This is my experience of life so far. In the past when my level of self compassion and love was low and the inner critic ruled the roost, I accepted poor quality relationships and I lived in financial difficulty. During that time if somebody were to try and give me more than I felt I deserved I would reject it. It made me feel too uncomfortable because it was unfamiliar. I was not very attracted to emotionally healthy or successful people anyway so this rarely happened, and I kept myself where I felt comfortable instead.
Where I felt comfortable originated in the way I had been conditioned as a child, what I was familiar with and what I was used to. My parents were quite critical, did not have great self esteem and did not have a very happy relationship and so a happy thriving healthy relationship this was not modelled for me as a child, and I didnt really know what that looked like. I thought relationships were like what I saw and so came to expect for that for myself. I was even told repeatedly that I would end up with someone like my dad. And I did, many times!
It took learning to be kinder to myself to change this pattern. There were initial big hurdles and a lot of resistance to get over at first when I realised that being compassionate with everyone included myself. It included myself! What a realisation. What was I doing excluding myself from all this compassion I was giving out to the world anyway?!
Well when the penny dropped I set about allowing a softer more loving approach to myself. I learned to recognise the voice of the inner critic and I gently and patiently listened and said ‘Thanks I hear you Inner Critic but not now thanks’, and I learned a more forgiving and nurturing way of talking to and being with myself. You could call it a type of reparenting. At first I started off with writing lists of what I liked about myself. And this helped the realisation that I am lovable to settle in a bit. I found and challenged beliefs that I had. Things like ‘life is a hard struggle’.
Nowadays I forgive myself quickly for apparent blunders, for having nasty thoughts, for everything really. I watch out for self sabotage (in a loving way of course) because self sabotage is the way we unconsciously try and maintain familiarity and comfort when we start to move beyond the limitations we were conditioned to have.
My life has moved on quickly these last few years and improved hugely. I have left behind most old friendships, new ones have appeared and I spend a lot more time alone now. I enjoy my own company now that I am more at peace within and the old inner civil war has ceased. In fact, you could say that I am having a love affair with myself, it is a tiny bit like falling in love with someone 🙂 Also my business is now thriving as my self worth has increased and I have some savings for the first time in my life too. I no longer undercharge and give things away to my wealthy clients for free in a attempt to get their approval.
I trust that this does not sound like narcissism. That is not the type of self love I am describing. When my self compassion level was low, I was a lot more narcissistic, selfish and self centred than I am now. I see that people who have narcissistic tendencies are often very insecure. The love I am describing is like an ‘inner love bank’, and keeping that bank topped up with regular self nurturing causes it to overflow and we have a lot more to give to others (which of course is giving to ourselves as we are not separate). When my self hatred level was high, my inner love bank was relatively empty, so I had less to give the world.
I have been writing about this process of ‘coming home’ a lot here these last months mostly for my own therapeutic grounding. It can feel daunting moving into unknown territory even when it is welcomed change for the better. I also write because I want to spread the word that we do not have to settle for the expectations that our parents and elders instilled.
Now that I am starting to settle into a life of less strife, conflict and drama, and greater thriving in every area of life I am looking around me and seeing that so many share this experience of self limitation and low expectation due to conditioning. (And I can see the opposite too of course). I am wondering how much poverty could be alleviated by people learning to love and cherish themselves more and break free from these limits? This is quite a big question to ask, as the implication is that poverty can be at least partly self inflicted. This does not fit with the ‘victim’ label we tend to place on those who are living in poverty.
It is clear that poverty is caused largely by unwise government policy, substandard housing and low job opportunities but I wonder if it is the whole picture? This was confirmed by a local head teacher here at a school in a deprived area. He said that his biggest challenge with getting kids to do well in school is not ability, but confidence.
It may be that I am completely mistaken and this is coming from naivety due to limited understanding and very little experience of what it is like to live in poverty in a deprived neighbourhood. Despite the limitations instilled in me, I did grow up in an educated middle class family in a beautiful large Victorian house in a safe neighbourhood. We were not rich but I had relatives who were and are very wealthy, so I had some idea of what that looks like.
To be continued…these are just a few half formed thoughts I am having today. It excites me the idea that if we could somehow get to kids early and introduce show them they can be really really good and lovely to themselves even if they haven’t been treated well or have not seen many thriving around them where they live, that it could have a positive effect.