Sometimes we struggle with perfectionism and self-hate. And we don’t know what to do about it. There is a way out of these painful emotions. In order to explain the way out, I have a question that may make you feel uncomfortable initially, but stay with me.
What if someone told you, “You are worthy right now, just as you are”?
If you are like a lot of people, including myself sometimes, that statement makes you really uncomfortable. You might even feel angry or disgusted with it. Perhaps you think to yourself, “There is no way I am worthy right now.”
Believing in Our Worth Often Makes Us Feel Uncomfortable
And if you are like a lot of people, you can probably list a bunch of reasons why you think you are unworthy. Perhaps you think you are not talented enough or not smart enough or not good enough. Or perhaps you think you don’t look the right way or weigh the right amount. Maybe you think that you don’t have the right relationship, job, or salary, personality, or personal history to be worthy.
Is Believing We are Worthy Dangerous?
You may also feel like believing you are worthy right now is dangerous. For instance, you may feel that if you start believing in your own worth, it will become an excuse for you to behave badly. Perhaps you feel like you will start doing whatever you want, become really lazy, and lose any motivation you have to try hard.
Because of these fears, you may strongly believe that you must constantly prove or earn your worth. And you may constantly try to do so by being better, smarter, more talented, prettier or doing other things to prove your worth. You are probably a perfectionist and extremely hard on yourself.
And you may demand the best from yourself in every area of your life, or at least some major ones.
Trying to Earn Our Worth is Exhausting
If you are like a lot of people trying to earn your worth in this way leaves you in a perpetual state of feeling ashamed of and frustrated with yourself. In fact, if you are like a lot of people, you have developed some serious habits of perfectionism because of your feelings of shame and frustration. For example, you might try to do everything perfectly in order to prove finally that you are worthy.
Because of this, failure and imperfection is intolerable to you and any sign of them in your life causes you intense feelings of pain, anxiety, and self-hate.
Perhaps you wish there was a different way to live. You probably wish that for just once you could stop striving so hard and rest and feel like you are good enough right now.
I have good news. It is definitely possible to stop striving so hard and to rest. It is possible to feel like you are good enough right now, just as you are. It’s not only possible, it is how you were meant to live.
There is even better news:
When you understand that you are worthy right now, you make it much easier to become the best you possible, to pursue your purpose, and to treat yourself and others with kindness, compassion and respect.
And when you understand that you are worthy right now, it enables you to love yourself in a moral, healthy, and mature way. This is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself.
That’s what this series of posts is about: Learning to love our self by learning to recognize our own worth. Let me tell you a little bit about myself and why I wrote this series.
One of the most important lessons I have learned in the last decade is how to recognize my own worth and to love myself. I didn’t realize it at that time, but for many years earlier in my life, I unconsciously struggled to love and accept myself.
Because of this, I constantly tried to prove my worth to the people around me so that I would feel worthy and lovable. As a result, I often got stuck in patterns of perfectionism and self-hate.
My patterns of self-hate were really sneaky and were often hard for me to detect because I often felt good about myself and life. If you had asked me, “Do you struggle with self-hate?” or “Do you expect yourself to be perfect?”, I certainly would have denied it.
When Self-Hate Surfaces
However, my self-hate would surface in moments in which I felt like a failure or when I was struggling with my imperfections. In those moments, I would feel a lot of anxiety and fall into patterns of perfectionism in which I beat myself up for my failures.
And then I would set new, stringent rules for myself in order to whip myself into shape. These rules became flogging instruments that I used to beat the failures out of me. These moments were full of self-hate, even though I didn’t realize it at the time.
When I realized that I struggled with these patterns and that my perfectionism sometimes devolved into self-hate, I was shocked.
I knew that self-hate was not good for me, but I did not know how to address the problem.
An Encounter with Love
Around the time I became aware of this issue in my life, I had a meaningful personal experience in which I vividly encountered the healing power of Love. I didn’t hear any voices or see any lights. I just had a profound insight into the meaning of unconditional love and my own loving nature.
Suddenly, I felt like I had been going around a lot of my life with a blanket over my head, and now the blanket was removed. And I felt like I could see everything, especially Love, much more clearly.
I experienced this Love as Divine Love. Please know, however, that whether you are religious or not, or mystical or not, this post and this series of posts is for you.
How My Experience Changed Me
Although my encounter with Love definitely had a mystical side to it, it also had a very practical benefit. It helped me to reconnect with what was worthy, loving, and good in me. This began to heal my problems with perfectionism and self-hate. This also began to help related problems like control issues and anxiety that I had also struggled with for most of my own young adult life.
As I realized my own worth, I began to see more clearly the good and loving part of myself, and I realized that it was a reflection of the Divine. If you are not religious, you can think of the Love I write about in these posts as the Love present in our Highest Self or the Universe. This is the creative, energizing, and healing force in the world. It connects us with everyone and everything around us.
The Wise and Wounded Self
Over the years, as I have thought about my encounter with Love, I realized that one of the most helpful things about it was that it helped me to distinguish between two parts of me: my Wise Self and my Wounded Self.
My Wise Self is that part of me that is Love and that connects with the Love in the world and in everyone else. My Wise Self is my truest self. It contains compassion, wisdom, and creativity. It is the source of my worth. Whenever I connect with it, I nurture the good in myself and heal what is wounded and broken in me.
Because I am religious (specifically from a Quaker Christian background), I think of my Wise Self as the light of God in me that connects me with the Divine. Everyone has a Wise Self.
The Wounded Self
The other part of me is my Wounded Self. My Wounded Self develops when I get cut off from Love and when I forget my Wise Self. It is full of fear, anxiety, self-hate, perfectionism, control issues, rigidity, and other unskillful coping mechanisms. My Wounded Self is a lot like a scared little child that misbehaves because it doesn’t know better.
We all have a Wounded Self. Life can be really scary and confusing, and we all experience painful events or hurtful people. These experiences and people often cloud our vision or make us forget about Love and our Wise Self. And sometimes we cloud our own vision through choices we make out of carelessness or ignorance (both of which are part of being a human being).
The more we forget Love and the Wise Self, the more the Wounded Self grows.
We don’t have to feel ashamed of our Wounded Self. We do, however, need to learn how to work with it in a skillful manner. When the Wounded Self is not cared for, it can become volatile and destructive, both to our self and the people around us.
Working With the Wise and Wounded Self
As I have connected with Love and my Wise Self over the years, it has helped me heal my Wounded Self a great deal. Of course I still have a Wounded Self, and of course I still have days when I develop perfectionist tendencies and show patterns of self-hate.
However, I struggle with these problems much less than I used to because I realize they are faulty coping mechanisms. I know that what I am really searching for is Love, and I know how to connect with it now.
Seven Steps to Love
My experience inspired me to write about seven steps I have used to help me understand my own worthiness and connect with Love. They have been especially helpful in my life. Maybe you will find these steps helpful, too.
Below I have listed the steps, and I have also dedicated a series of blog posts to each of them. Each of the posts is written from both a religious and non-religious perspective. I hope that whether you are religious or not, you find these steps helpful.
Seven Steps to Connect with Love and Your Wise Self:
One: I recognized that I was stuck in patterns of perfectionism and self-hate.
Two: I realized I needed to understand my own worth.
Three: I realized I needed to reconnect with Love and with my Wise Self.
Four: I realized I could allow Love to heal the wounded, diseased, and dead in me.
Five: I asked Love to show me how to rest in it through surrender and trust.
Six: I asked Love to show me how to let go of control and punishment.
Seven: And I set the intention to infuse all of my relationships with Love.
Here is the next step in the series:
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