Learning to appreciate oneself
I can hear your protest, “I always appreciate others, but no one encourages me. I am only giving. I too need love.”
It’s true that sometimes what we receive from others could be the opposite of what we give in this world. However if our spiritual practises are strong, then a lack of appreciation from this world is a temporary trial. Besides, you can learn to appreciate yourself as well.
Once during a workshop with a group of monks, I sensed a feeling of inadequacy and self-doubt amongst some members. I then gave an exercise where participants seated in pairs were asked to share something they really appreciate about themselves. An uneasy silence filled the room. One of them said he’d rather not do the exercise because he’s not comfortable appreciating his own self; he’d rather appreciate others. I let him alone and the others reluctantly began the exercise. Soon the energy levels in the room changed; it was as if a mass of thick dark clouds made way for bright sunshine. There were smiles and happy exchanges; it was obvious they were enjoying it. The one who refused to do the exercise looked anxious; he asked me he could do the exercise too now. I partnered him up and heard him talk about which of his own qualities he was grateful for. It wasn’t easy for him; he’d often slip into talking about his own follies and limitations instead. After some prompting by me, he did the exercise fairly well.
Later he confessed that he felt refreshed by the experience. Yet a strange fear gripped him: ‘maybe I am haughty for thinking so highly of myself’ and I assured him that he’s deeply scripted to hate himself. He eyes lit up and he exclaimed, “Yes, that’s my problem”.
Many secretly despise themselves. They hate the way they look, they condemn themselves for what they have done all their lives and refuse to acknowledge any good they have done, leave alone pat themselves on the back. As a result, they are unable to give appreciation to others fully. Even if they do, it comes across as inauthentic. To be able to appreciate others we need to feel worthy and appreciate the beautiful creation that is our own individual self. You are the most unique person in the world. It’s time you learnt to celebrate this gift quietly with a thanksgiving.The challenge for many is that when they make mistakes it seems like the end of the world for them. One mantra I heard long ago that helps me when I catch myself indulging in self-loathing acts: ‘I may have made many mistakes, but I am not a mistake’. It’s time we appreciate God’s gift to us- our abilities and uniqueness.