How much do you really like yourself?
For many of us self-esteem is, ironically, related to how other people and society perceives us.
We are taught from a young age that in order to have high self-esteem we need a job we love, or one that pays well, a happy relationship, a home of our own, a healthy bank account, fashionable clothes, a fit body that’s desirable to others, defined goals that usually involve moving up some kind of progressional ladder and a myriad of other external factors.
More people are becoming aware of the importance of looking within to find happiness and self-acceptance, an idea present in many religious and philosophical traditions that are gaining popularity today (but we also encounter a set of mental, emotional and for some, spiritual requirements that also need to be met before we can truly like ourselves).
It’s important to understand that we are all made up of different parts that can be equated then to different roles we play in our lives—parent, friend, employee, partner.
Some of these parts are more archetypal, such as: the joker, the child, the saboteur or the victim. Like the disparate and seemly disconnected ingredients of a soup they come together to form our personality. Some parts we like more than others, just as we may like carrots more than we like cabbage, and some parts we leave out of the mix within our consciousness because we don’t like them at all.
Balance vs. Transcendence
Reconciling all our parts, with their different motivations, beliefs and emotional baggage can be difficult (as they are often at odds with each other).
Our parental part may think saving money for the future is a great idea, but our teenage part may sabotage that behaviour in favour of present moment gratification. We all deal with these polarities within ourselves, but we often don’t realise that the aspects of our personalities we judge to be “bad” often have something important to show us.
If we allow ourselves to accept these parts, and really feel the associated emotions, we often find the hidden gems that spur us on to evolve.
Often the more palatable option is to suppress the “bad” and focus only on the “good,” but if we ignore what we don’t like it increases in strength—we become more angry, more depressed or more deluded. By understanding we are all a complex mix of conflicting beliefs, thoughts and feelings (that make most of us hypocrites some of the time), we can start to feel better about ourselves right now.
That isn’t to say that we stop trying to improve ourselves.
Accepting the status quo can can often hinder our personal growth as we can fall into the transcendence trap that tells us to rise above all that is ugly within ourselves, opposed to balancing the polarities within.
Spiritual practices, such as meditation and yoga, provide a refuge from from the constant chatter of our minds and are important if we are to gain peace and clarity, but they can also become a form of escapism that keeps us stuck in denial about who we are.
Acknowledgment and acceptance of our polarities not only leads to a more authentic sense of self, but gives us the courage to take positive action on both a personal and global level.
As Within, So Without
While we may feel discomfort when we look at the darker sides of our personalities, this
provides the catalyst we need to make changes.
We can see this happening on a global scale as we face an increase in social, economical, political and ecological unrest that is prompting, what some are calling, a paradigm shift.
A collective apathy has been present in our culture for many years, which has allowed the darker side of humanity to proceed unhindered. And while this is difficult for some to accept, for others it is the wake up call they need to start taking action towards positive change.
This awakening of humankind is akin to an activation of global self-esteem that helps us speak out against injustice.
Our collective-gut-instinct, that tells us things aren’t quite right, has kicked in to gear, bringing clarity and discernment to what we choose to believe. This level of discernment is one of the most important features of global or personal self-esteem. It allows each of us to navigate through the depths of ourselves and the plethora of revelatory news stories, to decide what is truth and what is distraction.
Denial, Distraction and Discernment
The methods of denial and distraction have been employed for decades to stop us from questioning the status quo, yet more of us are now able to use our discernment to see through falsehoods from all angles.
When we know and accept ourselves, we can trust our inner guidance system above all others. We become our own gurus and no longer have to rely on others, be they teachers, spiritual leaders, politicians or friends, for direction.
As we move through this paradigm shift our attention may swing from one end of the spectrum to the other. It’s easy to get caught up in cognitive dissonance, or revolutionary zeal. We can move towards the light of spiritual escapism or the dark of apocalyptic doom, both rabbit holes offer some kernels of truth, but let’s not travel too far down either of them.
Let’s instead remember that we live on a planet with finite resources and we are custodians of our collective home rather than owners.
We have lived under the false assumption that one of our human rights is to have what we want when we want it, but we no longer have the luxury of acting like teenagers who don’t understand the consequences of our actions.
We are experiencing a period of growth into collective adulthood and the pains that go along with having to take responsibility for ourselves and the earth.
Each one of us can do that in a unique way that is personally ours. Gone are the days when we need to be told by others how to live well, we just need to follow our common sense and realize that no one is infallible or more important than anyone else, and no truth is so absolute that it can’t be questioned.
Can we embrace the paradox of creating unity out of diversity?
I think so.
Here’s to conscious evolution.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editorial Assistant: Laura Ashworth / Editor: Catherine Monkman