How many times do we tell ourselves this? Are you answering, “Not me, never?” I spent a lot of my life telling myself, and sometimes other people, these things. Of course, that meant I was riddled with these qualities. Pop! One day, I learned it was okay to feel this way. One day, I heard someone say that it was all a part of being human.
Recently, three conversations have brought this into the light again. One was with an inspirational man I’m lucky to know, a progressive Christian pastor. He mentioned a reaction to a blog post he’d written about some of our less liked human qualities. It was along the lines of, “Nope, what you’re writing about here and saying we all have within ourselves, is not reflective of me at all.” Another was with a tall, pretty, perfectly poised and coiffed lady who said she never has thoughts like “I’m not good enough,” or “I’m too much this, not enough that,”—but I hear her comment that others aren’t good enough, or are too much this, not enough that. The last was with an executive life coach I’m lucky to know, who has a client who refuses to say he’s vulnerable—anytime, anywhere, no way, not happening.
DENIAL IS FUEL
Every time we deny that something exists within ourselves, we give it strength. We feed it. It gains power. I used to be deeply afraid of anger—mine or anyone else’s. If someone expressed anger I went into shut-down mode. If I felt angry I didn’t show it. And, surprise, I had a whole lot stored up in me. Recently, I started to let it out. Not on others, just out. Into a pillow, sometimes. Primal, raging, roars. The first time it happened my nervous system kind of went into shock. I started to shake. My arms went cold and tingly. My stomach retracted. The second time I did it the reaction was still there, but less so. The third time I did it, I had a great big belly laugh afterwards. Oh, it feels GREAT to let this junk go. It feels GREAT to acknowledge it’s there. And now I’m not afraid of anger anymore. I can sit beside it or in front of it and just be with it. Whether it’s coming from me, or someone else. Not always, but most of the time.
YOGAANDBUDDHISM ON SELF-ACCEPTANCE
I’m no expert on Buddhism, and though I teach yoga, I’m not an expert on yoga, either. I’m a lifelong student, sharing what I learn. So here goes: from what I know about Buddhism, all that stuff we don’t like about ourselves can become the opportunity to tap into our essential, loving nature. And yoga philosophy tells us we are born with mental and emotional patterns (samskaras); I believe that these, too—even the ones we perceive as negative—can help teach us how to be the best we can be.
We don’t need to deny our human nature. It’s okay to feel angry, insecure, jealous, and sad. Like Pema Chodron says, “There’s a richness to all of the smelly stuff that we so dislike and so little desire.” We can work with this richness. So the blog reader who was triggered by the blog post could use that reaction as something to just sit with, to get curious about. And the poised and coiffed lady could sit with her thoughts about others, and just get curious about them. The business man could sit with his vulnerability, and just get curious about it.
Sitting with our messy stuff takes away its power. Once we get into the habit of practicing loving-kindness towards ourselves and our patterns, we can get into the habit of letting those patterns go. Because, as Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung said “What we resist persists.” When we stop resisting our patterns, and instead dive right into them, they minimize and sometimes even vamoose—all on their own.
“To the degree that we can be open to ourselves, we can be open to other people and to the world.” – Pema Chodron