By Suzanne E. Harrill
How can we accept and love ourselves? An important lesson for most. Many people skip this step in life thinking it is selfish and egotistical. I have found the opposite is true. Taking the time necessary to heal low self-esteem is one of the most important gifts you can give yourself and those who live and work with you. Loving yourself is the foundation of your life and influences everything you think, say, and do, as well as the results you get in life. Sound self-esteem, feeling love and acceptance for yourself as you are right this moment, helps you build a strong inner core that easily connects your body, mind, and spirit. When you love yourself you care about yourself and it becomes second nature to make choices that support your well-being. When we grow in self-love and express our true nature, we pass it on to others, which makes the world a better place. Remember a time when you felt the positive influence of someone who radiated kindness and interest in you. It is uplifting to be around another who operates from this place of awareness.
Deep inside of you is the seed of your true Self. This seed holds the blueprint for who you are - a loving, joy-filled, creative human being, experiencing rich, meaningful relationships, and living with deep purpose. It includes the potential for all you are capable of being in your life. It may be time to let go of old conditioning and accept the truth that it is good to love yourself.
The true Self is hidden by the ego or personality of the conditioned self, which is influenced by the beliefs and behaviors of your parents, extended family, and the community and culture at large. As a baby and young child you only knew yourself through the reflection of caregivers. Self-esteem was influenced greatly from their words, moods, feelings, beliefs, actions, and how they treated themselves. Many unaware parents pass on low self-esteem, which affects their child’s emotional development. It hinders their ability to access their innate goodness, truth, and beauty. That is until you understand as an adult the power you have to heal and grow and incorporate new truths.
Most of us were raised to believe things just happen to us for no reason and we are pretty much a victim of life – I know I was. Today I continue to learn to take responsibility for my life which moves me out of an early first response of, “Why is this happening to me?” One of the most important things I continue to do is pay attention to my inner dialog with myself and notice if I am supportive or critical. My spin on things is important. It empowers me to look at resistances, negative beliefs, unwise choices, and poor attitudes to see where I have something to do with what is happening to me “out there.” Self-empowerment is based on knowing and loving myself. Valuing myself improves how I interpret people and situations, my attitude, my problem-solving alibies, and whether I take other peoples’ negativity personally to name a few. Let us look further at how to empower ourselves.
Remember you are the person you spend the most time with, soit’s important to know yourself inside and out. It’s not selfish, as many were taught, to spend time learning to know who you are, to take care of your interests and needs, and to grow emotionally. Take the time to discover what your thoughts, beliefs, feelings, values, goals, and needs are. When you know yourself, you avoid being manipulated by others or by life's circumstances. You no longer live being a victim. As you grow in your ability to live as your true Self, you will continually heal and expand your awareness.
Building Self-esteem which is loving and accepting yourself, will lead you back to who you already are: a beautiful Divine Being of pure consciousness, who is innately worthy and knows it is a needed part of the larger whole of Life. As you grow in living each day with gratitude and appreciation, it will help you stay present and meet all that comes your way, both positive and negative feeling experiences. You understand the ups and downs of the human experience is just the way life works. When you take responsibility for your thoughts, feelings, and actions you steer through experiences better. Good decision making grows as you make wiser choices to meet challenges in order to take good care of yourself. Add to this you remember the importance of not taking yourself so seriously as you learn to laugh and play more often. As your self-esteem grows you do not deny your pain or uncomfortable feelings. Instead you take the time to figure out what you need, which may be to connect with close friends or family that want to remind you of your inner worth and beauty.
There was a time when I handed out real acorns to participants in my lectures and workshops. It was my symbol for the true Self, hidden within, that wants to grow and express itself. Most people would choose an acorn that was solid and whole and looked good. One time a woman chose a cracked acorn and explained, “This one symbolizes that I have cracked the outer shell of my ego defenses and am ready for the seed within to sprout and grow.” Well stated. Notice my logo is an acorn sprouting with three leaves.
To find our true nature we must understand the hold our egos have over our inner growth and development. We need a strong ego when young as a vehicle to steer through life. It serves us to have this ego to interface with the world, to interact with people who are unaware, to attend college, go to work, and raise our families. There comes a time, however, when the ego needs to allow the true Self to flourish, to come forward and lead. This is usually a long process with much resistance, as it doesn’t make logical sense to trust this lesser known, heart centered part of us. Society doesn’t encourage our inner spiritual life and some religious teachings can even interfere and discourage a direct connection with one's Higher Spiritual Nature. Inner strength grows over time when making a conscious choice to know ourselves which supports loving being our self.
Most of us started with low self-esteem because we were at the effect of the opinions and biases of our parents, teachers, and society. Innate worth grows as we set the intention to discover our true nature and how we want to live our life. As we choose to be aware we mature to a new place. A shift happens where more and more of the time we move to an internal place of strength and control. It doesn’t mean we will do this perfectly. For me, I am still vulnerable if someone is critical and misinterprets me. I have a conditioned response to react at first as a victim or as a powerless child, get defensive, or want to hide and protect myself. I am stronger now and able to steer through the negativity of others rather quickly. My new process is to observe the situation and then begin talking kindly to myself. I might say, “You have done nothing wrong. Peter/Sally is not able to communicate well and projects on others, not just me. Don’t take it personally. I cut the emotional cord to my past where I thought something was wrong with me. I forgive Peter/Sally for being unaware.” I then sit with myself for a while, maybe journal write, to see if I choose to go back and express myself or can let it go. If I feel tension in my body, I may need a walk or to talk to someone close. This new pattern positively helps me deal with myself
Loving ourselves includes unconditional forgiveness. Forgiveness starts as an intention. Forgiving removes emotional baggage and bondage to people who have hurt us in the past or present. Self-forgiveness is equally important. I hear a song in my head by Karen Drucker, “Go Easy on Yourself. You Can Only Go as Fast as the Slowest Part of You.” When I heard this I realized how I subtly criticize myself and push myself to hurry up and “get it.” It being a lot of things from shifting my awareness to be more present, changing a habit or communication pattern, taking a positive risk, or whatever I am currently setting as a goal or intention. I am now aware I have to forgive the slower parts of myself who resist and need the attention and kindness of my loving adult self to heal and let go. Easier said than done. I pretend these slower resistant parts of myself need similar kindness I would give to one of my grandkids.
In conclusion, loving ourselves is the foundation of our life. It is easier to value ourselves when we understand our spiritual heritage is worthiness, that we each are innately good. As we do the inner work necessary, we heal and find our inner truth, beauty, and power. We are then a positive force in the world mirroring love and acceptance to others.