I started asking myself this question unconsciously seven years ago. And it has evolved into a conscious act of awareness and mindfulness about how I treat myself and why I choose to treat myself the way I do. Be gentle with yourself. Be kind with yourself. Words of wisdom that I have read and heard from people who love me, but words I did not understand at a spiritual level.
The ego mind is always pushing us to do more, obtain more, and “be” more because the ego mind works from a place of insufficiency. Unconsciously it’s always reiterating that we are not worthy enough. Forcing us to always compare ourselves and identify with the aspects that are broken, not perfect.
Somewhere along my life I received the message that I wasn’t whole, that I wasn’t good enough unless . . . And I have spent the rest of my life making myself worthy through my list of accomplishments. What I’ve come to realize is that when I take all that I have accomplished away, when I peel the layers of what makes me acceptable and worthy to the world, I have to confront whether I still feel worthy simply because I am a beautiful part of the universe. This is what I suspect true liberation means.
To liberate myself from all the toxic and poisonous thoughts I have of me. To liberate myself from any conditions that establish my worth. There are no conditions. I am simply worthy because I am here.
To love myself means to honor my truth. Lately I’ve come to realize that all that I have accomplished in life I did because I was searching for a reason to be worthy. And when I finished something, I would pile on something else, because in order to continue to be worthy, I needed to continue to succeed. This is the smoky mirror the world has created for all of us; an illusion of self-worth. Would I undo everything I have accomplished? Absolutely not. I needed to accomplish all that I have in order to understand that none of it, absolutely none of it, ultimately gives me worth.
My spirit has been longing for me to come back home to it for a very long time, but I refused to listen. It takes time to love yourself, to listen to the voice inside of you that is asking to be nurtured and cared for. At first the voice presents itself as a painful longing, making you confused because you probably don’t know what you even long for, you just know there is an unavoidable emptiness that seems to linger like the smell of skunk. Maybe you temporarily get rid of that feeling by buying a new pair of shoes or setting a new goal to accomplish, but it eases its way back in like poison ivy. Sometimes it manifests itself as anger or depression. Other times it doesn’t let you sleep, or it keeps you neurotically focused on your endless to-do list, or its burden manifests as those painful extra pounds you just don’t have the courage to shed.
I gradually decided to start listening to the longing within. I have to tell you though, the universe was also there guiding me with signs, sometimes in-your-face flashing neon signs. For a long time the focus of my life had been my grandmother and my daughter; in many ways they were my excuse for ignoring the emptiness inside of me. I convinced myself that I didn’t have time to love myself because I needed to take care of them. And then as if the emptiness inside of me escaped into a giant plume of mirrors, I lost my grandmother and my daughter all at once. I could no longer escape the emptiness that my resistance to my longing created.
Of course it wasn’t like all of a sudden I confronted it all at once. It was a gradual coming to terms with my true identity, my new identity. My ego mind however kept trying to convince me that I needed to do something new and only in this way would I still have a worthy identity. I did what I had always done – set new goals, create new expectations. That year I applied to graduate school. That summer my husband spent two weeks balancing between life and death after a horrific car accident that left him with eight broken ribs. My spirit needed me to pause, to be still long enough to make a clear assessment of the lessons the universe would have me learn. I didn’t. But the universe always has a way of catching your attention.
Here I am back to the beginning; letting go of everything, so I can find myself, love myself. I have no goals to accomplish, no deadlines to meet, no plans or projects to coordinate. Just enjoying every moment and rediscovering the things that make me come alive. My calendar is blank, seriously. The journey has been difficult, but the lesson is simple. Let go of that which makes you feel trapped, and welcome that which brings you an extraordinary sense of liberation and lightness. Only then will you fall in love again with yourself.
Written by Max Ehrmann in the 1920s, the following is a beautiful poem that a close friend shared with me. It’s one that I read often as I begin the process of falling back in love with myself.
Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.