There are times in my life when I have struggled with episodes of self-worth so low, it’s been hard to even get through breakfast.
Likely, all of us have had times like these, where we felt snagged on some situation, much like when a thread from a certain sweater of mine always gets caught on the same spot on the dining room chair.
Certain patterns have a way of repeating themselves.
Until they don’t.
These annoying happenings repeat themselves, until we make the choice to really look at the situation in a different way and change it.
These moments are rich and ripe with opportunity, for both clarity and transition.
I remember a pivotal time, years ago, when I completed my yoga teacher training.
Of course, every moment in our lives is pivotal in its own way, much like a giant Plinko game from the old Price is Right gameshow. Every moment, our actions determine our paths forward, relative to moments and situations when we eventually feel a sense of reward, validation, or peace amidst our circumstances.
Looking back, certain times felt much more pivotal than others, due to my ability to break through all of the nonsense that had been holding me in a stuck position.
I was in a room with all of the other yoga students, along with two swamis and other teachers. One by one, we went through a ritual. We took turns kneeling in front of a group of candles within a circle of flower petals on the floor, while everyone in the room called out what they’d seen and perceived about us during the course of the training.
I remember hearing the words “wise, beautiful, strong, mother, and feminine.” Tears spilled down my face, through my closed eyes, and my body trembled vulnerably.
This was such a powerful experience for each and every one of us, and I remember it as if it were yesterday.
Many of us were sobbing during our time in the circle, not because of any negative emotion, but because we sensed deeply that we were hearing the truth. And it went directly against what many people and the world had tried to convince us of otherwise, up until this point.
My tears were cleansing.
They were tears of release, and my body was letting go and shaking out my own resistance toward believing the truth I had known all along.
But, this is where things become tricky.
We might ask, “But, do we need validation from others to believe certain positive things about ourselves? What if the things they said were negative?”
This is where discernment is key.
Recently, I was in my kitchen and my five-year-old daughter called to me from the other room, claiming that her three-year-old sister had called her “stupid.”
I did not hesitate as I looked directly into my oldest daughter’s eyes and asked her in my most assertive tone, “But do you think that you are stupid?”
She was caught a bit off guard and did not know how to respond, but knowing her as well as I do, I saw her responding non-verbally that she did not believe she was stupid.
“She should not say that to you, but do not let it matter. It does not matter what other people say to you, if you do not believe it about yourself. You are a brilliant little girl who at times even understands things that some adults do not, and you know this is true, yes? You are good at drawing, you know that you can figure out how to maneuver a maze without even putting your pen to the paper, you can write stories, and do math problems. You know this, yes?”
She nodded, and the entire situation dissolved and fell away on its own.
We feel good about ourselves and experience positive emotions when the things we tell ourselves or hear from others resonate deeply with what we feel is true.
Conversely, we do not feel as good about ourselves and we feel negative emotions when the things we begin to tell ourselves or hear from others do not resonate deeply within us as being true.
Many relationships have strained interactions because what the other sees about us does not at all align with who we know ourselves to be.
Projections work their way into the mix, as do judgments.
When we project, we become defensive. Often times, when I have been defending myself, it’s been because I mostly believed something about myself, but ultimately my self-defense was an attempt at my own self-convincing.
When we really know something, we typically do not feel the need to defend it, because this does nothing but drain us.
It is a waste of our time and energy.
Recently, I have taken on the challenging project of going up against my moments of self-doubt head-on.
Sometimes I feel as if I can not do something, or that I am not worth it, or that I will fail. Instead of having this “stupid” conversation with myself, I treat myself as though I were a combined version of my two daughters.
I ask myself:
Is this true?
What do I know and what have I really learned about myself?
What can I say to myself now?
It can even be helpful to write these things down. Make two columns, and on one side start with our specific self-doubts, then on the other side, list all things we know to be true about ourselves to contradict what we had been thinking from the “doubt” list.
Nowadays, I do not need a circle of flower petals and candles to realize the truth of who I am, because I have already clearly seen these aspects of myself.
I know that I trust myself.
I know that I do not give up.
I know that I am resourceful, strategic, and innovative. When I get to a brick wall in the middle of my road, I will either walk around it or climb over it. If I feel like I cannot do either, I have enough self-confidence to ask someone who I trust for their perspective about how to handle it. Then, I will determine for myself whether it feels right to me.
I know that when it comes to self-worth, nobody ever really “gets there.”
Even the most confident people have moments of self-doubt, anxiety about their future, and maybe even regrets about their past. This is okay.
There is no finishing point because we are all human and we can only do our best to be gentle and have grace with ourselves overall, just like I did with my younger daughter who called her sister “stupid.”
Amidst all the chaos, we have opportunities to just lighten up. We can revel in the truth and accept these pivotal moments as finishing points or starting points toward something different.
“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” ~ E. E. Cummings
Author: Katie Vessel
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock