In the week or two leading up to this month’s 2-day YogaRoots on Location teacher training, I found myself having some self-confidence issues. Some of them were little that I don’t even remember, but some were more potent, like looking at myself in the poorly-lit dressing room mirror and feeling disappointed and upset with the body I saw. These were some of the thoughts and feelings I carried with me into the training weekend.
A portion of the training was devoted to processing traumatic experiences. Everyone had something. It was incredibly humanizing, and I was grateful to be in a space that was so vulnerable. The trauma I shared involved a harmful relationship that occurred over three years ago. I thought I had processed it and it was part of the past. However, my emotional reaction to reliving some of that trauma showed me that there is processing, remnants of hurt, and feelings of not being good enough that I still have to address.
The following day of the training included a portion devoted to self-love/self-care. For me, this was even harder than the trauma part. I had begun to realize that I had some things to work through with my self-worth, but I could try to ignore them before this. On this day at the training I had to directly face them. We were asked to write a letter to ourselves about self-love. As I wrote the letter, it was clear that there is some type of block deep within me that won’t allow me to genuinely and deeply love myself. The only way I was able to write the letter was if I pictured myself giving a friend advice. For some reason, I logically know and truly believe that a person’s self-worth is not dependent on others – and I can tell other people that. (I can even do an entire ceramics project with worthiness messages to others.) But I don’t know how to tell myself that in an honest way. Some part of me feels like it is far too self-centered to love myself.
Recently, my lack of self-love has been most clear in the context of body image. I think a big part of that is due to social media, so I’ve started doing a bit of a purge. I also plan to incorporate art into my body-love process. I have found that when I draw portraits, I have a new appreciation of individuals’ features when I look at them. I focus on the details and love how the shadows and lines and wrinkles form a human being. I want to do that for myself, too. I plan to sketch parts of my body that I generally don’t feel good about. My hope is that focusing on them will allow me to see the beauty in these parts of me, rather than thinking of them as flaws.
My self-worth issues are about more than just body-image, though. I have always pushed myself to do well, whether in school, sports, relationships, choir, etc. Knowing that I’m doing well in these activities depends on the reactions of others. My whole life I have found my worth in the approval of others. That feels so demeaning and restrictive. I don’t feel free. It limits my self-expression. Plus, the constant desire to perform perfectly means that I have to feel better than everyone else. (That’s a white-supremacy-culture thing.) And I don’t want those feelings any longer. I want to simply love myself and find my worth in being human. In simply being.
Maybe what I need is a new frame. Maybe instead of seeking approval, accountability is what I need. The reality is that everyone’s lives are constantly going to be shaped and shifted by those around them. Instead of seeking that perfect grade from a teacher in order to feel good about my paper, maybe that grade can be a way that the teacher holds me accountable for learning and challenging myself. Getting a bad grade on a paper does not mean that my worth is decreased, nor is the worth of my work decreased. Maybe it is just a new opportunity for accountable growth.
As I write this, I’m realizing how much of the process of truly loving myself involves letting go. It requires letting go of the expectation that I am going to be perfect at everything I do. Letting go of the desire to please everyone. Letting go of the need for people to like me in order to feel worthy of love.
I am worthy of self-love and the love of the Divine because I AM. It depends on nothing and no one. I mess up, and still I am worthy. I feel ugly, and still I am worthy. I am worthy. Period.
Logically, I can say that loving myself is an important step in loving others. I think for most of my life I have tried to ignore that step and leap a few ahead. It’s time for me to love others and love myself. These don’t have to be mutually exclusive, as I once thought they did. I thought that by loving myself too much I was being selfish and giving up love that should be going towards others. But love is not a scarce commodity that needs to be divided up. It is abundant and ever-flowing, and there is plenty for me to show myself and show others.
As we say at the end of each yoga class with Felicia, “We are one.” Namaste: The Divine in me respects the Divine in you. The Love in me respects the Love in you. Loving and honoring myself means I can, at the same time, love and honor others. We are one.