I used to be a real jerk to myself and no matter how much I accomplished it never felt like enough. I’ve always been quite self-critical—I realize I’m not alone in that tendency. I’ve come to realize that my standards were totally unreachable in terms of who I thought I should be, what I thought I should look like, and what I thought I should accomplish. Having a big vision and high standards are great in and of themselves but when they’re used as a measuring stick against which we can never measure up, it can be super damaging. It gives us way too much ammunition we can beat ourselves up with.
People ask me how I’m able to be empowered or do fairly well even though I’m in recovery from Lyme. They wonder, what allows for that? What is she doing? There are many way that I invite grace into my healing and one of these ways is by creating an unconditional friendship with myself.
An unconditional friendship is one that’s not based on any terms or conditions. I’m learning how to be my own friend when I look and feel like shit. I don’t have to look a certain way to merit my kindness. I don’t have to feel a certain way to extend lovingness towards myself. I’m choosing to show up in a loving, heart-full, openhearted way as often as possible.
This unshakeable friendship I’m developing with me is crucial in getting through the tough days, weeks, and months, as I heal.
I think we’re all wired to beat ourselves up to some extent. We’re conditioned this way by society. If your ass doesn’t look a certain way, or if your waist, or your muscles, or your ‘whatevers’ aren’t how they ‘should’ be then you have tons of ammunition to beat yourself up with. A lot of people get stuck in this cycle with the whole weight loss thing. Not losing the pounds or gaining pounds becomes the fuel for self-flagellation.
I’m learning that we all have our own version of that whether it’s with our body image or something else. It’s like we all have a little seed of self-hatred inside, a little seed that tells us we’re not worthy or that we’re not deserving. When we beat ourselves up we're watering this little seed of falsehood. For many of us disapproving of ourselves is so ingrained that we don’t even realize we’re doing it most of the time.
The inner shift that had to happen in my mind and heart to stop beating myself up for stuff is that there are no longer terms in my friendship with me. What I mean is that there are no longer conditions that I need to meet to earn my own loving kindness.
Kindness is becoming a way of being and not a reward for good behavior.
Most of us are raised within a reward and punishment system of conditioning—when we’re good we get a cookie, a gold star, or a check mark, and when we’re bad we get a punishment, a whack, an ‘x’, or some other unpleasantry. We internalize this model of conditioning and then are constantly rewarding or punishing ourselves, and for most of us this involves getting a lot more self-generated whacks than cookies.
Even our own love for ourselves isn’t unconditional and then we wonder why we can’t build relationships in which we’re loved for who we are. We don’t actually love ourselves for who we are! We're constantly trying to prove our own worth even to ourselves.
The inner rewiring of this pattern has everything to do with the notion that I am, and that we are, inherently worthy of our own love and affection now. Not after we lose the weight, not after we get healthy or get well, not after we have more energy, not after we meet the man or the woman, not after we have a certain amount of money in our bank account. Now.
We are as worthy in this moment as we will ever be of our own loving-kindness.
I have the pleasure of knowing some incredibly brilliant and spiritually in-tune individuals. I see us constantly making ourselves wrong for our humanity. We have such a higher perspective and we’re so bright that we use our smarts against ourselves. God-forbid, we do something human like get pissed-off, or be petty, or get jealous or any of that stuff because we beat ourselves up for being human. Our spirituality then also fuels this strange cycle of not measuring up and beating ourselves up for it.
What I’m learning through my own journey with Lyme is that I’m so fucking human. I’m so human and I can’t actually bi-pass my humanity. In fact, the most ‘spiritual’ thing that I can do is to shine my heart-light on this human woman that I am. ‘Okay sweetheart, you feel like total crap today, I’m here for you, I love you, what do you need? How can I make this day easier for you?
Sometimes, it’s hard to access our own love for ourselves. I get it. I have a cat, Injeia that I’ve been living with for 15 years and there are no requirements for her to earn my love. All I have for her is love. That’s what my relationship with her is—pure love with no conditions. I imagine this love is a taste of the kind of love a mother has for her child. This is the quality of lovingness that I’m learning to access and that I invite you to access with yourself, for yourself, and in spite of yourself, as you are right now.
Crafting an unconditional friendship with myself, which is a work in progress, means choosing to live from this place of kindness more and more. Instead of beating the shit out of myself or disapproving of myself for being sick or for being where I’m at, I’m accessing tenderness for myself, for my messy journey, for my fatigue, for my brain fog, for my insecurity, for…whatever it is.
We all manage to find evidence of our unworthiness because there is that little belief seeded inside that tells us we are inherently unworthy. We’re overweight and we say to ourselves, ‘I knew it! I knew I was bad, I knew I was unworthy. Here’s the proof.’ We go through a divorce and we use it to beat the crap out of ourselves. We say, ‘I knew I wasn’t worthy of love! Here’s the proof.’ For me, the most unavoidable evidence that’s fueled that false belief of unworthiness has been getting sick with Lyme disease. ‘I knew it. I knew I was flawed. I knew I was damaged goods. I knew I was fucked up. Here’s the proof.’
If we can use that thing, that proof of our brokenness, as a prompt, not to beat ourselves up with, but to love ourselves more and to find tenderness towards ourselves, then we begin to create that inner rewiring.
What we find, and what I’ve found is that, when we are in our hearts, nothing is too much to bear. I’ve experienced this on days that I have intense symptoms and feel like the embodiment of ‘feel-bad’ itself. When I stay in my heart, and am kind and present with myself that’s what gets me through.
That quality of loving presence is also what invites grace in.
When I stay in my heart and in unconditional friendliness with myself, I get in touch with grace. Perhaps the heart is the seat of grace in the body—when we strike the chord of grace inside ourselves it reverberates outward. When I tap into grace on the ‘inside’, I am met by grace on the ‘outside’.
I go to the grocery store and people go out of their way to help me. It’s reflected back to me that the Universe is trying to help me. When I have my back, when you have your own back and we show up with unconditional friendliness towards ourselves, we’re met with friendliness out in the world.
The choice to be nice to ourselves is one that we must make over and over and over again. It’s not a one time switch that we flip. In every moment we can either be jerks to ourselves or we can be kind and loving with ourselves. We can craft unconditional friendships with these precious human beings that we are. When we choose to access our own loving-kindness, we watch our world become kinder and friendlier. This is an amazing experiment in consciousness. Care to give it a try?
:: EXPLORE ::
Identify one of your own ‘proofs of unworthiness’—I made that term up…it’s that thing that you beat yourself up about relentlessly. It may be your body weight, that you’re single or divorced, that you’re ill, or broke, or something else entirely. Take a moment to investigate what your go-to ‘jerk fuel’ is. That thing that you bully yourself with. It’s likely something that your inner gremlin loves to use as ammunition against you.
The next time that thing comes up and you’re disapproving of yourself, imagine yourself as the small child that you once were. Envision this child in your minds eye or find a photograph of yourself as a child. Would you bully that small, innocent child? Would you be a jerk to that little dear one that on some level you still are? Imagine how you would actually treat that child. Sink into that for a moment.
Using this prompt see if you can soften into your heartspace and connect with the kindness you always carry within. Explore what it's like to direct some of that kindness towards yourself—even if it’s just a drop or a thimble full at first. I invite you to practice being increasingly friendly with yourself—no strings attached—especially when your ‘proof of unworthiness’ rears its head.
Copyright © 2015 Marie-Ève Bonneau
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