Tag Archives: self reflection

Valuing myself is a journey

I’ve had some time to reflect lately partially inspired by reading A Mind At Home with Itself by Byron Katie.  One of the things I find most inspiring about her work is her ability to experience her life without attachment.  In my view, she teaches through her work, to examine our thoughts and determine if they are really true and how we would feel without them. She seems so free to love others and herself (she says there is no separation between herself and others) without adhering to any imposed definition, label or opinion.

Byron Katie quote

I’ve examined this idea in a previous post, Whom Am I without Employment.  However, I think I’ve reframed that question now to look within to find my own value independent of others opinion or labels, approvals or disapprovals and independent of employment or job title.

Do I need to conduct a strengths inventory? Does this process require me to be objective? Is there a formula, a defined way to to be comfortable with me – or dare I actually try to get to a place of loving myself? The thought of loving myself has always seemed so selfish and has been a continuous concept of conflict. While I’ve read one needs to love themselves in order to love anyone else, of course loving others is so much easier – and is as natural to me as breathing.

Recently when having lunch with a friend, without pre-meditation, I said, “I like who I am in the eyes of my children.” I’m not sure now what prompted me to say that but I believe that statement to be true. Am I comfortable without the clarification? Can I just say I like who I am? If I can love others with their perceived faults, why then is it so hard for me to love and accept my own?

byron katie quote

Over the years when I’ve faced stressful situations I’ve often told myself to invite calm: in this moment, I am fine. It’s funny that the present becomes the past so quickly – this moment is gone and a new one takes its place. If I am okay in this moment, can I also value myself in this moment? And if the answer is yes – could it be that simple that I could actually love myself in this moment and commit to just that?

Expanding on that thought then, I must also love myself in the past. If mindfulness is being present and giving ones full attention to the present, then I feel some comfort in accepting self love in the present which is independent of labels, opinions or job status – but rather just my existence in this moment. In resisting the urge to dredge up the past, to wallow in the shoulda-coulda-wouldas, mistakes, regrets, failings, losses and in resisting the urge to fear the future – I can actually find a space where I can embrace myself with acceptance and love and it does inspire me to be less judging of others.

Looking within can sometimes make me want to look away

Old habits die hard.

While my expectations of myself may at times be unrealistic, and while perfection is of course not my goal, I do strive to be a better me. This week I found myself falling back into a darker shadow of myself. I fell into the characteristics of a person who finds fault in others and gossips.  Although my objective is to see the good in life, to notice and celebrate what is well and good, sometimes I fall. I begin first to notice, then to dwell, and then to share my perceived views of the faults of others. It seems this pattern repeats in work situations. Perhaps I’m seeing qualities in others than I possess and despise in myself. Perhaps it’s out of insecurity, perhaps it’s a flaw of being human but either way I looked within and wanted to look away.

Coincidentally, or perhaps divinely, an associate recommended a book to me.  The book by Miguel Ruiz, called The Four Agreements is opening my eyes and helping me re-focus. I’ve only read through to the beginning of the Second Agreement, but the first is so powerful it’s shifting me back to who I want to be.

“Be Impeccable With Your Word.”

1. Be Impeccable with your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.

That is very clearly the opposite of how I behaved this past week and I could sink into self-hatred and punishment but Ruiz advises this would be furthering the destructive power of my words. Instead, I’m going to try to learn from this, absorb the wisdom of this book and practice using the power of my words more positively.

As further reinforcement, we attended a couples Valentine dinner at our Church last evening. The speaker, Teresa Hartnett, Director of Family Ministry at Roman Catholic Diocese of Hamilton, spoke about mercy in marriage. One of the statements she made that stuck with me was the intention of speaking kind words with your spouse and being peaceable.  Teresa spoke about the power of the words we choose and how often we will speak to our loved ones in a way we never would speak to others. She also challenged our belief of reality and how each person’s reality is a different version. When we share our perception of what we think is happening with others, in order to gain their acceptance of our view, is that right? In winning people over to what we believe, are we certain our beliefs are what is factually true? How can we be?

More introspection; more dislike of what I see. Two sources of information; message received.

Quote from The Shadow Effect by Debbie Ford
Quote from The Shadow Effect by Debbie Ford

I’m looking forward to the journey I’ll take in reading and learning about the other three agreements within this book. I’m praying for the grace to absorb its wisdom and rise above my old dark shadow self habits.

May I be impeccable with my word. May I be peaceable.

Learning to accept that which I have kept in the shadows

To define myself by my gender, age, physical appearance, talents, characteristics or any other measure can only express a part but not the whole of who I am. Wouldn’t it be great to only consider that which you are most proud of? I have a tattoo that says, Let Love Define Me. My ability and capacity to love is probably the quality I’m most comfortable with.

I love the line in the song Dress Rehearsal by Carolyn Dawn Johnson that says: When the show is over, And they lay me down, I wanna be remembered, For the love I spread around. 

The truth is that I have no control over how I’ll be remembered. It is funny how I’ve tried in certain circumstances to control how I’m seen by others but it rarely works. I often feel I’m misjudged or misinterpreted even when I think I’m being completely honest.

Perhaps a year or so ago, a friend of mine loaned me The Shadow Effect video and I really connected with it and told my friend at work all about it. She proceeded to purchase the book on which it was based. As with many of the self-help or self-reflection books I read the message tends to fade as time passes. In the late fall I asked if I could borrow the book and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. The book is divided into three sections, each by a different author. My favourite is the first section by Deepak Chopra. If you are interested in looking into this topic further, try this link: http://vimeo.com/10611853.

Upon reflection, I can clearly see how pointing out the faults of others allowed me to indulge in the “at least I’m not like that” mind set. Wayne Dyer says: when you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself. I see more clearly than ever the truth in that. How do I measure against that person? If I can see greater faults in them can I see value in myself? The sad truth for me is that old messages from childhood still sometimes play on loop in my head and my worth is hard to see.

Growing up in a home where I perceived vanity to be judged a critical fault, where celebrating my own wins or successes were labeled selfish or self-centred, it has been challenging to allow myself to see my own value. Even more difficult sometimes is to acknowledge those bits of myself I’d rather keep hidden in the shadows, those qualities or characteristics that when I recognize in others I have criticized and disliked.  Those shadowy bits of ourselves that we’d rather not see, haven’t we come by them quite honestly? The Shadow Effect helped me to look at those more negative qualities and see why they may have developed in myself and others – to protect or counter some injustice perhaps.  It has also helped me to see those qualities in others that I find so distasteful and to consider they may be compensating for some deep pain or insecurity.

Am I proud of all my traits? No, but like the grey hairs I hide with colour, they are part of me, part of my life experience. Instead of ignoring those qualities, I’m learning to accept them and realize they are a product of my life. When I see those qualities in others that make me uncomfortable, I’m learning to be more accepting and see them in a more empathetic light. There is a freedom; it seems, in not having to hide. It was as if I didn’t name those qualities I wouldn’t have to admit they existed. However, in accepting them I can bring them out of the shadows and they lose their grip. If I’m not hiding them then perhaps they won’t show up so intensely under stress or when they are least welcome.  Perhaps in accepting our shadowy qualities we are better able to accept them in others and for me, acceptance is love.