A synonym of love is compassion and compassion requires expansive, non-judgmental understanding. But in my observation, most people are critical, make assumptions, and are blind to others—and even more so to their own self.
You can tell how judgmental and disconnected a person is to their own self based on how judgmental and critical they are about others.
Love and compassion for others is at the same depth how a person is loving and compassionate with their own self.
To be able to communicate and know love, a person needs to feel loving. This is more than an intellectual, textbook understanding or an emotional gushing. True love has been described as committed, enduring, serene and balanced. But to understand love a person needs to know how it feels. And even a person who is loving towards us, it may not be received with love or understood to be love. Being loved does not necessarily cause us to feel love, and this is especially true when a person has defensive tendencies.
Individuals who have self-esteem issues tend to be very defensive about everything.
This type of person is denying themselves of their own power and either fail to recognize, or do not wish to see and own, their own natural uniqueness, beauty and strength, so everybody and everything is a threat. The insecure person lives in a state of fear of who they are, and deny their most soulful expression. It is very difficult to recognize, find and embrace ones personal truth when caught in an emotional whirlwind, and this is why it is common to find so many people bogged down with self-esteem issues.
In short, a person with low self-esteem does not feel love for who they are.
Loving security within oneself is created through self-forgiveness.
The common theme of a person needing to love oneself before loving another is predicated by first being able to forgive ourself. What do we need to forgive ourself for ? Often times it is for not owning our vitality, and allowing a person we trusted take advantage of us.
In other words, self-esteem suffers when we betray the love harbored within.
Sometimes it is a group of people that has misled us, such as a church group, people at work or school. Most often times it is our own family, an immature parent who didn’t have the emotional maturity to nurture their child, or perhaps a misguided role model who didn’t understand our unique needs and instead tried to force us to be somebody other than who we are.
When self-esteem is hurt it often times happens without even knowing that it has occurred.
The kind of harm that can be caused by people who are loved and trusted is to influence a person to not trust themselves at the innermost levels. The most common way a person can be truly harmed at the heart and spirit level is through intimacy, trust and vulnerability. It is those people who we love on the outside that reveal, influence and shape how we trust our own self and personal intimacy.
The people with whom we have no defenses are the ones we are most vulnerable to.
When a person we are open to betrays trust, defensiveness is the natural response.
Defensiveness happens in many ways. The most common is just to become insensitive, to shut down the areas where we can be hurt. I think that this is common for those that have experienced deep trauma and abuse. If the areas where a person can be hurt are not vulnerable, or present, then there is no chance for being harmed. When emotional and mental defenses are raised, it is difficult and almost impossible to feel or be harmed at the deeper internal levels. Just because the sensitivity is diminished, does not mean that we cannot be harmed. The defensiveness itself can be harming. And shutting down and keeping people out because of vulnerabilities also precludes the positive aspects available from the sensitivity.
Defensive responses are released not by doing anything, but by letting go.
When encountering defensiveness in the people around us, it is easy to raise our own guard. It is rare to understand that the person is being defensive and feels threatened out of fear. Usually, it just appears as if they are being mean. But a person who knows their own truth, and accepts life with equanimity, will not respond with defensiveness.
The person who embraces and lives with their soul-level knowing can respond with an openness that allows the people in their life to be who they are. It doesn’t mean a person who is responsive will agree, be supportive or be an emotional sop, but they will be able to own and communicate their spirit with authenticity and integrity.
An open response is usually preceded by self-esteem, self-knowledge and patience.
It is still difficult to be responsive when faced with defensive patterns, especially because reactive defensiveness is such a deeply ingrained pattern. Yet, an impersonal perspective can do wonders at liberating oneself from the emotional drama of others, and maintaining peace within our own self. And, when not reacting emotionally to the emotional upheavals of others, a chance for understanding is present for both the person who can maintain space, and the person who is emotionally reacting.
As soon as an emotionally reactive person is put down for their defensiveness, then all chance for reconciliation is past.
My yoga guru said to me once, don’t raise the defenses of others, because in order to be understood, or understand them, you then have the additional task of working with the defensiveness.
Most people hold onto anger at others who have harmed them, and blame other people in their life for hurts and betrayals. Psychology calls this projection. And, it is true that they have hurt us. But I don’t know a single person who isn’t also angry with themselves first for having allowed it, or for being vulnerable and trusting. Some part of the love mechanism within shuts down as a result, and insensitivity to others and ones own personal needs grows.
To hold others at fault is to remain in bondage to that person and the past—the other person may never recognize or even care that they have caused harm.
This means that sometimes the only way to heal the harms inflicted by others is to find internal peace and understanding. I consider that people are innocent; no human was born with a ‘how to live’ big book that gave us all the instructions. So we learn and live with the examples of our environment and people in it, with openness.
As children, we are open and vulnerable to parents, family and other influences without the ability to discern what is true, healthy or harmful to us. And many harms happen because of that innocent trust. But to shut down that trust of others is to also diminish the trust within. Most people who cause harm do so unknowingly and accidentally.
The perspective of innocence has given me a great liberty in understanding myself and the motives of others. Although, the whole concept might also work as well by changing the word innocence with ignorance. Most people just don’t have a clue to what they are doing, how they harm others, the world, or their own self.
With self-trust comes the ability to trust others.
I’ve read and heard a lot of ideas about how to boost self-esteem. They all come down to learning how to trust and value the self in an authentic, balanced way. Any supportive method for being self-trust is healing, and wisdom within allows us to allow others to be who they are. This does not mean that a person will be healthy for us, or that their traits may be supportive. But it does free the individual to have balanced responses, and to see people who they are with clarity.
Yet the easiest way to trust oneself is to stop holding others responsible, and to follow through with the dreams, wisdom, and guidance that upwells from the soul.
And with self-respect for our own uniqueness, the ability to accepts differences is easy.
There is so much dissention over differences. In politics, religion, sexual orientation, family structures, finances, our modern world is full of focusing on differences. Differences can be frightening. Or they can be a source of strength. Nature is full of variety, and does not war with itself. Humanity can be just as infinite in the expressions of life, and through respect and esteem, find balance and establish peace and communication through the world.
How a person responds to the inevitable shadow side of life and personality shapes the future.
It is easy to comprehend ideas and belief structures, and to sit and talk about definitions all day and all night. But to relate to a person through silence and presence, in the absence of words, first calls for deep personal knowledge, trust and stillness within. To be self-knowledgeable is to have self-esteem, to recognize ones personal failings and strengths, and to be at peace with that.
When reacting with negativity, the result is negative. And when responding with equanimity, an avenue for understanding oneself and others is available. To heal the world is to first forgive our own self for being human, and to respect our own individual personality and traits with gentleness and compassion. Judgment, criticism, blame, and shame need to be addressed internally, and naturally self-esteem blossoms.
Then, knowing how love, compassion and forgiveness feels, what has been internalized can then be carried and expressed to the world. An indomitable strength for nurturing the self, family, and world comes from balanced understanding shines from within, effortlessly. It becomes easy to respect others for where they are on this uncertain path of being alive, and to hold them in esteem for their strength, wisdom and unique beauty.
Being loving and at peace with oneself, having forgiven the self for the transgressions committed against our own self becomes an avenue for others to see life, and their own self, in a new light…and to shine in their own unique and natural way.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: elephant archives