The risk and necessity of self-love
Most of us were formed by people who programmed us to fit into society. It left us with feelings of ambivalence about who were, with feelings of inadequacy, instead of unconditional self-acceptance. We found ourselves wondering how to conform and how we could please others. To find the acceptance we craved we sought to give others what we thought they needed. We judged ourselves against an external standard of excellence and when we weren’t seen as enough, shame may have crept into our hearts.
We are all familiar with the ‘terrible twos’ which, we are warned, are a foretaste of what’s to come in teen years if not controlled strictly. As children, our attempts to speak our own minds may have been seen as rebellious and have been put down by our parents, whose will usually held sway. Even so, this movement to separate, to express our wills, to trust ourselves and explore life, is vital.
Did we learn to become autonomous as children? Could we try new things without first getting permission to do them? Were we punished or praised for being strong-willed? How did it feel when we were allowed to be independent, or when we were constrained?
Sadly, most people stay enslaved to their early pattern of conformity. This locus of control is outside ourselves, like a small peg in the ground that continues to control an elephant after it is fully grown. Like the elephant, we too have assumed that our ‘pegs’ are for our good and are afraid to risk pulling them out.
We don’t need to be disempowered. Though we tend to err on the safe side, God made us uniquely and brings things into our lives to invite us to risk becoming our true selves. At first a changed pattern of behaviour won’t feel normal. We may even feel guilty at breaking from the predictable, known ‘me’. As we push through the initial uncomfortable feelings, persisting in more authentic behaviour, our feelings will change. Over time new feelings will accompany this new pattern of living.
We were made to belong, not to conform at the expense of our real selves. Becoming fully ourselves is a necessary risk in becoming fully alive.