Today, whilst sitting in meditation, what struck me was all that has changed in me since that fateful day when I jumped the corporate luxury hospitality ‘ship’ i.e. my then beloved career. Back then, I can see that I found myself without the sense of self-worth that I had become used to drawing from my elevated position. It was a high-profile business environment, egos rubbing shoulders all around. I had always thrived in that environment, thus felt deprived without it.
So what had changed? I felt that, in some sense, I have recovered from a strong urge of continuously striving, and I have become much better at loving myself. I’m not fully there yet, but there is no doubt that I am on a right path – my entire view on the subject has changed! As I lingered on this realization, tears welled up in my eyes. I couldn’t help but lament all the years spent traveling the world and running around proving myself.
Without being aware, I was always pushing myself to achieve, in order to be able to accept myself, with no end in sight. I did not know it was about acceptance; I thought it was about my career and my achievements. Little did I know what a poor substitute it was for love!
Many people remain caught up in this type of over achievement merry-go-round drive that is not really that merry if one stops to think about it.
But then the tears changed into tears of gratitude, because at least I had woken up to this faulty way of being before it was too late. A great improvement, because in the old days I would have remained stuck in judging myself for having taken so long to realise. So there was more gratitude at this added proof of growth; of being able to accept my own process, even if it was slow progress!
We are not taught Self Love
Even though I had a happy and in many ways privileged childhood, I think that I speak for most people of my age who have grown up in settled family situations in a welfare country (like Germany), when I say that Self Love is not what I was taught; rather, almost the opposite. Although my parents were always loving and appreciative, there was always the pressure of society. And even the most well-intended parent is shaped by that society, so can almost not help but link reward to behavior instead of to the essence of who we are at soul level. Going deeper than personality, who we truly are is not what we do. Now I have come to experience that who we truly are is energy and love.
In no way do I mean to put any blame on my parents or on German society; there is too much to be grateful for to both. And I have learned not to put blame on myself either. Rather, I am curious to explore why, even as one becomes aware of self-loathing patterns that are in direct opposition to those that Self Love would produce, why is it so difficult to love oneself?
Not only are we not taught about Self Love, but we are not taught to look into who we really are. What the Self is, other than images in our minds.
The patterns that I noticed in myself included always working that little bit harder to be successful and to attract praise. I was looking at myself as a big improvement project, always striving. That started already back in Primary School. But then I thought I would one day reach my goal and be ‘perfect’. As I grew older that goal seemed more and more unattainable. Now I can see that there was always a mismatch between the ‘ideal me’ and the one I thought of as myself. See, that is what the problem is, we take these images to be ourselves, and then we attach value to them, not love.
How can we love our Self if we do not know it?
When I first thought of writing this column I had planned to write about how we shy away from Self Love, due to the fact that we don’t want to come across as selfish or self-absorbed. And about how we don’t want to come across as thinking that we are above anyone else, and therefore don’t want to uplift ourselves too much. But instead, as I sat in meditation, what came to me was the importance of the shift that I had undergone.
The realization that my job or ‘no-job’ could not define me was huge.
From looking at myself as a successful corporate career woman, to looking at myself as a spiritual being having a human experience, an experience that kept shifting, and still continues to do so. One day it took the shape and form of a successful corporate career woman; the next day that of a woman finding herself without a career. That was whom I took to be Claudia: one day successful, one day ‘useless’, but actually that was not it.
Who are you?
I thought I knew who I was. Who doesn’t?
Now I look at it from a whole new perspective, and that is what I want to share with you. A man who lives in the Auroville[i] forest asked me, when I was still wrapped up in my hospitality career, who I was. I told him all about Claudia; her past and her present. I might have left some detail out that didn’t fit with the goal-image that I had of myself, but other than that I felt totally comfortable talking about myself.
So it took me by surprise when this man, who had spent time with Jiddu Krishnamurti[ii], told me: “this is not who you are.” And slowly a whole new journey started to unfold in my life. The core teachings that he embodied, like those of Indian sage Ramana Maharshi[iii] and more recently Mooji[iv], tell us the one truth:
All is One and that is Who We Are.
How could I not love that thought? Which is why I say forget about regretting the years you spent avoiding loving yourself, and start to look at life as a whole – yourself included – with completely different eyes.
If you are intrigued by the difference between self and Self – and how becoming aware of the difference can lead to true Self Love – you might also like my more practical tips for self care in daily life. In the next Soul Snippet, I talk about some favorite practices that I use to cultivate a healthy mind-set relating to Self Love, so stay tuned for that!
Food for your Soul is a regular column featuring short posts for moments of reflection – though this one is a little longer – to look at life from a different perspective (should you choose to!). Invest a few minutes and allow your thoughts to ponder. Awareness creates choice.
[i] Auroville is an international spiritual community located in Tamil Nadu, South India. Based on the teacings of Sri Aurobindo, it is dedicated to an experiment in human unity. For more info see www.auroville.org.in.
[ii] Jiddu Krishnamurti is regarded as one of the greatest thinkers and teachers of all time. He spoke throughout the world to large audiences and to individuals about the need for a radical change in mankind. For more info see https://www.jkrishnamurti.org.
[iii] Indian Sage Ramana Maharshi once said: ““The Master is within; meditation is meant to remove the ignorant idea that he is only outside. If he were a stranger whom you were awaiting he would be bound to disappear also. What would be the use of a transient being like that? But as long as you think that you are separate or are the body, so long is the outer Master also necessary, and he will appear as if with a body. When the wrong identification of oneself with the body ceases, the Master is found to be none other than the Self.” https://www.sriramanamaharshi.org/
[iv] Mooji is a present-day teacher dedicated to service of all who desire to awaken into their natural Self. https://mooji.org/en