It kept me from believing I was capable of even some of the simplest things. And, it filled me with constant fear. Fear that I would fail. Fear that I would be ridiculed. Fear that I would get hurt. Sound familiar?
And, time after time, my nervousness and anxiety about one of my ‘worst case scenarios’ coming true, would ensure that would be exactly what happened. They would come true. I would do something stupid, or make some little mistake. Though it was never just some ‘little’ mistake. It was huge. Major drama. End of the world, apocalyptic, cataclysmic huge.
What I didn’t realize, was the impact all of these negative thoughts were having. My health, my ability to maintain a job or get promoted, even my ability to just enjoy life, were all tarnished by this constant negativity. And, as you can imagine, the more my life sucked, the more I believed the internal dialogue. That’s the thing about negativity. It has a way of drawing you in, tighter and tighter until it’s almost impossible to get out.
Now, here’s the thing about being trapped in this vortex of negative thinking…since you don’t trust yourself, you can’t really trust anyone else either. And, since you can’t trust others, it’s harder to be kind, compassionate and loving towards them. It’s also harder to believe they are being kind, compassionate and loving towards you, too. This is the place where conflict is born. It’s the place where wars are started. It’s where someone can become so trapped in the cycle of negativity that they are willing to strap a bomb to their body and kill people they don’t even know.
When someone reaches this level of despair, no amount of kindness shown by others is going to help. They simply won’t believe your intentions are valid. Instead, they’ll believe you’re up to something, and that you’re going to eventually take advantage of them. Regardless of your true intentions, their hearts have become too hard. Now, all of this may seem like there’s no hope, right? Like we are all stuck in this vortex of fear and despair with no way out. Bad things are going to keep happening, and we are going to keep suffering. Fortunately, this isn’t true. There is a way out, a way to build a new path, one that allows kindness, compassion and generosity to be the norm.
Think of it this way. If our distrust and self-loathing is what leads us to conflict and violence, then the opposite should lead us to peace. What’s the opposite of self-loathing? Simple – self-loving. Once we learn to love ourselves – every bit of ourselves, regardless how painful or ugly we once believed it was – then we can begin to love others. Until we learn to love ourselves, we are unable to properly love others. You simply cannot share what you do not have. Which is why the answer to the question of when will the world become a safe and peaceful place is simple. When we learn to love ourselves first.
When you love yourself, truly love yourself, nothing else matters. You no longer desire fame, or fortune, or glory. Yes, all of those things may still find you, and if they do, rejoice! They are just no longer necessary for you to be happy, or to feel loved. Once you learn to love yourself, your ability to be kind increases exponentially. Not only does this affect your own life, but it changes the world around you. Think of it like bringing a single candle into a dark room. That single candle won’t drive the shadows away, but it will reveal them. Which means you can recognize them for what they really are. That alone takes away the power they have over you, which means your candle burns just a little brighter.
What happens when your candle burns brighter? Exactly – more shadows are revealed, letting you see them for what they really are. Just like self-loathing was a cyclical process that wound your life tighter and tighter around itself, the way out is cyclical as well. You see, self-love is a process. It’s not something that will happen overnight, or within the next 30 days. It may take a few months. It may even take a few years, but that’s okay. Trust me, it’s worth the time it takes. Now, you might be asking yourself where you should start. What is the one thing that lights that first candle? Forgiveness. Just pick one thing that you’re currently doing, or have done in the past, and forgive yourself for it. For me, it was forgiving my inability to see myself as being of value to the world.
That first shadow I revealed didn’t change my life, but it did open the door. I didn’t start by trying to convince myself that I was valuable. I started by forgiving myself for thinking I wasn’t. Yes, I still struggled with finding my value and believing in my worth, but now, every time I did, I simply forgave myself again, and moved on. Eventually, as those negative thoughts started to form, instead of becoming depressed and anxious, I started to laugh at how ridiculous it was to think that way. And that is what led me to start believing I did have value. One shadow was gone. But what a huge shadow it was!
In Part Two of this series, I’ll take a deeper look at some of the techniques I used to go from hating myself and my life, to absolutely loving who I am and what I do. It should be out in a few days. I hope to see you then!