Those of us who have chosen a spiritual path open up a huge can of worms.
We become seekers in our own right—of everything. The questions that have always been on our minds are now ready to be put under a microscope for us to prod and poke until we become satisfied with some of the potential answers. Though what we usually end up finding are just more and more questions.
I’ve been a spiritual seeker for most of my life, but the intensity grew as I reached my late 30s. Many things I thought would be a part of my story by now have not showed up yet. Experiences I am “supposed” to be having don’t interest me (or seem empty) now. Many things I thought I knew about myself have turned out to be from deep, social conditioning. The questions changed from, “What am I supposed to be, or do, or seek?” to “What do I need to shed before I can really know who I am?” and “What do I really want?”
What I have uncovered after many, many nights of praying, asking, crying, surrendering, and yes, sometimes screaming at the top of my lungs, is how much we are taught to not value ourselves. To not see ourselves as the gift.
This may seem obvious, but stay with me for a minute.
From a young age, we are taught what to emulate. In learning this, we are subconsciously told that who we are and what we have to offer is not good enough, flat out unacceptable, and wrong. I remember endless messages telling me to be the “good girl,” or even more accurately the “good Catholic girl.”
Here are the guidelines: Good girls don’t raise their voices. Good girls follow the rules. Good girls don’t talk back or question authority. Good girls don’t like sex (or shouldn’t). Good girls stick to the script and don’t make edits. Good girls are not leaders.
We are told every day by marketing companies and the global social consciousness that who we are is broken, not okay, or even terrible. In order to fix those broken pieces, we need to buy this beer, have this operation, be more like this or that person, get married, have kids, change our wardrobe, and so on. Once we have done all these things—then what?
Do we get the prize? Is prize really worth elf-acceptance? Are we healed? Are we more spiritual or connected to God? Or are we just defeated, angry, immensely confused, and hurt—deeper in the woods than ever before?
I’ve been praying and ruminating on these questions for a long time. And then, one day as I was driving to meet a friend, it hit me. How much easier and freeing it would be, instead of seeing myself and the events in my life as a deterrent from what I was “supposed” to be achieving, but rather see them as actually being the those very intended things. Those perceived hurdles are actually the finish line.
With this thought, a wave of relief washed over me. The pure joy of existing within my own body, mind, personality, experiences, likes and dislikes, wins and losses, and everything in between was glorious. It was like finding breath after being under water for a little too long.
I’ve always had this notion that somehow my life has been unfair or off balance. Something just had to be missing, right?
Because of this, I have been seeking this elusive balance (and the antidote for my believed unfair experience) for a long time. Maybe it was in the perfect weight, or my career, or my friendships, maybe even my love affairs. Perhaps I would find it by doing yoga or moving to a different city. Where was this balance anyway? It was sneaky for sure. Each time I thought I had found the answer, it would peer out from behind its current hiding spot and declare a rematch.
But now, some real balance surfaces—realizing that I am balanced already. The balance is me. It isn’t in trying to emulate someone else who has balance. It isn’t even in the journey toward it (although that can be fun). It’s realizing that whenever someone told us that we weren’t good enough or okay because we weren’t like this or that person, it was because they too were searching for this balance, and most likely, not finding it. Habits are learned. People who are not enlightened cannot enlighten others.
Balance is acknowledging all the gifts that are a part of our lives instead of all the things we think we wish were.
How many times do we really sit down and ask ourselves why we want something? Or what pushes us to do something? Often, it is because we are trying to emulate something or someone else, and usually in those cases, we don’t even have all the facts. We see someone who we deem “more successful” than us, but don’t have any clue about their inner life.
How much do we miss by not seeing ourselves? How much more beautiful we could find ourselves to be if only we were taught to do that?
As I get older, I learn many people feel this way—this constant careening toward balance. If we haven’t gotten to this certain place by this certain time, it really does a number on us. But what is this certain place? And why is it by this certain time? Who made up all these rules anyway?
We give a lot of lip service to being happy, making “our own way,” being different, and pushing the boundaries but many times. We unconsciously fall back into the lie that our life has to look a certain way for us to be okay with ourselves. When did life stop being an adventure of discovery and curiosity? When did it become not okay to question to status quo?
Our constant comparison game is preventing us from celebrating ourselves. Furthermore, it prevents us from celebrating other people as well. We all know that feeling of trying to call up genuine joy for other people’s good fortune or accomplishments, when really, we are judging ourselves for not being where they are or not getting what they’ve go. But this in and of itself is the whole point.
Why do we go there? Why do we cheat ourselves out of our own journey? Because we have been told that, for a myriad of reasons seen and unseen, we are not acceptable. And somehow, in our deep social conditioning, we jump to the conclusion that, magically, other people are acceptable and by emulating them, we will be acceptable too.
This is a cat and mouse game that I would like to put to rest.
I would love the chance to like myself—just as I am. I would like the chance to dare to love myself, even if I am unacceptable, even if I am imperfect, even when I forget my own light.
For now, I will consciously and quietly remind myself that the gift I seek is just…me.
Author: Elizabeth Gordon
Image: Lotte Meijer/Unsplash
Editor: Danielle Beutell
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman
Social Editor: Travis May