It’s not your job to like me . . . it’s mine! — Byron Katie
To love yourself right now, just as you are,
is to give yourself heaven. — Alan Cohen
In an interview on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Jane Fonda revealed that it wasn’t until after she turned sixty that she realized one of life’s most important secrets: She had to give up her incessant desire to be perfect so that she could begin to experience herself as whole.
Jane Fonda has proven herself to be so much more than just a talented actress—she cares about people and has used her wealth and recognition to do much good in the world. She is stunning, successful, smart, and powerful; but despite all her success, here she is telling America’s most popular talk show host that she has always viewed herself as unattractive and not good enough. For years she suffered from an ever-present belief that so many of us share: the “I am not enough” fallacy.
As I listened to her, I realized how pervasive the obsession with being perfect is in our culture. Perfection is unattainable, and though we may say we know this, it doesn’t stop us from rejecting and abusing ourselves when we fail to achieve it.
I can relate to Jane Fonda’s insatiable need to succeed and become somebody special. I thought that once everyone loved and respected me then I could finally, hopefully feel OK. I never stopped long enough to realize I was never going to feel good, because I was trapped in a barrage of negative messages I was telling myself.
Daily I berated myself for not being good-looking or thin enough, smart or young enough, organized or productive enough. Sometimes I articulated these beliefs out loud, but mostly they were like a low-grade, constant hum in my subconscious mind.
The BIG Lie: Be Like Everyone Else and Then You’ll Be Loved
Growing up, I really didn’t love or accept myself. I was never taught how. My parents didn’t know how to truly love and honor themselves; neither did my grandparents, or their parents, or probably their parents. I came from generations of people who did not know what deep, fulfilling love and acceptance of self meant, let alone how to do it. And as I watched Jane Fonda talk about her journey of awakening to what she called her wholeness, I realized that most of the world is missing this necessary piece.
Why does it take sixty years for someone to discover that self-love and acceptance is where real fulfillment lies? That their needs are important, and, even more, that nobody is ever going to fulfill them unless they first deem themselves worthy—not just in word, but in deep knowing?
The Rules of the World & Who You Are "Supposed To Be"
Since before you can remember, you have been learning the rules of the world—what makes people accept or reject you. Being that you were brilliant and wanted and needed to be loved, you started discerning from an early age who you could and couldn’t be in relationship to the world around you. Not who you are, but who you were supposed to be.
You were told how to behave, what to say, and how to fit into society’s rules. You decided, according to how the adults around you responded, which parts of you were lovable and which ones were not. You started slicing and dicing yourself in order to please, be accepted, and belong. Don’t worry, you weren’t alone—everyone was doing it!
Suddenly you’re sixty years old and saying to yourself, “Who am I? What is important and true for me? . . . I have no idea!”
The problem is that our society is outmoded; self-respect is considered selfish, and self-admiration is arrogant. We confuse self-care with vanity and consider self-appreciation unnecessary and indulgent. We are expected to downplay our accomplishments and be self-deprecating when a compliment comes our way. We are expected to not need, want, or dream . . . basically, we are expected to not be ourselves.
The BIGGER Truth: Be Yourself and You Are Love
We are in the new era, and the time to love and accept yourself first and foremost is now. We don’t need to be in a retirement home before we awaken to the truth that once we finally give ourselves the acceptance and affirmation we’ve been wanting from the world and not getting, we suddenly feel . . . whole. Imagine what the world would be like if everyone truly loved themselves and sourced their own affirmation, recognition, and respect from within. Why, it would be heaven on earth.
Do you want to wait until your golden years to finally say, “I’m lovable and deeply deserving of my own respect and admiration”? I certainly don’t, and the people over sixty whom I have talked to about this do not advise waiting, either.
This may be a new idea, but what’s true is that every time you look outside yourself for love, recognition, or approval, you are abandoning yourself. The world says love comes from another, but the truth is you cannot give or receive love at all until you have it first for yourself.
How Deep Is Your Love of Self: Special Love or Real Love?
A Course in Miracles calls the predominant kind of love we experience in the world “special love.” It’s special because it needs someone distinct to give it to. It’s special because it says, “You are mine and that other person is not.” Special love separates and divides. It causes pain and loneliness. It is neediness, fear, and possession masquerading as real love.
In contrast, real love connects, shares, and expands. A Course in Miracles calls this “holy love” because it reveals the wholeness inside and needs no special person to bring it to life. Holy love is in you and me. It is always available and is not contingent upon any person, place, or thing. Once awakened, holy love can be shared with others without possessing them. Holy love casts an enormous net that includes absolutely everyone and excludes no one.
When it comes to loving ourselves, most people only practice special love. Within ourselves we make special the things about our personality, physical body, and emotional self that the world affirms while we disown the parts that are deemed unacceptable. Our healing comes in casting a net of holy love over our entire self that allows every single, separated part to come home into the light of acceptance. Suffering ends when you purposefully, powerfully, and passionately love all of yourself.
Tolerance will not do. Deeming yourself “OK” is not even close. I’m talking about a level of self-care that you most likely have not seen or been taught how to do. I’m talking about a whole new paradigm of self-love, appreciation, admiration, and adoration. I’m talking about pouring it on so thick that you just can’t get enough of yourself! I’m talking about deep transformation that makes you go, “Oh my God! I wouldn’t want to be anybody else in the entire world.”
Break Out of Your Psychological Suffering
Carl Jung, the world-renowned psychiatrist and psychotherapist, said, “The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.” It’s scary because total self-acceptance includes the inner terrains of our being—specifically our minds, where enormous amounts of self-recrimination and judgment reside and recycle. To change this mode of internal suffering requires us to begin listening, in a nonreactive way, to what we are thinking and saying to ourselves. What we discover as we begin exploring this inner landscape is that the voices are angry, mean, and indeed terrifying. They are anything but loving.
These voices of self-rejection, self-punishment, blame, guilt, and unworthiness are like ugly creatures living on the bottom of a swamp. They stay low until the water is stirred, at which time they immediately awaken and surface only to sabotage and cause trouble . . . Who do you think you are? You’re going to look like an ass, trust me. You’re a phony—a fake. You’re stupid/fat/mean/a bitch/a bully. You will not succeed!
Because you’ve spent your life avoiding these voices and not confronting them, they have become real to you.
What makes it even harder is that they are powerful at convincing you that they are true. Listening to their chorus of judgments makes you want to run—but this time you can’t. To become happy and at home within yourself is truly worth the effort, no matter how scary it may feel in the beginning.
The Clamoring of Ghosts from the Past
Every unkind and unloving voice in your head is nothing more than a ghost from the past. You can’t change the past, but you can realize that it has no real power of its own. You give the voices of suffering power by believing them, and therefore you have the power to become free from them.
Consider this question: Who would you be if you were no longer running from, and crippled by, those negative voices? What would be possible for you if you were your very own best friend, lover, confidant, supporter, and number-one champion?
The reality is that you are not stupid, unlucky, mean, selfish, afraid, jealous, possessive, shy, uncaring, unattractive, unlovable, or un-anything! Sure, you have thoughts and feelings that say you are. But remember, you are a divine creation of that one magnificent life called God. Any and every silly quirk that makes you think or feel or act other than this truth is temporary—its days are over as soon as you choose to start believing something more kind and magnificent about yourself.
Being Free from Negative Thoughts Through the Power of Love
The way to become free from these negative thoughts, and the psychological suffering they bring, is by shining the light of love upon them. Practice seeing them as scared little children who need love, not aggression. Hear these voices as cries for healing and acceptance. When you hear and feel them, that’s the time to take a deep breath and say, “My Divine, please take this thought and transform it with your love. And please heal the effects of it on every level of my being, that I may awaken to the love that I truly am. Let love heal—right here.”
The more you can observe and surrender, the faster these voices will dissolve. And for those that don’t, you’ll discover you have a muscle of love that can allow them to rise up and be seen but not acted upon. You can just say, “Hello. What do you need?” Then listen . . . the voice will tell you what it wants. Just asking and listening is amazing self-care. Perhaps you can do something for yourself in that very moment that will be loving and nurturing. Perhaps you’ll need to tell this part of yourself to wait until later. If you do, then please be sure to follow through on that promise. Leaving yourself hanging or not coming through for yourself will only continue the suffering. Each loving act and commitment fulfilled will transform your psychological suffering like nothing else can.
©2014 by Mark Anthony Lord. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Hierophant Publishing. www.hierophantpublishing.com
Thou Shall Not Suffer: 7 Steps to a Life of Joy
by Mark Anthony Lord.
For Pastor Mark Anthony Lord, founder of the Bodhi Spiritual Center in Chicago, living in a state of joy and appreciation no matter what is not only possible, it is actually the way God wants us to live! In Thou Shall Not Suffer, Lord shares his seven-step program for facing each day with joy, possibility, and peace. Each step contains exercises designed to guide you to a new way of being in the world.
About the Author
Mark Anthony Lord is the founder and spiritual director of the Bodhi Spiritual Center in Chicago. An internationally recognized speaker and workshop presenter, his teaching style is engaging and experiential, using humor, current events, and personal examples to encourage people to ask the deeper questions that allow genuine transformation. www.markanthonylord.com
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