Recently while leading a group, someone shared that her goal was to learn to love herself, but felt it was an impossible task. Others agreed with this statement. Most of them were either bombarded with an endless barrage of negative self-talk, or they felt strong guilt from some past actions.
I offered that the easiest way to love yourself is to really know your yourself — to realize that you aren’t who you think you are. The “you” that you have a hard time loving isn’t really “you.” You are not your programming and conditioning.
Negative thoughts about self come from somewhere. They all have a beginning point in an event or circumstance. You’re not born with these thoughts, unless there’s a past-life influence, but even then they began at some point in that past life or before. Sometimes the programming can be subtly and unconsciously passed down through the generations, with parents influencing their children based on how they were raised, how love or anger was communicated or not communicated.
Just like you can open the hood of a car to explore how it’s wired and how it works, you can engage in deep self-reflection to see how your programming and conditioning began. An effective way to do this exploration is to go within to access a higher state of awareness.
For example, if you have a strong feeling of guilt because of a past action, you could imagine floating above that scene and investigate what was going through your mind at the time. Perhaps you did something regretful because at the time you thought you were gaining or getting something from it, given the mindset that you had of yourself and the world at that time.
The only purpose of guilt is to point to what you could do differently next time, and in that moment of awareness you are doing precisely what your highest purpose in life is: to learn, grow, evolve and awaken.
The primary way humans learn is by making mistakes. So from the viewpoint of your soul, mistakes are only seen as an opportunity to grow, and in that moment of seeing, your soul is happy.
The highest part of you is timeless and guiltless; it doesn’t care how long it takes to get a lesson. Just as you can tinker with a machine to make it run more smoothly, we can be aware of the amazing impact we would have on ourselves and the world if we released the negative thought programs that govern our life and replace them with clarity, confidence, creative potential and freedom — all qualities of our truest self. We’re not here to berate ourselves, or remain stuck and recoiled in fear and guilt, living from a false sense of self. We’re here to challenge ourselves to shine and thrive, to learn to live from our potential, and to experience that the joy of doing so feels better, freer and “more real.”
You are the infinite being that can be aware of a passing mood or thought, and investigate where beliefs originated. There’s a part of you that can be aware of your thoughts. Who or what is this “I” that can say “I” feel happy, and then can notice “I” feel sad 10 minutes later?
Thoughts, moods and beliefs can come and go, but the more permanent “real” you is the constant, unchanging awareness, forever anchored in the here and now, that can notice the mind’s ever-changing moods and thought patterns, like watching sticks or debris washing down a stream.
Eckhart Tolle says the next step in human evolution is to become aware of our thoughts, thus creating a gulf between “us” and our thought patterns. Therein lies the difference between suffering and liberation. It depends on where we place our identity: the ever-changing mind or the mysterious, expansive, silent awareness that can witness it.