Ask anyone who has battled with the feeling of inadequacy and grew out of it. Ask anyone dating who has taken wrong turn after wrong turn in search of feeling whole through someone else to eventually teach themselves how to get out of their negative patterns. The secret to feeling love and feeling loved begins and ends with self-love. Looking yourself in the mirror and being positive is not something which you can decide instantly. Sure, some can do it. For most though it is a long slow climb that must be continually striven for. As someone who battled crippling depression and shyness which kept me buried in bed for months at a time, believe me when I say you can do this. There were years when I cut and wept daily whether I was in a relationship or not. Then I began working on it; holding myself accountable, not allowing myself to fall into a pattern. There is no shortcut around therapy. There is no shortcut to healing from deep dark wounds. We are not helpless though. If we are sitting around waiting for time or someone else to solve anything for us then we should be expecting disappointment instead of enlightenment.
There is a misconception that focusing on loving yourself means you do not want to find love in someone else. Life without friends, life without companionship, is a life unfulfilled. Loving yourself allows you to offer more to all the other relationships in our lives. We all know how warm it makes us being around someone who is content with who they are, who has learned the lessons of life on how to be positive and genuine, all of us can be that person. Relationships are not meant to be our life-raft from the shipwreck of mental instability, with self-focus they can become an extension of our sense of well being instead.
Love yourself, you are worth it! Love yourself for who you are. Love yourself for what you have been through. Love yourself for who you will become. Cultivate your strengths. Prune your weaknesses. Ultimately, look yourself in the mirror in the morning and see a positive gleam in your eye telling the world no matter what happens things will be better than yesterday. Look yourself in the mirror each night with pride that you made it; even if the darkness and confusion won more than you would have liked today; you are still here, you deserve to be here, you deserve to feel better, and tomorrow is always a malleable ball of potential. Rest up, shaping it the way you dream of is going to take energy.
If you happen to be in a dark place. If you happen to see no purpose, no hope, no reason to stay here with us, believe this and let it sink in. You are valuable. You have a life ahead you will be disappointed for not having stuck through this to get to. It is like Will Oldham’s character says in Old Joy, “it’s like climbing a mountain; look around and you see trees and mountains and bushes pressing around you, then you get above the tree-line you see everything you just went through and it all just like comes together, you know, you see that it has a shape after all.” That shape comes from positive acceptance. It took all the sadness, longing, empty feelings to become who I am. I would never wish those feelings on anyone—even those careless cruel people responsible for them—seeing as how we cannot change the past, I’ve taught myself to appreciate it. As Beethoven said on his deathbed, “I’ve learned to look at the world in all its darkness and evil and still love it.” Here are ten important steps it took getting here.
1. Save Yourself First
“Remember, someone who is drowning in a vast ocean cannot save another who is floundering in the same sea,” (Rajneesh). To try saving someone else before you save yourself guarantees you both will drown. Are you in a place to pull someone else out of the water? If not you must find a steady solid place for your own footing before ever looking to affect change for someone else. This does not mean to turn your back on friends/family/strangers in need, it just means your energy and focus must be on where you are, who you are, and how you are. Be your own life coach. Ask yourself advice. Weigh the pros and cons without emotion. Use logic. Use facts. Hold yourself accountable for making the correct choice. Be wary of cutting one thing off in your life and substituting something else in its place; such as when quitting smoking many people turn to food as a substitute or how it is not uncommon for leaving a failing relationship to evolve into substance dependencies. Becoming better means universally taking baby steps in a better direction. You cannot merely focus on a single aspect of your life. It is the sum total of the all which is who we are. Pulling yourself out of a turbulent ocean takes the strength to swim towards safety and to climb up on it when you get there. This takes determination. You have the strength. Stay focused. Hold yourself accountable.
2. The Only Thing You Can Control in Life is How You Allow Things to Make You Feel
Heavy focus on the word “allow” here. You cannot change other people. You cannot change the awful things people are capable of doing. The concept of external control is an illusion. You can though choose to focus on the positives rather than hold your own head under the water dwelling on the negatives. This goes from the smallest insignificant moments such as not being able to find your car keys to the nearly unfathomable worst. Even when dealing with the death of a loved one we are left with the choice of either focusing on the loss, the emptiness, the unfulfilled or we can appreciate who they were in the time we had knowing there is no life without death; it cannot be avoided, it cannot be dismissed, and we cannot pretend like it isn’t the most breaking destructive experience we will ever feel. Let the moment wash over you, yes it will destroy you momentarily but know now you have to accept it as part of life. There is no other option once the awful has happened. Force your thoughts to return to the beauty shared. Celebrate what was had instead of lamenting what is left unresolved. There is no timeline to hold yourself accountable by. Because someone else moves on from loss quickly or does not seem to be affected by it does not mean that is how it must go for you. You must ask yourself, regardless of whether it is the darkest days with fresh wounds or years later, “am I processing this?” “Am I learning to accept it?”
When it comes to inter-personals keep it clear in mind that being single does not mean you are not worth being in a relationship with. Being abused does not mean you deserve it. An easy way to get on the path of staying always positive is this; any negative thought, any negative criticism must be followed with three positives. Do not let yourself off the hook. If you want to say you are unworthy of love you must tell yourself three positives about yourself as well. There are always positives. ALWAYS! Look for them. In the beginning this is probably the most difficult to do. It feels trite and does not erase the negative feelings of the moment but quickly we notice the positives we take notice of become more and more significant. We notice ourselves looking for them in everything we see and do as though to stock up for having them ready for a response when the negatives slip through our minds. It works. Soon you find yourself being positive as second nature. Sure spilling coffee on a white shirt sucks, stubbing your toe immobilizes us, having someone cheat on us makes us think we did something to deserve it. Feel the experience and move past it. You will find learning lessons out of everything comes far easier when you are remaining optimistic. Be optimistic. This does not imply a hokey hippie sort of disaffected blindness, it means realizing a million things are happening to us at every single moment. The negatives are far less in number than the positives, we have somehow allowed ourselves over time to be programmed to ignore them. See the big picture. See it in a positive light. Let that light in. “As long as you are under the illusion that what you are loving is, ‘out there,’ you will always experience that separteness.” (Ram Dass) Let love in by putting love in yourself.
3. Your Weaknesses Are Your Strengths
People get hung up on why they are not good enough. Not good enough to be valued to date. Not good enough to be valued enough in social settings. There literally is no such thing as being “not good enough.” Acknowledge what you see as less about yourself and ask yourself what you would change about it if you could. If you are crippling shy, you must first find the motivation to get yourself into a social setting. A good way to start would be by going to a coffee shop, ordering a cup of coffee or tea, and making yourself sit at a table by yourself while you drink it. If even that is too much, go watch a matinee by yourself. The point being we must learn to understand what the out of place feeling is and by experiencing it more often we learn to see that no one at the coffee shop is thinking twice about you being there alone. That feeling of being out of place is self-imposed and we need to be aware of it. The next step is when you find yourself in a social setting constantly remind yourself that what you are dwelling on as a weakness is in fact a strength. Shyness is read by people around them as being intelligent. Fools talk constantly. The only misconception people have is that if someone is quiet then they are judgemental, this is where step 2 comes into play. If the things you say have a silver lining of focusing on the optimistic positives that sense of your being judgmental is quickly discarded. If we were to notice someone sitting alone in a coffee shop we would see that as being an ultimate display of confidence. Why would peoples judgments towards us in the same scenario be any different? Strengths/weaknesses it is all a matter of perspective. Probably the most commonly experienced feeling of not being good enough comes out of a sense we are not attractive enough. Who told you you were not beautiful? Why did you choose to believe them? If you are overweight, the first step is learning that the majority of people don’t care at all about the weight of someone else and that a good number of people look at you, be it bone-skinny or obese, and see you as being the definition of what is attractive in this world. See yourself with their eyes first and then take the steps to feel better in whatever direction you would like to go. There are very few things one cannot learn to work through. Surround yourself with quality people, cut away from the shallow ones, you will quickly notice how much value you start feeling toward your place in life. Which brings me to my next point:
4. Stop Being Boring (and Stop Being Judgmental)
Nothing is easier in life than not being a boring person. Find something you are interested in and dive into it completely. Read books, watch documentaries, find people with similar interests and interact with them. Stop with the awful mindset that not being bored is a goal. Watching hour after hour of mindless Youtube and television is fine but it should never be seen as offering substance. We know that without food or water our bodies will die. The same is true for mental food and water that keeps our minds alive. So many of us are consumer zombies with drooling glazed eyed stumbling steps into old age. If something catches your attention it is worth it. Boring means having nothing to offer; the more intelligent you become the more you have to offer, it is that simple. So often we avoid the things which could give our lives value for ridiculous reasons. As we surround ourselves with passionate people we notice how they are interested in what we are interested in because of our ability to articulate understanding and love gained through truly knowing it. More often than not people end up talking most about work over anything else, for many, it is the only aspect of their lives which they truly know anything about—that or their kids. The same way you come to be competent at whatever career you have at the moment is the same as you will come to be knowledgeable about the things you love—only the journey is far more enjoyable. Take music or religion as examples; if you feel them to be overflowing with truth and substance then there is nothing anyone can tell you against it. That is how interests should be. But as with music and religion, there is a huge gulf between those whose path ends with loving a handful of emo bands or being blindly committed to their one sect of understanding about a concept of god and those whose passion pulled them fully into its universe. You cannot just be a fan of My Chemical Romance; you must find yourself falling deeper down a path into Pulp and the Cure or whoever and then into the movies and books which inspired those bands which each paved the path leading to the now until the net spreads so wide you could never for a moment say for sure which band is your favorite without spilling out with smiling eyes all of that which you have learned surrounding it. It is not a passion if you arrive at the destination on your third step. There is always something deeper to discover in this dive which is as equally, if not more powerful, than what caught your eye in the beginning. My heart breaks thinking of the books I will never get to read or the films I’ll never get to see. There are so many beautiful amazing experiences left in life, how daunting it is knowing we can only experience so few of them. Do you feel this way about life? You can. And you will. A good place to start is to stop all judgments towards what other people are into. So you think bird watching or being into sports cars is stupid? Why should someone else care about your opinion on those things which you do not equally feel drawn to? How terrible would it be if everyone in the world was equally passionate about those things we individual covet as being our own? Isn’t that what love truly is? Seeing someone else and knowing that even if someone else loved them it could never compare to the awe we see in them? I have found someone at the end of a very long journey who sees me through those heart glittered glasses, I am not everyone’s type. I’ve had people judge me for my height, weight, everything along the path of dating, they were not the one for me. Neither are the things we find valuable. You cannot expect the world to accept you as you are without accepting everyone else the same way. Some people truly love a corporate job, some people truly love working from home. Find the right job for what makes you feel good. The same carries over into passions. Know things deeply. Find people who see your enthusiasm about something endearing, those people are out there, your paths will cross, between then and now find something to fill your mind with which challenges you intellectually and makes you feel positive in the process.
5. Be Careful of What You Choose to Put in Your Head
Certainly, a sad song, a sad movie, a sad book, can make us feel like we are not alone. It may seem radical but you have to get rid of them in your day to day life. Save those songs for when you are riding the high of happiness and feel like having an enjoyable brush with nostalgia. Are you feeling depressed? Are you feeling unloved? Put on some Rolling Stones or whatever. You have got to fill your brain with positive vibes. You have to surround yourself with positive people. You are what you eat after all. Test this one. Only listen and watch positive movies for a month—a fairly simple challenge. Instantly you will see the difference. This does not mean we cannot appreciate the brilliance of Buffalo 66 or Joy Division, choose those moments wisely, enjoy them the way one should tres leches cake; only occasionally by choice not for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, certainly not as a regular midnight snack. Another way to think of it is this, “great poetry draws its strength from the life of mankind, and we completely miss its meaning if we try to derive it from personal factors” (Carl Jung – Modern Man in Search of a Soul). Save the things you love to be experienced as an ALL instead of an anchor to negative emotions. For our own negative feelings are like snowflakes, when you choose to collect them in your hand, to be squeezed into a ball for which when sat on the ground, through the gravity of life, roll downhill collecting like with like until unstoppable before reaching the very bottom. Falling is easy. It is climbing back up that hill which takes the effort. Why cause that for yourself? Do not squeeze the sadness and heartbreak. It will drag you to the bottom the fastest.
6. Cut the Dead Weight
This is one of the hardest. You are not a martyr. Quit playing the part. You cannot help someone who will not help themselves. You can be supportive. You can be a shoulder. You can tell someone you would like to feel the love you have for them reciprocated. None of that means putting your ambitions or mental well being on the back burner in the meantime. Ram Dass once wrote in The Only Dance There Is, “the cause of suffering is craving. The reason you suffer is because you want something.” Wanting someone else to be anything other than they are right now is unrealistic. Change takes work, change takes time. Who is to say that once they become this person you want them to be that they will still want to be with you? Who is to say they aren’t choosing to be a terrible person because you allow them to be? This goes for friendships as much as it does for any other type of relationship. You are not someone to be taken advantage of or walked over. I repeat; you are not someone to be taken advantage of or be walked over. You matter. Your feelings matter. Your experience in this exact moment IS important, do not stack the cards against yourself by putting your life and well being on hold. There is no guarantee in life you will have any other moment than this one. Years pass in a blink of an eye. Do not, do not, do not put your own well being on the altar of an idea of someone else. This does not mean turning away completely. It means drawing a line in the sand saying I am worth being respected and I am worth not being devalued and if you choose to step across this line I am gone. I understand abusers and manipulators will control you into believing you are not worth it and that you cannot escape. It sure is easy speaking of the simplicity of leaving them behind and a whole other thing to do it. Build yourself up. Look for your chance. Take it. You are worth it. You are worth it. You are worth living a life where you are valued at all costs. Stop playing the martyr for a failed relationship with the belief in any other outcome other than your own wasted life. If your best friend or sibling were making similar choices, how would you feel? What advice would it break your heart for them not to take? Don’t be a hypocrite. Be the change you want to see in the world. Do not hold off on pursuing your passions, seeking a more enjoyable job, feeling the thrill of self-sustained independence for the sake of ANYBODY. Do not look at the time you have put into a current relationship or situation as being a reason you should stay. You must value your own mental health. Abusers, parasites, your own sense of being able to support someone else into change, all of that is a tool that can be used against you. You must listen to the yearnings of your heart and boldly follow its advice.
7. There is Nothing and No One Who Can Offer You What You Must Offer Yourself First
“One must find the source within one’s own Self. One must possess it. Everything else was seeking—a detour, error” (Herman Hesse). Don’t believe the hype of marketing. There is nothing out there that will fill you with contentment. No amount of money, nothing which can be bought, and certainly nothing the presence of someone else can offer. Appreciate what you have but do not see them as either the ends nor the means. You must feel love for the sake of love. You must feel valued for the sake of value. You must teach yourself. As you are looking for the positives in everything, you must begin to absorb those positives. Learn by watching, learn by trying. When you make a mistake, laugh about it, revel in the beauty that are mistakes. Understand there is no such thing as achieved perfection. Understand no one worth having around is asking you to be perfect. Love your flaws. They make you unique. They are what define you. Be honest about who you are. Love yourself.
8. Your Ego Has Got to Go
From Muhammad Ali to Serena Williams, one thing we can learn through sports is that on any given day someone can be better than you. All the training in the world, being the most skilled of all time, still means someone somewhere will be better. Our entire concept of perfection is a fallacy. It is impossible. Stop thinking you are someday going to be THE best, be content with simply striving to be YOUR best. Life is about getting better. Do not become stagnant as a lover or as a coworker. You can always be better. Do not let the attempt get in the way of enjoying the experience, driven people often move too fast to enjoy the path they are running down, Don’t let that happen to you. Once more, there is no goal or relationship worth the sacrifice of not feeling valuable in this moment for. There is no guarantee there will be another. Do not waste this moment you have. We all have been around egotistical people, we understand how unbearable they can be and how little we would like to be like them. Not becoming that is a choice as much as not being in a relationship with someone who makes us feel less valued. Your ego more often than not is what turns away the most fulfilling relationships you could ever develop. Thinking you deserve someone who looks a certain way, has a certain sort of job, has a certain type of ambition, these narrow your opportunities of finding someone who makes you feel good, who makes you happy to be around them. Drop the standards you have absorbed from a shallow society. They are only there to hurt you. The same goes for those of you who value minimalism and aspire towards nothing. You do not have to find someone just like you. Accept everyone and see who comes into your life. Why turn off the chances of someone you will value by your own sense of desiring something else. For the love of god stop having a “type” when it comes to dating. Tall, short, dark hair, light hair, bruiting, timid; all of those are garbage qualifiers. Nothing in life is more attractive than finding someone who makes you feel good about yourself. If there is any pattern to how you date; be it only after hooking up, only after knowing each other for a long time, not ever dating someone you were friends with first, coworkers only, whatever; you cannot seriously expect to continue doing the same thing you have been doing with the expectation of getting a different result. Dating failures are always seen as being either our inadequacies or their inadequacies. We never seem to factor in how dating a similar type is nearly always a key factor to the failure. Believing you are worthy of the exception to the rule probably is where your problems begin. That is your ego. Cut that thing off now before you waste another period of your life on a near-guaranteed disappointment. You are special as an individual, you are not special to the laws of the universe.
9. Expectations Have Got To Go
If someone tells you they aren’t looking for anything serious. If someone has twenty years of alcoholism and failed relationships behind them. If someone is saying they only want to be your friend. To expect any result beyond the obvious is setting yourself up to feel the failure. For some reason that failure tends to weigh on our conscious as being our own fault. Do not prop up an illusion and then when that illusion is shattered find yourself feeling shattered along with it. Part of your brain can read a situation. Do not sell yourself on the outcome being anything beyond the logical. There is nothing wrong with short-term relationships. There is nothing wrong with dating someone with problems. There is nothing wrong with just being friends with someone. Do not sell yourself on anything beyond reality. And let us talk about this so called “friend zone” for a moment. What kind of friend needs sex or something more than the friendship itself in the first place? If you cannot get beyond that. Speak up about your feelings and get over it if those feelings are not reciprocated. Being a friend does not mean they owe you anything. Don’t be a piece of shit. As with any idea, we have to accept the reality which opposes our hopes. Love is a language. How long and how much effort would it take you to learn Dutch? Nothing in life is easy. If going to the grocery store and navigating traffic from point A to point B takes invested focus and comes with a notable amount of stress then why in the world do we seem to believe that relationships, pursuing our dreams, or developing acceptance for ourselves would somehow be easier instead of the logical justified truth that it is going to be far more difficult. The most beautiful things in life are difficult. Stop expecting love to be any different.
10. Who Are You
In the end love is about knowing who we are, accepting it and expecting others to accept it as well. The beginning and end of love grows from figuring out who you are; seeing where you came from, deciding the sort of person you would like to be and using this moment as a bridge between the two. The strength of an oak tree is not in the shape from its environment which it grew into, that is its unique beauty, no the strength lies in the roots we cannot see. Be courageous in the path you choose to take, feel self-confidence from knowing what led you here and always look yourself in the mirror with positive loving words. You deserve to feel love. You deserve to feel loved. Know no love better than your own. You have shown your strength through what you have made it through already, know that no matter what the future throws at you there is strength to deliver yourself out of that as well. Learn to be invincible. Learn to see the light while ignoring the darkness. Offer to those around you a person of such unique beauty they would dare do nothing short of reflecting and reciprocating it.