We all want to learn to love ourselves.
And we may even have tried quick fixes such as getting “deeksha”, making positive affirmations, or telling ourselves to only think positive thoughts. Perhaps we even thought that changing our diet or working out at the gym would do it. Finding self-love and peace within is a process of working through deep wounds and through that, re-connecting with who we are in our essence and discovering our unique and special gifts. There are no quick fixes.
Most of us have been deeply conditioned to believe that we are deficient and that the only way to find self-respect is to prove ourselves. Perhaps we have covered up our self-hate with good compensations or perhaps we have always lived with the belief that we are unworthy and continue to prove that to ourselves in our behavior. If we experience a failure or a rejection, we can easily descend back into criticizing ourselves and feeling useless and hopelessly inadequate.
All my childhood, I (Krish) felt like a shadow of my “wunderkind” older brother. Although I did a fairly good job of following his footsteps, deep inside I felt that I would never “measure up” and had resigned myself to being second best. Because my parents held his achievements and his intelligence as the “gold standard”, I could only find myself by being his faded carbon copy. That was extremely painful but I did not see any other way.
One day, as I was graduating from university, I realized in a flash that I could not continue in this way. To the utter shock of my family, I “dropped out”, became a hippie and spent five years living in communes in California. That began a long process of searching for myself. After years of individual and group therapy in which I relived the traumas of my childhood, I developed a deep understanding for how I had lost myself, how I was programmed to live a life which was not my own. I felt the pain of trying to be someone else, of continually comparing myself, of pushing myself so hard to achieve, and of disconnecting from my sensitivity. Slowly, I began to feel myself again and find out what was true for me.
Somewhere along the way, I realized that I had a gift of working with people and in the years that followed, I worked and studied hard to develop this gift. This process also included overcoming many trials and disappointments to establish myself as a seminar leader and leaving behind my old life to become a disciple of a crazy Indian mystic.
My path to learning to love myself (Amana) was somewhat different. I realized quiet early in my life that something was missing. It was never safe to show my feelings in my family (my father was an alcoholic and had monopoly on “feelings”- all the energy revolved around him and the difficulties he was creating) and so I learned to push everything down. I was living a life of trying to fulfill everybody’s expectations, but I was dead inside and had lost all joy. I knew that I needed to get away and at least see if there might be another way to live. So I started a search far away from family and the country I grew up in.
As I slowly came alive, it was as if the color returned to my life. At first the life that returned in me was very painful, but at least it was alive…and I welcomed anything that felt alive. Then over the years I have kept following what is true, what is real, what is alive and that brought me to the life I live today.
The strange thing is, that I never imagined that I would be a therapist, as I somehow always hated anybody telling anyone anything about themselves…never even believed in therapy…and then in spite of myself I now see that I do help to create a space for people to look at themselves honestly and support them to listen to what’s true for them. Amazingly I discovered that people appreciated what I had to share. And slowly I even begin to see that this is my gift and what I bring to this world. I had to go through years of insecurity, doubting if this was really my calling, if I had anything to give, but somehow I kept following the deepest feeling inside that knew all along this was true for me.
I now see that through that insecurity and through hanging in there in the difficult times when my mind was trying to convince me to stop, something was maturing…self-love started to take deep roots…I was no any longer being ruled by my mind but by the deeper parts of my being.
We tell these stories because we feel that it holds the ingredients of how we come to love and trust ourselves again. In our work, we have discovered that there are two aspects of the journey back to self-love.
One aspect is doing the inner work to understand and feel how we have been distracted from our essential and unique qualities; how we were not given the support, caring, and guidance that we needed to discover who we are and to find out what is special about ourselves. Our negative conditioning has put us into hypnosis of shame, fear, and shock that has run our life and determined our thoughts, feelings, and behavior. In this hypnosis, we basically feel frightened, incapable, defective, unlovable, and empty. And within this hypnosis, we rotate between compensation and collapse, between pushing ourselves and giving up. The inner work allows us to have compassion for what we have been through and to see how the shame and fear hypnosis has run our life. This understanding gives us the ability to have perspective and make more intelligent choices.
The other aspect of retrieving our dignity and self-love involves taking risks. This aspect is often omitted in conventional approaches to therapy but without it real and lasting change is not possible. Taking small risks ignites our life energy and takes us out of the negative hypnosis of shame and fear. Each of us has a special gift to offer to this world, a special and unique form of expressing ourselves. We may begin to discover or sense this gift by sensing what it is that makes our heart sing. Our hypnosis will tell us that we are fooling ourselves to think we have something special to give and it will also compel us to quit with the slightest disappointment.
But if we embrace a quality of continual risk, we can undo the negative voices inside. We may need to reach out for guidance and support and to find role models who help us to set goals and keep on track even when we are hit with disappointment. There is something magical about taking risks. It seems to invite existence to come to our aid in overcoming our insecurity. With time, things begin to fall into place and our self-confidence builds. Gradually, it becomes more and more clear deep inside that we are expressing our creativity in a way that is in tune with our being.
Finding self-love and inner peace is a continual process. We are very likely to be triggered by many situations in our life that can provoke an attack of shame and fear. Here is a simple practical list of what can help:
- Discover when and how your inner judge is attacking you and in those moments let your heart talk to you instead. (We call this “changing channels. Beginning to listen to your heart instead of your judge”)
- Move your body on a regular basis in some way that you like. (This triggers the natural “feel good” chemicals in our body called endorphins.)
- Make a habit of spending time alone each day – meditating, walking in nature, listening to music, or whatever appeals to you.
- Create supportive people around you who re-enforce the real you and help you to find the best in you.
- Separate physically and emotionally from your family of origin so that you can discover who you are apart from them. (It is too easy to regress to our old conditioning when we are around them.)
- Learn to be accountable. (Do what you say you are going to do and finish what you start.)
- Reach for support when you need it.
- Keep going even when it’s difficult.
- Be total in what you do.
- Create healthy rituals in your life that keep you inspired and creative.