Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Am I Enough?

Off and on throughout my life I have struggled with believing I am worthy, that I am enough just the way I am. Actually, through most of my life I believed I'd never be enough. I was forever trying to prove my worth. I was never able to be good enough, smart enough, thin enough, strong enough, etc. Somehow I had learned that if I were enough then everyone would love me and my life would be grand.

No wonder I never believed I was enough. I mean, it is impossible for everyone to love me. And even if they did it couldn't guarantee that life would be grand. I had to learn through some really tough times and some wonderful counselling that I could never control what other people think, feel, or do, and that is as it is and as it should be. I can only control my own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

That learning certainly didn't come easily. I didn't even start to get it until my mid-thirties, by which time I had lost a lot and was at my lowest. It was only then that I was willing to let go of all the old false beliefs about where my value is found. I finally began to accept that I was not, and never would be, perfect. My imperfections only made me human, not worthless. And I learned that all humans are worthy.

Of course I had been told that in the past. It was preached by folks who didn't really believe it. I mean they gossiped about people and put them down because of their imperfections. So, no wonder I didn't believe it either. But as I began to accept myself, learned to love myself, I could see that it is true. No matter what, each individual is worthy of love and acceptance.

I learned that it is possible to love and accept others without condoning their behaviors. I learned that people who love themselves in their imperfection are better able to love others. They can be authentic and open in relationships. They can heal themselves and help others to heal.

The way I learned these things was by being loved and accepted by those folks. Once I opened myself to that love and acceptance it got easier and easier to love and accept myself.  That's not to say it is always easy to do. I still sometimes get to feeling low and think negative thoughts that have my self-worth spiraling downward. I still need to be around folks who value me even with my imperfections.

I am imperfect, vulnerable, and sometimes afraid. And that is where I can connect with others who know that they are like me. And we can know that we are o.k., worthy. We are enough. Actually, some of my best and dearest friendships were founded in those most vulnerable spots. Being able to open up to let someone see those parts of me made for the strongest of bonds.

That kind of opening up takes courage. Many people will not risk the possible rejection of another person.There are different kinds of courage. There is the heroic courage of putting your life on the line. For most in our culture this is the only definition of courage they accept. However, there is the "ordinary" courage of putting your vulnerability on the line. Not everyone has the opportunity to be a hero in the sense of risking one's life for a cause. However, we each have the opportunity to put our vulnerability on the line. And in doing that, we can create incredible relationships.

When we don't have the courage to let our true feelings show we cheat ourselves and the people around us from knowing who we really are. We diminish our relationships and become less and less authentic. We are no longer real to ourselves or to others. Our self-worth diminishes because we know we are not being real and we are not valuing ourselves.

But when we risk our vulnerability we have the opportunity to make ourselves better and to make those around us better. There is a ripple effect. That honesty begets honesty and people feel safer to be real themselves.

You hear me talk a lot about compassion. I believe that the better we are about accepting ourselves and others the better we are at compassion. Compassion must come from a place of equality with others. If you see yourself as "more than" or better than another you may feel sympathy, but not compassion. Compassion is feeling the same feeling the other is experiencing. It is coming together at a place of commonality, know the same pain.

Having compassion and practicing compassion includes holding people accountable for their behavior. Sometimes it is hard to understand that we can be compassionate and accepting  while holding folks accountable.The key is to separate the person from the behavior and to let them experience the logical and natural consequences. This is the best way to deal with inappropriate behaviors in people of any age. But it is especially important with children. This is how they can become responsible adults.

And it is important that we avoid thinking we must hate the person or that they deserve to feel bad. While this may seem to make it more comfortable for you to keep them accountable, it diminishes both of you. You are sliding into the blame game, where no one wins.

When we don't set boundaries or hold people accountable we feel used and mistreated.Resentment builds and we attack the person's worth. This causes problems in relationships and our well-being when we sink into shame and blame. It is impossible to practice compassion from the place of resentment. We need boundaries and accountability to live compassionately.

Shame always defines you as not enough. Addressing your shame issues is a priority for living in your worthiness. We'll look at shame more in future posts.

To-do list:

  • Remind yourself each morning and night that you are enough, just the way you are.
  • You are worthy of love.
  • Love yourself, for if you do not love yourself you cannot love others.

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