Self-Esteem Issues, Anyone?
It’s a little hard for me to understand why I have self-acceptance or self-esteem issues.
I had a decent childhood, with no major abuse that I can remember. But certainly I’ve had this issue to deal with. And it certainly seems to me that this problem is epidemic in the world around me.
I thought I’d share some things I’ve learned about how to deal with the “I don’t like myself very much,” or “I’m not good enough,” or “I’m a complete failure” or “Others can do it, but I can’t” syndrome.
One place to start is a bit of introspection about the origin of issues like this. For me, I think it springs from two places:
1) Past incarnations in which I didn’t measure up to my own or others’ expectations of me.
2) Present incarnation, in which I never seemed to be successful enough, though I tried mightily.
Example: I was a good student and often, though not always, brought home straight-A report cards. Upon seeing one of these, my mother would say: “Why don’t you do this on every report card?”
And then there was the “sin thing.” Being raised a Southern Baptist, I was taught, from birth, that we are all sinners, damned to hell.
Please understand that I’m not (nor should you) blaming anybody or any circumstances of my life. I chose this life, my parents, my religious background, my personality — everything!—for purposes of learning the lessons I needed to learn in this life. (And so, by the way, did you!)
But please don’t dwell too long on the exact causes of low self-esteem, if you have trouble with it. The main thing to do is to ask: “What do I do about it?”
First suggestion: Avoid the ego trip of self-negation. “What???” You say. “How could an inferiority complex be egotistical?” It would seem to be just the opposite, right?
But Paramhansa Yogananda clearly stated that: “…an inferiority complex and a superiority complex are opposite sides of the same coin.”
It took me a while to understand this important statement, so let me give you an example from my life. When I first moved to Ananda, instead of feeling the bliss and total harmony with others here that I expected, and instead of having great meditations and going immediately into samadhi, I found myself judging myself severely and comparing myself to everybody else living here — they all seemed like real saints to me.
“It’s hard living here!” I thought. “They are strong. They can do all this meditation and attitude changing and working on themselves constantly. I’m simply not strong enough to do this all the time! They are courageous. I am a coward. I’m too weak. I should leave Ananda and not inflict myself on these great souls, thereby bringing down the wonderful vibrations at Ananda with my ICKY presence.”
Fortunately for me, I voiced these thoughts to a dear friend and fellow disciple. She thought it over and then said very sweetly, “By having such thoughts you are just being tricked by your own ego. Listen to yourself: ‘I am not this, and I am not that, and I can’t do this or that! I, I, I, me, me, me’!”
Wow! She was right, and I was able to hear this! So I sat right down and changed my attitude — almost on the spot! I started affirming (and still do): “Naughty or good, Divine Mother, I am your child. I am Master’s disciple. I am made in God’s infinite image. So what if I’m not perfect. That’s what I’m here to become! I am one with the Infinite AUM — that’s all that’s important! If I behave badly, that is not the essential me.” And there were many other such affirmations that came to me or are in Swami Kriyananda’s or Yogananda’s writings.
Another lesson: I met my husband, Sudarshan, here at Ananda. About a year after we were married in 1980, he said: “Savitri, I want to tell you something that I’ve been observing about you. You are a very kind person, very sweet, very loving. But you would never treat anybody as badly as you treat yourself. Why do you do this? Don’t you know you are being disrespectful to God within you?”
Wow, again! Again it was truly time for me to hear these words and really start trying to do something about it — to start treating myself better, as I would treat others, taking time to do fun things and to get enough rest and so on.
Show some respect for the God within you!
Swami Kriyananda has offered many worthwhile suggestions specifically for those who work with this challenge. In fact, he wrote a whole book about it called “Secrets of Self-Acceptance.” There’s a wonderful introduction to that book from which I quote:
“While traveling the road back to self-acceptance, bear in mind that you, in common with every other human being, are unique. The melody you have to sing is yours alone for all eternity. The role you have to play on Life’s stage can be played by no one else. Your allotted task is to learn to play it to perfection. That melody, however, or that role, belongs to a more expanded Selfhood than the realities you experience in your little ego. Transcend all limitation by contemplating ever-more-expanding vistas of reality. Ultimately, you will discover who you really are, behind all the ego masks that you — in common with most human beings. [Learn to move] from the ego-squeeze of self-rejection to the relaxation and joy that accompany self-expansion and total self-acceptance.”
Here’s one of my favorite “Secrets” from the same book: “The secret of self-acceptance is not identifying yourself with failure. Neither success nor failure can define you, who are made in the image of Infinite Perfection.”
And to close:
A suggested affirmation for the highest level of self-acceptance:
“No matter what happens to me or around me,
No matter what others think of me or what I do,
I love and value myself.
For I realize that I am not the little self only,
But also the greater Self,
Made by God, made in God’s image,