It’s not always obvious how to love the miracle you are. The truth is that for so many of us, the dead opposite often feels easier. Yet, perhaps surprisingly, there are places in this world where self love is the only option. Some decades ago, a group of Buddhist teachers from the West were with the Dalai Lama and asked him about concepts of self loathing, self hatred, and unworthiness. The Dalai Lama conferred with a translator for a good ten minutes to understand what these men were talking about. You see, the concepts weren’t even in his vocabulary. To him, they did not exist. He asked the teachers who among them had experienced this, and all nodded. One of the group’s members, Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield, recalls the Dalai Lama’s surprised response: “But that’s a mistake! Every being is precious.”
The dark side of our thoughts about ourselves isn’t something talked about much. Yet, I know that most of us in Western culture have experienced self-loathing, self-hate, or feelings of unworthiness at one point or another in our lives. I wish I could shield my children from this, and to be honest, the only way I know how to do it is by setting the example. What a world this would be if the idea of anything but self love and compassion were met with the same surprise and confusion as the Dalai Lama’s response to those teachers.
Where does self-loathing and unworthiness begin?
A number of things can start the mental ball rolling toward self-loathing and unworthiness. At some point or another, we receive negative messages about who and what we are, and we choose to accept them as truth. We develop an inner critic as a protection mechanism to help us show up in the world in a way that won’t earn more negative attention. But that critic grows out of control, especially for people who’ve experienced narcissistic caregivers, trauma, family or housing instability. Truth is, any number of things can deeply impact feelings of worthiness and we grow harder and harder on ourselves in a misguided attempt to prevent future pain.
If you experience self-loathing or feelings of unworthiness, please, pause and hold your heart for a moment. Tell your heart that you are here now. You are here and you will gently guide yourself back to a place of self love, peace, and joy.
Unworthiness hides in so many of us
When I was in college, I struggled with an eating disorder. I kept it secret from everyone but a single close friend and a therapist. Nearly alone, I grappled with the horror of realizing that I hated myself. I didn’t know where it came from, how it started, how it got so out of control. In addition, that horror was paired with shame at my situation that was so deep, I didn’t even tell my parents.
I share this with you because I want to acknowledge the feelings of unworthiness that run rampant in our society, and also to be present with the stress that our feelings about our feelings causes. If this sounds like you, this need to hide your pain because you’re ashamed of it, know this: you are not alone. You have more allies and sisters and guides at your fingertips than you realize. People eager to witness you and guide you back to a place of knowing your worthiness.
How to love the miracle you are
Often, the healing path to self-love starts with small shifts. I offer some suggestions to you here, with hope that something will resonate.
- When your inner critic speaks, challenge it. Ask it why it’s saying that. My own inner critic never had an answer, and slowly it quieted. Yours will, too.
- Journal. Get your feelings out on paper. Let the crap out. All of it. Then, allow your journaling to move into a space of hope, of what-ifs, of dreaming a more peaceful or positive outcome.
- Go on a gratitude rampage. Take a walk or just journal or say it out loud – list things you are grateful for, for as many minutes as you can.
- Find a therapist. Therapy is something healthy people take part in, and it should be applauded. A good therapist makes space for you to let things out, whereas holding it in just magnifies the self-hurt, depression, or anxiety you may be feeling.
- Surround yourself with kind, positive people. The ones who make you feel uplifted at the end of an interaction. In fact, this is extra important for highly sensitive people who soak in the energy of others. If you’re still learning how to protect your energy, give yourself a head start by being choosy with who you surround yourself with.
- Start a meditation practice. This is a miracle worker. Meditation teaches you to be present and gentle with yourself and your body. You learn to let your thoughts pass without attaching them, returning over and over to the stillness and peace of the present moment.
I have traveled from the place of self-hatred to self-love. I know it is possible. So, wherever you’re at today, I want you to know that you’re enough. You are worth inner peace. You are worth love. You are worth all good things. Love the miracle you are.
To your joy,