Living

How to Believe in Yourself (Part 2)

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In between writing this post and the previous one, life has been tossing me curveballs left and right. It was a great reminder that practicing self-care amidst even the most chaotic of moments is of utmost importance. Don’t wait till life deals you a reminder before you take a little time out for yourself! 

Now that you’ve found out a little more about yourself… 

You See Your Light

There’s the good stuff: your interests, what sets your heart on fire, what you find yourself doing with just pure unadulterated joy. How you make others happy, the roles you play in others’ lives. Also, the things you truly enjoy; it’s stuff that doesn’t get intellectualized – you’re just in the flow, enjoying the moment. (P.S. Whether you believe it or not, your pure existence IS already a light.)

You Encounter Your Shadow

And there’s also the not so shiny, happy bits of yourself. Stuff that you’d much rather not see or look at. This is the part where it gets tricky – difficult things come up. But you know what? There’s no need to fear it, or to avoid it. Instead, take some time out to really look at it.

So that instead of them having an unconscious hold on you, you are able to look at your shadows and say: You are there. I see you. What will I do about them? Can I accept them? How can I allow it to sit at the table of my life without taking over my thoughts and actions? Or projecting them onto others?

*I know that it’s not so easy to really look at what we dislike about ourselves. Because even just being open and willing to delve in requires a ton of courage. But truly, every one of us is capable of it. 

To arrive at true self-acceptance involves embracing both your light and your shadow. 

I’m a Virgo, and this year, Jupiter – the planet of luck and expansion – is in my house of closure, healing and surrender till August 2015 – since last July! (Wherever Jupiter is, it expands.) And man, has it been a rough ride. But it has also been a great opportunity to drop things – attitudes, baggage – that no longer serve me.

When we’re growing up, we pick up habits and beliefs from our family of origin that we take to be Truth. Sometimes that truth just isn’t… true anymore. Or maybe it was never true to begin with. And the painful bits are sometimes the very things we need to delve into to unlock our true selves from self-limiting beliefs. Beyond those beliefs, there lies our true self. Shame might come up…Or guilt. Sticky, squirmy, uncomfortable feelings. It helps to spend time sitting with them for a little while. And in this process, it’ll be helpful to…

3. Develop a guiding principle when it comes to how you treat yourself. 

Because if you’re sitting with these sticky, squirmy feelings, while simultaneously being mean and unkind to yourself about even having them, then you’d probably be less likely to want to inspect them again – it would be an all-round unpleasant experience. Only the most masochistic would be willing to go through all of that.

“Honesty without kindness, humor and goodheartedness can be just mean.” – Pema Chodron 

I realized how important this was, because meditation and introspection were starting to become really grim affairs. Being naturally self-critical and setting really high standards for myself, just meant that I was getting myself down over all these perceived flaws…

There’s also nothing wrong with being self-critical, by the way. Intelligent people tend to be. That’s how we look for ways to improve situations, to amass more information and resources. But when we turn this critical nature onto ourselves, that’s when it becomes self-defeating.

Those flaws, or habits, or anything you might dislike about yourself? Perhaps shift your perspective a little: these were just ways we were taught to relate and make sense of the world. It might have worked or served us well in certain situations, and we clung on to them. But when it starts hurting you or the people around you, then perhaps it’s time to examine them and let them go. Because we ARE capable of change as evolving human beings – condemnation is never helpful, because it pins a person or situation down to a static state, which is just not being fair to ourselves.

So when you encounter something you dislike about yourself, or you make a mistake. Start observing. How do you talk to yourself (and others) when this happens? Does it sound like this?

“What’s wrong with me?” “How could I have…?” “You’re so dumb/forgetful/clumsy/other insult”

Instead of this, could you be more gentle? Be less harsh with your tone and the words you use to think about yourself?

The voices in your head are shaped by your parents, or any other major parental figure in your life growing up. I realized this even more acutely just recently. My parents are currently visiting me in NYC now, and as we were crossing the road, my dad said in his reflexive way,  ‘Watch out.’ I smiled to myself, because it was as though I was hearing the voices in my head out loud. As a kid, they must have dealt you admonishments, advice, feedback. Good stuff. They stuck in your head, they help you to navigate the world as an adult. But how about when it doesn’t help? As well-meaning and loving as your parents are, they are human too. Not every method of dealing with life might have been the best, or relevant to your own, unique life – so be willing to start talking to yourself in how your most loving self would. What would you say to your own child?

Because being an adult also means parenting yourself, taking your own hand while you go out there in the world.

Next post in How to Believe in Yourself series: Taking Action

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