It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves,
and it is not possible to find it elsewhere.
A little secret. I have not liked myself most of my life. The first time I remember not liking myself was at age 12, and this grew into an insidious companion throughout adulthood that did not abate with years of sporadic therapy. The day I realized only I can change this and no one else can help me change it was the day things started to shift.
I suspect many of us internalize and personalize all the messages that our external selves should be different than they are, that we should become better at this or that, earn more money, that we need to be something or go somewhere different than we are to be happy. As if challenges all people experience are our personal failings. Over time not liking ourselves becomes a habit, like putting on clothes each day. So many of us console ourselves with alcohol, drugs, food, cigarettes, sex, any sort of addiction. Others of us drive ourselves beyond belief toward great achievements to prove to ourselves we can like ourselves. Usually all of these consolations are temporary.
For whatever freak of nature reason, I have avoided addictions, and other than cycles of using food to console, have experimented with the least amount of substances of anyone my age I have met. But my overarching disregard for myself has become evidenced in the relationships in which I have participated, my income, and also the void of relationships that marks the majority of my adult life. If you don’t like yourself, it’s not easy to let anyone get too close.
I now believe I deserve to be happy, do experience happiness daily, and this is not due to prescription drugs.
Here are 4 things that helped me that might help you, should you find yourself among the many who secretly do not like themselves:
1) Meditation. When you meditate, even for 5 minutes, you access a place that allows natural compassion to arise. This is our natural human state, present all the time, but we rarely tap into it. When you access this natural state of being human, you experience your inherent value completely separate from judgment. A tree has inherent value, just as a bird or horse has inherent value. You know you do not need to be anything better, smarter, wealthier, fitter. You just are. Inherently valuable.
2) Look in the mirror when you wake and say, “Just for today, I will like myself.” You can do this with anything you are trying to change, but I have found the Just For Today mantra to be very effective in creating new habits.
3) Do something that fills you up each day. Being a parent helps me know without a doubt the inherent value in another human. Music is a soul filler. The natural world is too. Stuck at the computer much of my waking time, I look at images of aspen trees, mountain summits, stony beaches, and get outside each day even if the only time I can is in the dark to see the abundant stars looking down on me.
4) Describe your life to an alien. This is based on a dinner table game my dad, a professor, did with me and my siblings when we were young in order to get us to think outside the box. He would take the role of an alien coming to earth and ask us to describe something mundane, like a wheel or a tree or a car. As an adult, I found it helpful to make a list of events in my life that seem like negatives and then describe them to an alien. The answers that arise can show you your own incredible strengths where you believed only weaknesses lie. Sometimes we need to have our little frame of reference shaken up to see the truth.
People are like stained-glass windows.
They sparkle and shine when the sun is out,
but when the darkness sets in,
their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.