At some point in our lives, most of us wake up with these thoughts, “This is it. This face and conglomerate of bad and good traits. This animal with too much hair here and too little there. This being with all its flaws and pessimistic traits . . . is me. I’m going to have to live with myself forever.” Especially, nearing middle age, you face the truth of another wrinkle or grey hair each day. Emphatically, these are especially hard to ignore. Yet aging has a secret gift: you can finally learn to love and accept yourself.
What on Earth is Self Hate
It’s a well-told story that the Dali Lama, in a meeting with Western teachers of meditation, could not understand the concept of self-hate. He only knew self-love. Western students were suffering from self-hate, and the master of mindfulness himself couldn’t begin to wrap his Tibetan mind around this unique affliction. Self-hate seems to be something that most Westerners deal with constantly. To many of us, it’s like the air we breathe. Yet what is revealed in this famous meeting of spiritual minds of East and West shows that self-hate is not natural. It is learned. Whether milder in the form of chronic dissatisfaction and bad habits or more destructive patterns of self-harm, self-hate is rampant in our lives today. Addiction is an example of this. However, It doesn’t need to be so. Albeit, learning to love yourself takes mindfulness at first.
But what is learning to love yourself about? We are taught that self-love is the equivalent of selfishness or arrogance. But in reality, it is the opposite of these traits.
Typically, we associate narcissism with self-absorption but believing you are decidedly worse than most, is also a form of narcissism. If you regularly focus on how terrible you think you are, you are still focusing on yourself! Yet those who have low self-esteem use this realization as yet another way to bludgeon themselves. This keeps the cycle alive. It traps you in a lie, keeping you from being free. Keeping you from learning to love yourself.
Break The Cycle and Learn to Love Yourself
The Dali Lama, finally gaining some understanding of what was being expressed to him, decried this “self-hate” in a rare display of bluntness. “You, self-hater, are fooling yourself. If you are engaged in self-hate then you are, simply put . . . wrong.” Most of us would admit that we’d never speak to another the way we speak to ourselves. And even though we know, on some level, that it is irrational and unhelpful, we still do it.
To put an end to this cycle, the first step is to simply notice to what degree you participate in the ranking of individuals, including yourself. Notice how you feel when cutting yourself, or others, down. Subsequently, take note of when you envy others. The mind is wild and unruly. You don’t have to hold onto every thought that comes into your mind as part of you. However, you DO need to take note of the thoughts you have and notice their effect. What makes you feel bigger toward yourself and others? How do you evaluate thoughts? Especially, ones that are inclusive. What makes you feel buoyant and big? What makes you feel small and mean? These questions give you clarity and will lead to learning to love yourself.
Consistently Notice Your Thoughts
Write your thoughts down. Thereupon, start catching those seemingly random thoughts. Meanwhile, don’t be ashamed if you think “terrible” things. Pat yourself on the back if you think glorious, generous thoughts. Just notice, with curiosity, what you think. You don’t have to change. You don’t need to think more positively. The change will come naturally by simply noticing. The alternative, not noticing, means you are a slave to the endless stream of the mind. You aren’t a mind. You are a mixture of phenomena that includes a mind. Although our minds are wonderful tools, they are terrible masters.
Re-imagining the “Mediocre” to Learn Self Love
In a culture that seems to push us toward extremes, re-imagining the “mediocre” can be a spiritual practice. To simply find your place among other equals . . . other sentient beings seeking exactly what you seek. Undeniably, happiness, and freedom from pain, are humbling and heart-opening. Every living thing wants to grow and succeed. Every living thing moves away from pain or unhappiness and toward happiness. Certainly, you are no more, and equally, no less than a part of this great miracle of life. Read about stress management.
We Forget That We Are Worthy
To be a conscious being is a great miracle . . . a great gift. The problem is that we forget this and devise complicated, neurotic pathways away from the simple truth of our being. Love is beautiful.
Come take your place in the stream of life; a brother or sister with the rest of creation. Finally, relax the evaluative muscle. At least for a part of each day. Read about the power of being present.
SpiritQuest offers custom private retreats and a variety of group retreats. If you’d like to focus on inner healing, our healing group retreat might be perfect for you.