Befriend yourself, change the world
It makes me very sad to see the events in the world today. The hurtful actions and words make my heart feel bruised. It’s hard to remain optimistic about the future and each other when we see such hostility and hate. I find myself judging those people I consider to be the perpetrators of the negativity. How can they think that way? How can they treat others with such contempt and disregard for our shared humanity?
I had no answer until I began to look deeply at my relationship with myself.
Somewhere along the line I learned to be my own enemy. Some of it was taught, some absorbed
through observation and socialization. Some was internalization of the abuse done to me by others. The result was that a part of me became a bully, full of anger, contempt, judgment, disregard, hostility and violence. The victim was myself.
I operated this way for a long time. I even convinced myself that to treat myself this way was a sign of strength, toughness, grit, perseverance and inner-fortitude. No matter what socially acceptable word you use, it was still a code word for self-abuse. I sincerely believed that to love yourself was weakness, and the only way to get what you wanted from your body or mind was to demand it, and damn the consequences.
The journey to clarity began with the realization that hatred and violence projected out into the world is no different from hatred and violence projected inward. I had no moral high ground to stand on to judge others when I realized I was perpetrating the same crimes on myself.
I know I’m not alone. I see it and hear it every day. I hear people bully themselves mercilessly. I see them disregard their own well-being. It fills me with sadness, and with anger. I feel the desire to stand up for the victim, to confront the bully – it just so happens it’s the same person. This has helped me to see that it really doesn’t matter to whom the negativity is directed – the result is unhappiness and pain in the world.
I believe our best self and our true self are the same thing. And it is my belief that our best and true self can only be revealed when our body and mind are in loving friendship with one another. And so I have set the goal for myself – to everyday try to get a step closer to knowing and honoring my true self.
To do this I have had to learn to recognize what is not me, and this is has been a great ‘undoing’ – peeling layer after layer of thoughts and expectations that do not originate from or reflect my true self. And negative thoughts and behavior against myself can never be my true self, because for that to be true I would have to inherently be self-destructive. I don’t believe this to be true.
I suspect I’ll be at this the rest of my life, but I’m happy about that because every day I come closer and closer to my true self, and I love the result. I love who I am becoming. Or rather, I love awakening to who I have always been. And that is something I could not have said before.
I believe if each of us could know and honor our true self, there would be far less conflict in the world. I think peace could prevail. If this sounds new age or ‘pie in the sky’, I don’t mind. I look around me and I see conflict and anger, both without and within. And I believe we see the world not as it is but as WE are. So it is entirely predictable that our world suffers, and it is within our power to change. As Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” I always thought that meant how I showed up in the world for others. I now realize it begins with how I show up for myself.
My challenge for you is the first challenge I set for myself – make a point to observe self directed thoughts and actions. It will take time, since the habit is so well formed and unconscious. Try anyway. Like me, you may be shocked and dismayed at the tone. Would you ever use that language with someone you love? Would you treat them that way?
If there is peace within, there is peace without, for how could a peaceful person act in anything but a peaceful way? We can change the world, and we begin with ourselves.