Sunday, June 3, 2012

Believing in Yourself

Finding Our Way to Our Spiritual Roots
Truly believing in yourself may be one of the rarest gifts that people ever offer themselves. It's rare because most of how people believe in themselves is through ego. For instance, you're a computer engineer. You believe in your skillset in this area because of external validation from years of doing it "right." However, you may not actually believe in your skills at all. You may secretly be afraid of making a mistake and finding out that you're not a very good computer engineer after all. What's worse, maybe you didn't even get into this field because you love doing it. You got into it because you were considered "good" at it and because it could make you a lot of money. So in this scenario, despite thinking that you believe in yourself, you actually don't.

And that can be a very humbling realization.

Peeling Away Ego Layers to Get to the Core
This topic is so expansive and so deep that there's no way one blog post can hit at it all. In truth, we live in a society that has taught us not to believe in ourselves despite the many stories and movies that say that we should. Instead, what society has told us is to believe in certain social stories and to believe that we can achieve those stories. How many movies play out the theme that we have to persevere until we conquer the bad guy to become a champion or we have to date enough other partners until we find the perfect one? The framework that's being set is half the problem. Certainly perseverance is important, but it has to be coupled with following your heart. Maybe you don't need to have a life romantic partner. Maybe you don't need to be conquering other dudes or need to be considered a champion of anything. Look at all the stories that pulling the strings on you to start peeling away the layers of ego.

And if you don't even know what's in your heart, you're that much more lost and easily manipulated by social lies. I can't tell you how many people think that following their hearts isn't "practical" because it won't make "money" and other such nonsense. Some of you who have followed your heart and made a living at it know how much of a lie this is, but unfortunately, social conditioning runs deep. Countless people every day don't follow their hearts and instead follow the path that they think will be safe or get them the most social approval, which is at best a very watered version of ego-love.

The Humbling Realization That You Don't Know How to Believe in Yourself
Walking the spiritual path will make you humble one way or another. It does this by continually knocking the pins out from underneath your ego. You can choose to do this as I did, or you can wait until life does it for you. And ultimately, your soul and life are working together to get your attention, and while it won't be a conscious choosing of this kind of sacred destruction, you are involved in any situation involving you. It sounds redundant, doesn't it? But how many people think that life is just "doing bad things" to them? How many people live in the constant victim mode that says, "The world just hates me?" Of course not. You hate you. And it's no more evident than in the fact that you don't follow your heart and are trying (and failing) to achieve what society has told you should achieve. And lucky you are if you are failing because now you can see a problem. If you're unfortunate enough to have mild success by society's rules, you can end up caught up in the game for your whole life. There are another set of you who are so successful that you achieve all the things that you are told to achieve, and then you realize that it's not making you happy. At which point, you may:

a) immediately create new goals to ignore this truth
b) get into substance abuse to overcome this unhappiness
c) have an awakening and turn towards the spiritual path (perhaps similar to scenario a, but it's a start)

Digging Down to the Roots
But if you are ready to figure this out before your deck of cards collapses, then you're moving in the right direction. The spiritual path isn't the easy way out. It's the way through. It's the way through pain to embrace your bliss. It's the way back to your heart. But before you can really start to believe in yourself, you have to find out what love is. Do you know? You can't go to far on the path if you don't know. As I'll talk about in an upcoming blog, spirituality isn't a mental game, and transcendence doesn't mean running away from the dirty, ickyness of life. It means you're going to be right in the middle of it, so you might as well get a shovel to start digging into it.

As you go, you're going to face a lot of assumptions about what love is. You're going to face your assumptions about yourself and your worthiness for love. Because ultimately, people don't believe in themselves for a number of reasons, and one of them is that they don't feel worthy of love. More specifically, people don't feel worthy of their OWN love. Isn't that horrible? The one person whom you'll be around your whole life doesn't think that you're worthy of love. The good news is that you're also the one person who can change that. You're the one and ONLY person who can change that. And that's a liberating thing because no matter what a lover, child, parent, co-worker, spiritual teacher, spiritual friend, or anyone else feels towards you, you can always have your own love.

Rebuilding All Your Definitions
In many ways, you can't go too far without redefining everything. As you look at your assumptions, you're going to find out that they're wrong. You are worthy of love. You are worth believing in. You can follow your heart and be taken care of heart, body, mind, and soul in this lifetime. In every way that a part of you fights these truths, you've found the lies. They'll take on different voices. They may be the voices and faces of other people in your life (most often your parents), but make no mistake about it: the person perpetuating these lies is you. You have to own that. You have to own that you are your own worst tormentor. No matter how horrific something was in your life that has brought about such internal scarring, you are the one carrying on that terrible event and allowing it to inhibit your ability to love yourself and live a life focused on love. These too are big realizations, and if some of these are resonating for you and tears are coming unbidden to your eyes, that's okay. It is all part of the process of being humbled. It is part of healing and clearing.

To use another metaphor, the spiritual path is a major home renovation. Everything is getting torn out, and a new foundation needs to be poured. You're not going to be able to keep anything that isn't real. This leads to letting go of a lot of relationships, which tends to be one of the most difficult parts that many people tell me about. I can confess that it hasn't necessarily been one of my favorite parts, but I always tell people that when someone leaves your life, more space is made for someone else to meet you and potentially in a way that is more healthy for you. Or it may allow the next difficult life lesson to come to you. Both are important as you move towards wholeness and really believing in yourself.

Taking Action and Forging Into the Unknown
The truth of living life is that we never really know what will transpire from the actions we take. Some people are so afraid of the unknown that they cling to whatever seems familiar. But familiar misery is bondage of the worst kind. It's why so much pain has been allowed to fester in hearts and minds of people around the world. People would rather cling to the familiarity because they associate it with safety than to forge out into the unknown. People are afraid of failure and the social disapproval that comes with it, but I ask you, what difference does social approval mean if you totally love yourself? When you are no longer running on empty and when you are full of true love (not the ego-love that believes it's the greatest thing in the world), what difference does the eyedropper of social approval make?

None.

Can you see why it all starts at your heart? From that space of deep love, you can conquer your fears. It most certainly won't be quite in the way that you expect, but it is the gift and opportunity that you have in this lifetime. You can't wait. You have no idea how much longer you'll be alive. Don't take your life and this moment for granted one second longer. Everything is so transitory that the only thing that truly matters is love because in the next moment, you've let go of this corporeal shell.

Techniques for Letting Go of Fear
Before I end this post, I'll offer a few techniques to let go of fear. They shouldn't be anything you haven't heard from me before if you've been reading this blog for awhile. If you are new, I encourage you to check out my spirituality ebook or my starting out section. Either will get you going pretty quickly in how I think and discuss spirituality.
  1. Do what you're afraid of. I'm not letting people off the hook today. If you're reading this, I don't want you sitting around thinking. I want you to take action. Face it. See what the fear tells you and look at it squarely in the eyes. One of my students was talking about having a fear of heights, so she went out skydiving. However, I'm more interested in daily fears that confine you, so starting small is just fine. Ultimately, all of life is built upon small actions and moments anyway.
  2. Drawing strength from like-minded company. It's good to have a few friends along to help face the fear. Unless your fear is around being alone, having a few people to help you face whatever it is can be a great way to get over the hurdle.
  3. Make it stick. After doing what you're afraid of, the next step is to help it stick. Journal out your feelings and your discoveries. Talk to a close friend about these findings. Then look at where else in your life this fear has inhibited you. Make doing those things part of your regular practice of completely overcoming this fear, so you can see its many faces and influences and help it to dissolve from your life completely.
The Long Road of Re-writing Social conditioning
It can be a long road to re-write this social conditioning that has you not believing in yourself and that tries to get you to believe in an ego-self that plays by specific rules. It doesn't have to be long, but I encourage you to have determination and perseverance as you dig more deeply into yourself to find out what your heart truly wants to realize in this world. It's the start of believing in yourself, and it will be totally worth it because you are totally worth it.


Today's lovely, deeply-rooted picture is from my student, Jenn.
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