Staying With Yourself

March 30th, 2012

“The finest thing in the world is knowing how to belong to oneself.” -Michel de Montaigne

I am convinced that the most significant and meaningful change we can make within all of our relationships begins with our foundational ability to relate to our selves. This teaching is ancient and lies at the heart of every spiritual discipline.  The Buddha summed it up saying:  “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.” Not only is our capacity for self-love the most challenging healing for most of us to master, but our inattention to this critical inner struggle is often the silent and invisible root of what goes wrong in our other personal and intimate relationships.

I know that I am not alone in my misinterpretation of life’s painful events as something wrong with me. I sometimes wonder if there is not some universal weak link in the human genetic code that predisposes us to the long and sticky tendrils of self-doubt and unworthiness that seem to catch us in our most difficult moments or in our most challenging relationships. We routinely abandon ourselves in our moments of need as we fall for the false and erroneous belief that we are separate, unworthy and unlovable. We witness the falsehood of this thinking for those we love, but often miss it in ourselves.

I am not advocating for more self-esteem here. In many ways, our drive towards self esteem is one of the trap doors we slip through, in a constant effort to measure up to some external standard, or worse still, a comparison with someone else’s digital profile. Real self love and acceptance comes through striving for self compassion. It begins with simple practices like giving yourself the opportunity to accept life experiences without having to like it. Instead, we often resist what life is giving us and make up elaborate stories that justify our resistance yet unknowingly get us stuck.

What we resist persists. It is easy to give up our story lines when we recognize that a deep part of our identity gets attached to what we refuse to accept in life and the more we push something away or try to run from it, the more our sense of self is linked to the experience or relationship.

Many people cannot tease out the pain of the experience from the resistance they have to it. We confuse the judgments we make about ourselves and the situation with the experience itself. The emotional layers melt together and what gets sacrificed is our ability to hold onto ourselves. Learning to release our storyline of judgments for a practice of mindful attention opens us to an ability to relate to our own pain. This practice enlarges our sense of self and the overwhelming story line turns into feelings that are manageable. We find that life and relationships are workable when we are not trying to escape from painful feelings, but want to create the internal space to experience them, which allows them to change.

The work of cultivating enough self-love to create and sustain healthy intimate relationships is directly proportional to your ability to have compassion for yourself and your life. Giving up our resistance to the way things are and the aspects of ourselves that have yet to evolve is a mighty first step.  It opens the door where life changes by itself and gives us a soft place to come home. Healing your life and relationships begins in your own heart. No one deserves it more than you.

 

6 Responses to “Staying With Yourself”

  1. Jane Wolfe Says:

    Such wise words! It all begins with how we love ourselves and the stories we tell about ourselves. What bliss to learn to just accept what is.

  2. Rose Burd Says:

    Dear Wendy.
    This message is so timely. I am in day 2 of suffering a broken engagement. Pain is running high. Your words offer some balm and reminder to return to myself. Thank you. I had not recognized my resistance to this experience. So grateful to have your wisdom come with graceful precision.
    Rose Burd

  3. RLucas Says:

    Wendy-
    So much to think about with all the words you wrote.
    In the midst of my painful experience, I find it very difficult to not self-doubt, and think that there’s something lacking or not right with me. Resisting the outcome of the experience comes so naturally, while giving up the resistance almost feels like I’m throwing in the towel. I guess I have some work to do…

  4. Wendy Strgar Says:

    Rose,
    I am so glad that these words came to your heart at just the right time. I never know who I am writing to, but am always so grateful to hear when my searching finds a home. Give in to the pain and watch it move through you. It will change your perspective on everything.
    thanks for writing.
    Wendy

  5. Liza Says:

    Dear Wendy,
    Thank you for this! I am in the process of ‘staying with myself’ as we speak and it’s the best thing anyone can do for themselves.

    @ Rose Burd, I know what you are feeling and going through! Don’t ignore the pain. Accept it, go through it and live through. Don’t resist! Just remember, no matter how painful, there’s something greater behind it that will manifest as long as you allow yourself some love and truth. You’ll feel better for it. Love yourself!

    With love

  6. Kelly Says:

    Dear Wendy,

    As I continue to deepen my practice of the middle path, the more this issue of self-compassion arises. It came up in conversation just a week or so ago… How is it that it’s so easy to have compassion for strangers, and yet so difficult to express it to those closest to us, and more so with ourselves. It’s easy to say “love yourself”, the excuses to not do so are endless. And as you mention, partly come from comparing ourselves to an unattainable external standard we all face. I struggle with it everyday. Thanks for your words.

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