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Self Love

May 22, 2010

My personal journey has involved letting go of my thinking self and trusting my feeling self.  Friends and clients have frequently heard me query (as wise mentors regularly challenge me): Is that you the human being or you the human doing?

One gift of my move to Ireland is that many of the old distracting “doings” are out of the range of temptation; I have distanced myself from the ‘automatic’.  I do try to fill and clutter the days here as has been my lifetime habit.  It’s hard now to deny my role in giving away my time, my power and my strength.

The journey to recover this strength and power is well outlined and often driven by the following:

If I am not for myself, who is for me? When I am for myself, what am I? If not now, when? Hillel

I am for myself is simply the advice to know yourself. Thankfully it provides the lesson and the tools we need to make it happen.  A fully integrated self has a foundation built on self acceptance. When I honestly celebrate my gifts and talents and then name and accept my darker side- character defects like perfectionism, pride or cynicism, I have laid a foundation to bring myself honestly and openly to the world. Arguably my friends, children and clients have learned as much from the open and honest struggle with my dark or “shadow” side as they have from the counsel, advice or information they sought.

Who is for me? When I model for others how to treat me the tools appear for the task. When I am truthfully and wholly me, others respond accordingly.  My confident, competent self attracts confident, competent folk and they multiply my energy. My needy self attracts fixers, generally controlling by their nature.  If I am a perfectionist, I am cranky because everything is not quite right and this attracts folks unhappy with the world; they drain my energy.  When I allow imperfection in myself, my friends, colleagues and even governments, I have enough energy to see new possibilities. “That is just how it is, what do I need to do?” An optimist’s response, now my own, instead of “it will always be this way, you will never change it” – the pessimist’s.  Having been both, I assure you optimism is easier, more attractive and the research shows – optimists live longer.

“What am I?” is a hard question to ask. If you have answered with a shaming, pessimistic voice, giving a negative message about yourself, stop. If you are reading this you are entitled to answer: I am beginning and becoming. For me the answer is the “I am what I am determined to become?” I am not yet that fully integrated self, but to become her I am determined to stay mindfully present, own and work to embrace my dark side and celebrate every small victory on the way.

If not now, when? This call to action reminds me that even two centuries ago, change was hard and it is in our nature to avoid the difficult. I am gently reminded to be mindfully present now.

I do not subscribe to a Christian faith, but I believe that what we “take on faith” is common to all our religious and cultural traditions. Therefore, Jung’s description of one’s inability to love oneself as tantamount to rejecting God’s love rings very true to me:

What I do unto the least of my brethren, that I do unto Christ. But what if I should discover that the leastamongst them all, the poorest of all beggars, the most impudent of all offenders, yea the very fiend himself — that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of the alms of my own kindness, that I myself am the enemy who must be loved — what then? … Had it been God himself who drew near to us in this despicable form, we should have denied him a thousand times before a single cock had crowed.”

Today, I would ask you to do for yourself what sages as disparate as Hillel in the first century BCE and Jung in 1958 both taught. Love thyself.  And if a Jewish Elder and a German Psychiatrist are not authority enough for your musings, try another.  No less Catholic, didactic and dogmatic a document than the Baltimore Catechism (1941) informed my first lessons in faith; who made you? God made me. I was made in the image and likeness of God.

Ask yourself: Can I embrace a creator without honouring and loving the creation?

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