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September 12, 2017

The Side Effect of Meditation I Didn’t Expect.

Everyone has their own reasons for meditating.

But unless someone is born into a community where the practice is as routine as getting dressed in the morning, they probably started meditating to improve a specific aspect of their life.

I did just that, and began meditating a few years ago after realizing the positive effect it could have on my mental health. I am not fully healed yet, but my practice has minimized my depression and anxiety. Witnessing that improvement has been enough for me to persevere through my (admittedly) imperfect practice without a tinge of hesitation.

But instead of focusing on how it helps me manage my mental health, I want to discuss an effect of meditation I didn’t expect: drastic improvement in my self-esteem.

I don’t know what caused my lack of confidence, but it must relate to my fear of—well, seemingly everything. I am convinced it’s in my genetic code. I may never become fully fearless, but by turning inward through meditation, I am no longer afraid of not being enough.

I used to be. My close friends in college even called me “Miss Zero Self-Esteem”a reliable indication of my insecurity and lack of self-confidence in everything that I was. I feared feeling inadequate and hurting others so much that I started to dread every interaction with the outside world.

Do I still find it challenging to interact with people? I won’t lie, I do. I still even feel somewhat uncomfortable talking over the phone. But I don’t dread these interactions anymore. I am no longer terrified to speak my mind for fear of not appearing adequate.

And meditation has helped me beyond just interacting with others.

It helps me settle within myself. While sitting in silence, I feel no self-loathing. I am simply there, showing up for myself, opening a space inside to enjoy my own company. When I sit with mindfulness, a world of abundant love opens up, and I feel ready to pour it onto others.

As I progress, I notice how much my self-esteem relates to my willingness to be unguarded. I have made myself vulnerable in ways I could not have dreamed a few years ago, when I was a lot more insecure, a lot less mindful.

Recently, I noticed it in relation to my appearance.

It was unseasonably hot where I live in Ireland, so I wanted to go out with bare arms. I would typically shudder at the thought. But this time, I said to myself, “You know what? I’m gonna do it,” even in spite of some recent complications.

I go to the hospital every two months for infusions, which have thankfully curtailed my chronic illness and freed me from being homebound. But they also gave me severe eczema, a skin condition that is not exactly pleasing to the eye. Even though I love myself now, even just a few weeks ago I felt ugly and thought I needed to hide my arms (where the eczema is at its worst).

But thanks to my practice, I was able to completely accept my situation. I just faced it head on, and off I went to the grocery store. I didn’t notice anybody staring at me, or even being bothered by my presence until I approached the till, where a lady looked at my arms and said, “Wow, I thought that only happened to white people!” “No, no. This happens to all types of people,” I said, as I smiled and moved on. In the past, I would have felt extremely self-conscious about that lady’s comment. I probably would also have been filled with rage. But I felt none of those things this time.

Now I look in the mirror and I no longer feel sorry for myself. I even pretend I’m a cute cheetah with all the spots on my arms. Maybe I’m Cheetara in disguise (and maybe I’m not disguising my age with that “Cheetara” reference).

I am sure that as I advance in my practice, I will discover more ways in which meditating helps me improve myself. The more I turn inward, the more self-actualization I create.

And feeling successful does not require me to feel amazing all of the time. Feeling low, afraid, or insecure is part of the human experience too. I just have to acknowledge it without letting it control me.

I don’t always wake up feeling great. But now I can turn to my higher self any time, and I know that stilling my mind is the most compassionate act I can do for myself.

It helped me realize a strength I never knew I had.

How has a consistent practice of mindfulness benefited or changed your life? Or, if you haven’t quite experienced anything yet, how do you expect it will?

~

Author: Flavia Simas
Image: William/Flickr 
Apprentice Editor: Matthew Mason; Editor: Emily Bartran
Social Editor: Sara Kärpänen

 

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