I reckon I look at myself in the mirror at least 50 times a day. There are mirrors everywhere in my flat. But that’s not the reason. I’m vain. If the wind blows then I want to see where my tresses have landed: do I still look ok? Before I head out for my morning walk, often before the sun is even up, I’ll spend at least a few minutes preening myself and worrying about the bags under my eyes before I’ll head out into the dark where no one other than an occasional jogger or man with his dog treads. As if they’d care what my hair looks like. Which incidentally, is usually under a cap anyway.
Not only do I stress about my naturally frizzy and unkempt hair, but also about my body. Which frankly, a lot of people would give their right arm for. If two thirds of Australia is obese then I’m pretty sure they’d be happy with my size-8 4-times-a-week yoga bod. I’m doing alright for 41. Yes, I can say that on one hand (the one that holds a cup of ballerina tea), but on the other hand (which clutches my second homemade brownie of the day – and it’s only 10am), I clearly do not approve of myself, otherwise I’d be able to walk past a mirror without a forensic self-assessment.
But if I step beyond the mirror for just a moment – note to self: please, just walk way from the glass – then lack of self-worth is the ugliness that I’m really managing, isn’t it. What else would drive a slim, reasonably attractive woman to obsess over her looks? It can’t be about the looks, can it? My gut says it’s deeper. And my gut has plenty to say, let me tell you. On my way to brewing a pot of tea, I found myself shuffling around the back of the freezer for the brownie I mentioned. I didn’t want a brownie; I was making tea. But as has been a lifetime habit for me, I reach for food to fill the gap that sits somewhere between my neck and my derriere. I’ve yet to completely identify this hole and what it signifies, but I’m telling ya, there’s a hole and it’s a mighty big one!
So, let’s talk about my hole then shall we. (Yes, I am aware of the euphemism there)…
I have a hole that continually tells me it wants to be filled. And I’m pretty sure it’s not asking for brownies and cupcakes… or tea and toast… or a half wheel of Danish White Castello cheese… or a delicious Indian banquet with peshwari naan to mop up the spicy curry sauce. This definitely isn’t about food, or looking in the mirror: what I reckon my hole really wants to be filled with is love. (And that’s not a euphemism.)
So why am I unable to do that? How is it that with all the self-help books I’ve read and all the healings I’ve received (and given), I cannot satisfy the one thing that my soul asks for? Why does self-worth elude me? And I’ll take a stab in the dark here, but my guess is that you’re much the same, right? Otherwise why are you reading this?
But this isn’t about you (well, indirectly it is, but these words are in my head, so you follow what I mean, right). [Stopped for a slurp of ballerina tea, helps to keep me regular…]
Even though I am writing this, there is still an element of procrastination within me. Even though I am writing about the very thing I wish to fill, I feel inauthentic. I’m hoping that as I write, I will uncover some of the mystery that lives within my heart space and learn to fill it with something other than sugar and cocoa. Thankfully I no longer reach for a caffeine fix first thing in the morning, but before I get all self-righteous about that, let’s not forget that chocolate brownies are not exactly health food either. Unless they are of course, and I do believe that sometimes that’s exactly what they are. It’s not the ingredients themselves that will kill us, it’s the underlying attitude that we’re harbouring as we eat or drink, that is the silent threat. And as self-aware as I am, it’s only very recently that I’ve tapped into the self-loathing that accompanies much of my calorie intake. I realised very recently, that when negative emotions begin to surface, I very quickly and very adeptly place one hand on their head and submerge them back down below the surface (where they become hidden from my conscious mind, but are very much apparent to my unconscious mind/self). Meanwhile, my other hand is generally reaching for food.
The art of self-denial is a tricky one because until we can see what it is we’ve been hiding from ourselves, nothing will enable us to understand why we do the things we do, when we’re sure we don’t really want to. Such as overeating, not exercising, not being grateful, moaning about other people and on and on…
I suppose that’s why some people are averse to the idea of self-help books. If you don’t think there’s anything wrong with you, then why would you need to fix it? Similarly, why would I head to Bunnings for a power drill when a) I have nothing that needs drilling and b) I wouldn’t know what to do with it, even if I did have one. Is my drift catching you here?
But see how easily I deflect onto people who don’t even believe in personal development? Can you see how that’s just another layer of my own self-loathing? When we lack self-worth we fill part of the hole with self-importance. Not that I would say I was actually doing that here, but I certainly am guilty of a tucking into a nice bowl of self-importance every now and then.
Oooh yes, how scrumptious it is to know I am better than someone else. The lofty heights it lifts me to! From up here I can see how bald you are! From the rooftop of self-importance I get to rise out of my grave of self-loathing and sugar coat it with the idea that I know stuff, or that I can do stuff and basically leverage my mind to a point where it makes me feel better. Kind of.
Unfortunately that only worked until I realised I was doing it, at which point I had a conflicting reaction: Wow! How incredible to now understand this about myself… coupled with: Boy, what a self-righteous cow I’ve been.
Thankfully, the great thing about realisations is they tend to come with a side serve of compassion. Phew. So the thoughts of how self-righteous I’ve been actually don’t sting like they would have done, had I not realised I simply lacked self-worth. And I can now see that when other people leverage themselves above me (or others) that the same pattern is in play.
There’s a difference between seeing someone else’s self-importance as ugly and righteous, and seeing it as their lack of self-worth. When I see it from the latter viewpoint, it comes with a feeling that melts my heart. Now I realise that all those times people are perching on their high horse, it’s actually masking a deeper feeling of unworthiness. Wow, what a new way to see the world! Had I known this years ago I could have saved myself a lot of angry feelings and been a whole lot more compassionate toward my fellow humans.
Still, better late than never eh.
And it’s also worth saying that sometimes people simply are better than us at doing or being a certain way. I wouldn’t begrudge Usain Bolt the fact that he’s a better sprinter than me. That’s not him being self-important, that’s a proven fact. If the Dalai Lama invited me to a meditation competition, I’m pretty sure he’d win. So I’m not saying that blowing your own trumpet is always wrong, on the contrary, I think expressing our talents is a great thing. But there’s a difference in the energy behind “just saying” and “told you so”.
And yet again I digress… weren’t we discussing my mirror hogging and chocolate brownie intake?
Gosh, this really is difficult to get to the root of. Part of me wants to say, You know what, I’m doing alright here. How about you give up giving yourself (me) a hard time and just be whatever you are? Look in the mirror if you want to, it’s ok. Eat chocolate for breakfast, lunch and dinner if you want, that’s ok too. I doubt you’ll do it all the time anyway. Oh, and if you ever decide you don’t want to get up at 5.30 and go for a walk, then hey, feel free to stay in bed till 6. It won’t kill you!
I don’t know if I’m making any sense here, but what I’m getting at is this: I do almost everything I can to live a wholesome, kind and healthy life and yet I still beat myself up for not being good enough. Just imagine if I were to eat pizza and ice cream every day and never exercise, would my internal story be any different? I doubt it? From what I can see, we’re all telling ourselves we’re not good enough. And as it turns out, even when I tell myself I am okay, I can be masking doubts and fears that I don’t even know I have.
Sheesh. Do I get to have time out from myself? No! And that’s I guess where this is leading.
It’s not my actions that need to be addressed is it, it’s my attitude. I can choose to drink 10 cups of coffee a day if I want, and I can choose to be nice to people or not. Conversely, I can choose to eat healthy foods that nourish me, and occasionally punch down a piece of cake if I so desire. After all, that’s the bonus of being human right? If I wanted to be an enlightened master I’m not convinced I’d have chosen Earth as my habitat. So, as I sip the last of my ballerina tea and get ready for my fifth yoga class this week, I will begin a new way of life with a beautiful affirmation given to me by the queen of self-help herself, Louise L Hay. As I check myself in the mirror before skipping of to a vinyassa class I shall repeat over and over again these words:
“I approve of myself, I approve of myself, I approve of myself.”
I hope you say the same.