get it,” your life lessons and struggles shift, and life becomes less stressful and more fulfilling. As Edmond Mbiaka wrote, “Don’t cry about your struggles, they are the roadways to your future blessings.”
There are things you can do to help yourself along in your journey. Practices like meditation, for example, are simply fabulous at teaching centeredness and developing mindfulness, which are extremely useful in dealing with the tumult of life, but at the same time, they do not substitute for life itself. Transformation occurs in the rough and tumble of marriage, raising kids, having a career - in other words, real life, where we rub up against each other and our life experiences challenge us to be more loving and compassionate.
If you want some advice, what I would suggest is that as the process of your life unfolds, keep your awareness on what is really going on, especially for yourself. We get caught up in the surface issues and fail to see (perhaps don’t want to look at) what is really driving our behavior. Now, we’re not used to doing that, so it may take a bit of practice.
What is important is that you recognize where you are in the process and work with it, rather than becoming mired in your feelings about your shortcomings. Become aware of where you hold back. Why do you? What was really going on? What vulnerability were you afraid to expose? For clarification, these are not “failures,” on your part, they are simply expressions of where you are. What you are saying is, “I wasn’t ready to go there. I was too afraid to be that vulnerable.” If you can look at each life encounter and ask yourself if you were as loving as you could have been, then you will progress.
And if you can do this, you are less likely to get mired in the downward spiral of self doubt, shame and self condemnation that tend to sidetrack us in the process. Mokokoma Mokhonoana said, “Some of the best things that have ever happened to us wouldn’t have happened to us, if it weren’t for some of the worst things that have ever happened to us.”
This is tough to do on your own. Most of us have had to get help. Don’t be too proud to admit that you’re not there yet. You have a lot of good company. But keep in mind that, “The only thing any situation needs is more love.”
“Grace is when all of your traumas, mistakes,
failures and shame make perfect sense
and you have nothing but humble gratitude
for their lessons.”
copyright©Blue Lotus Press 2018
- By Ross Bishop
- August 8, 2018