My first blog post was about what self-abuse is, and how we unwittingly sabotage our self-esteem by indulging in it. empower-yourself-stop-self-abuse.
In this blog post I am about to narrate a snippet from my life, which may resonate with yours too, to some degree, and make you understand:
(a) how self-abuse comes to be, and how to nip it in the bud, and
(b) offer you a brand new perspective to help you perceive yourself, your truth, your worth, your beauty in a fresh manner.
BEWILDERMENT OF A CHILD – Who am I?
Back in my childhood days, I used to wonder, why is it that I can’t see myself (my face or my full body), unless and until I stood in front of the mirror. I found it somewhat ironic that I could see everything around me with my eyes, except myself.
I vividly remember back then, when I was just about 8 years old, someone mocked me by saying “you are fat”, “your skin is dark”. Like a little innocent child, I tried hard to look at my face with my eyes, then resigned, because no matter how hard I tried I could only see the tip of my nose.
Take a moment here, and check, can you see your face with your eyes?
Then I rushed to see myself in the mirror, because we all learnt at an early age, “to see yourself you must stand in front of the mirror”.
And this is what happened when I looked into the mirror:
“you are fat” turned into “I am fat” “I look bad“
“your skin is dark” turned into “I am not pretty” “I look bad“
and my self-critic also used harsh words like “ugly”; suddenly the eyes of the little girl welled up and tears started rolling down her cheeks, who was oblivious to these judgements, earlier.
My 8 years old self believed that the mirror validated others’ judgements, that resulted in sadness. And, from then on, Mirror became my ‘Barometer of Beauty’.
Does it sound a bit familiar to you too?
Well, it wasn’t others’ comments really or the mirror that was the culprit for my sadness. Let me share with you an insight here.
I wouldn’t have suffered had I known then:
(1) what I saw in the mirror wasn’t me, but the reflection of my body; it’s pure science.
But, even before I read it in our science text books, my mind had internalized the belief by then (by the age of 3 we learn to look into the mirror), and I didn’t have the magic wand at the time to break free from that limiting belief;
(2) Stop looking into the Mirror, it isn’t the ‘Barometer of Beauty’.
Mirror doesn’t have a mind to judge or the power to interpret. Mirror doesn’t have a voice, and so it never really uttered those words to me. These voices belonged to someone else!
Was that someone, me?
No, and Yes!
No, because, it’s the people around me who were the first ones to judge, then they passed on their judgements by telling how they perceived me.
And yes, because when I checked in the mirror, I didn’t see ‘the reflection of my body’, I saw what the voice in my mind told me, “this is how you look” and I believed it which resulted in my sadness.
How others perceive us, isn’t really an issue, irrespective of what they say, and what they mean, because it’s just their point of view based on their perception, and it has nothing to do with us.
However, it becomes an issue when we buy and internalize those judgements, and assign meanings to them based on the ‘givens’ by the society. That’s how belief system takes root!
Now, even though that judgement was passed by someone in the past, my self-critic’s voice switched on each time I looked into the mirror. I didn’t know how to switch off the negative monologue, and so I suffered silently within, for many years. You see, it is ‘the mind’ that tormented me!
Did you ever feel this way?
This is exactly how self-abuse starts, but it doesn’t just stop with negative internal monologue alone. Every thought has an emotional and a physical reaction. The self-critic then makes us take certain actions based on what we believe is true and perpetuates self-abuse.
“Every thought has an emotional and a physical reaction.”
Lets understand with the same example:
Majority of us are critical of our physical appearance because it isn’t “good enough” by society’s standards. And the moment we agree with such beliefs, we either reject ourselves, and try to dim our own light by taking unwarranted actions, pushing ourselves into the background so that no one pays attention to our appearance, or we try to change our physical appearance, so we could feel worthy of others acceptance and our own self-acceptance.
Later in life, my fiancé suggested I wear smart clothes and bright shades. Brushing my self-critic aside, when I wore the dress he approved and he said “wow, you look beautiful” “bright shades suit you” and once again I rushed to check with the ‘Barometer of Beauty’ to validate his statements. Voila! He too was right, and my internal dialogue changed instantly!
Then on, nothing stopped me from exploring bright shades and different clothing styles on myself.
I wondered then, why did I keep listening to ‘my mind’s limiting self-sabotaging chatter’ when all it took to change my 14 years old perception was a statement “wow, you look beautiful” that lasted less than 5 seconds! Was it the statement that changed my perception? If yes, did I really need just another judgement (compliment) from yet another person to know, and feel beautiful?
Gosh! I snatched that ‘good feeling’ and resultant grooming away from myself for 14 long years!
Imagine how many such limiting beliefs we carry about ourselves in all areas of our lives, that stop us from embracing ourselves with absolute love!
Can you fathom how your own limiting beliefs can keep you stuck for years?
Judgements such as, “you are hopeless” “that was dumb of you to say that” “you are good for nothing”, “you made a stupid choice” “you can’t do it” or indirect statements while comparing with siblings/friends, whether it was comments of our own parents, teachers, relatives, friends or frenimies (enemies in the guise of friends), if left unchecked could result in self-abuse.
I wish someone had told my 8 year old self, that the magic wand lies within me, and I did not have to suffer for so long.
I am neither the comments passed on my 8 year old self, nor I am the compliments given to my 22 year old self. I am none of those, and nothing else that the mind identifies itself with!
YOU ARE NOT YOUR MIND OR YOUR BODY!
Considering the mind has most of the times acted as our foe, keeping us stuck for years altogether, from being and achieving what we truly are capable of, how could we possibly be this mind!
Mind is a tool, a set of faculties which has cognitive and non-cognitive functions, that helps us navigate through this life.
So, I am not the mind, and I can’t possibly be this face or the body that I can’t see through my own eyes, then, who am I?
I Am ‘the state of No Mind’, the invisible life force constantly flowing in the background of this body, like electricity runs a fridge. I AM THE POWER, THE INVISIBLE INFINITE LIFE FORCE, beyond good or bad, right or wrong, beyond mind’s comprehension, beyond mind!
Call it Consciousness, Awareness, Energy or Wisdom. To comprehend it fully, we need to develop our third dimension which is beyond physical and mental, which enables us to see things in totality rather than looking at the things in isolation to accept things as they are, with a neutrality. For reference you could read books by Eckhart Tolle or Sadhguru.
“Lack of self-awareness makes a person hold others opinion of them more valuable.”
REDEFINE YOUR REALITY!
I hope by now, you have an understanding of how others’ judgements affect you and your choices in life, in positive or negative ways, and how they can’t have any effect until you assign meaning to them.
Self-esteem is how you feel about yourself irrespective of your circumstances or others judgements. You can develop high level of self-esteem by ‘believing in yourself’. To believe in yourself, you need to be aware of your self-worth, and that can happen only when you know who you truly are! Not what others think of you, or what the reflection in the mirror shows, but what you believe in!
I loved this line by cartoon character Popeye, “I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam“. Popeye the Sailor man (cartoon character from 1980s), surely never suffered from an identity crisis! He never doubted himself, and knew exactly who he was and what he could do. He had an unswerving attitude and self-confidence, and when he met with any challenge, he always had that can of spinach to give him extra boost. This is exactly what we need to do.
I’d like to share two simple steps to change your perception and transform your reality:
- Do not assign any meaning to others’ comments, and just take it as ‘a point of view‘ and leave it at that, it will never affect you!
- You can delete the judgements your mind may have internalized, and change your internal negative monologue by turning around the thoughts to more acceptable ones, by using the “Turn Around Tool“, which I have shared in my previous blog post.
Let’s understand with the same example:
Next time you doubt your self-worth, remind yourself it’s your mind playing games. Stop it! Use these simple steps on each thought that’s bringing your power down. It will help you break-free from the shackles of your own mind, eliminating all emotional/mental pain.
Don’t wait for others to tell you how beautiful or powerful you are. Power doesn’t lie in others’ judgements or compliments, but within you. Take that can of spinach which is ‘believing in yourself’; tell your mind today “I am Beautiful” “I am Worthy”. And this time around, your mind’s dialogue will be “YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL” and the Mirror will validate that!
YOU ARE THE POWER, know it, own it now!
*PS: Self-esteem isn’t same as self-confidence and I’ll deal with the difference in one of my following blog posts. Stay tuned.