There is a beautiful quote by the Sufi poet Hafiz, “I wish I could show you, when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own being.” It speaks to how we strangely get caught up in negative or ungrounded ideas of ourselves and need to return to a healthy sense of self-esteem.
This week, we will explore why this is key to our inner peace and how to know our inherent value.
Imagine that you found your friend depressed or even crying, lamenting, “My face is covered with warts. They’re so ugly and I can’t get rid of them.” But when you look at your friend, their face is perfectly normal, with not a wart in sight. You can’t understand why they are so upset about something that is not real. No matter what you do to try to convince them that they don’t have warts all over their face, they are adamantly convinced that they do.
Seems far-fetched, doesn’t it? The funny thing is, many of us are prone to this tendency in a more subtle way. When I look at people, I see their inherent luminosity and capability. Each one of us is beautiful in our own unique way. We are each magnificent, perfectly interconnected within the fabric of life. And yet we often struggle with self-esteem. Why? Because our sense of self has become tied to the wrong things, and so we get caught up in painful misperceptions.
Low self-esteem is a sign that our spirit needs to return to balance. In order to live fully and serve others, we need to maintain a healthy appreciation for the gift of this life. We need to feel good about who we are and our place in the world.
Healthy self-esteem is not about egotism or conceit. In fact, it is the opposite. Our painful experiences of low self-esteem are caused by ego. When we are in our ego, we believe we are separate. We think we are either better or worse than others. We bolster our sense of self by trying to control conditional circumstances, like doing well at school, getting people’s approval, or having a gorgeous partner. When we do or get the things we feel bring us praise, we feel momentarily good. And when those are lost, we feel terrible.
Life is full of ups and downs. When we hinge our self-esteem upon them, we will inevitably feel as though we are on a roller coaster. We become sick in our hearts, minds and spirits. We could turn to negativity and decide that our inability to make life exactly the way we want it to be means that we have a face full of warts. However, we have another choice.
The self-esteem we need to cultivate for inner peace does not change based on external situations that come and go. That is because it is rooted in self-love: being in conscious connection with the reality that love is our true nature. It reflects the health of our spirit. Since timeless, eternal, ever-present love is who each one of us is at our deepest core, self-esteem knows that we are no better or no worse than anyone or any living thing, but a part of it all.
When we try to make the temporary last forever, we inevitably suffer. Applying a band-aid illusion of being “good”, and feeling down when it fails, can never replace the realization that we have been good all along, as love is who we most naturally are. When we know this, we let go of the struggle and embrace our true value. We are then free to act in a way that brings joy and eases suffering.
To help you unveil the ways your self-esteem may still be tied onto the temporal and passing, try this exercise.
Watch your thoughts as you move through the day. When you do something kind for yourself or for someone else, watch how it makes you feel. Do you feel a sense of self-importance, like “Wow! Look at me. I did good”? Or do you feel the sunshine it brings you and others, and enjoy it as being part of what it is: the light of your true nature?
In the same way, when you notice that you are being praised or criticized, notice how your mind reacts. Are you staying centered in your own value? Or are you grabbing on to the responses of others to shore up your sense of self?
Any time you get caught up in comparing yourself with others, often accompanied with a sense of restlessness for achievement, attention or praise, you are in your ego and ultimately headed for another “why can’t I get rid of the warts on my face” conundrum. However, as you keep your self-esteem connected with the reality of your inherent worth, you will feel unconditionally rooted, vital and expansive. It is only then that you can actually be present for the person or task before you and be truly effective and compassionate. When you choose to stay with healthy self-esteem, the day will feel sunnier, regardless of the weather, because you will have let your inner light shine to illuminate the world.
Today and every day, may you celebrate the light you truly are.
From my heart to yours,