My role in my family played a big part in my self-identity. Number two of nine, oldest girl and mom's right hand man, a sweet kid always with a smile on her face, defined early on as the peacemaker and role-model in the family. It never dawned on me to rebel, to question this role. And I'm not complaining. Far from it. I love/d my childhood, my family, my home filled with love.
But such early programming towards caretaking did not prepare me to deal with failure. I didn't know what to do with 'negative' emotions such as anger, frustration, failure, disappointing someone. I developed co-dependency without realizing it - up until two years ago, I never knew how to pinpoint this vague, sometimes crippling tendency to take on other people's emotions.Such a cycle became woven into my personality, creating with it a slew of behaviors. All of which directly affected my self-worth.
Since I first attended a yoga teacher training in 2004, I have been intrigued by the concept of "non-attachment." Not emotional detachment, stemming from self-centeredness, but non-attachment, or staying steady within yourself despite emotions and reactions of people and circumstances around you.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali describe this yogic state of being well: "When an individual has achieved complete understanding of his true self, he will no longer be disturbed by the distracting influences within and around him. " (Sutra 1.16).
Easier said than done, as is the case with the most powerfully simple axioms.
I believe a lot of people struggle with self-worth and staying centered within themselves. We live in a world constantly criticizing, comparing and contrasting. It's hard to shake off the mantle of "not good enough" when we are bombarded by images, opinions, judgments of worth outside of ourselves. We logically tell ourselves we shouldn't look to someone/something else to judge who we know ourselves to be. But we do. In small ways, in big ways, in ways that set deep grooves of behavior and communication patterns in our psyches.
Women, especially, deal with these emotions. Somehow, we program ourselves from the lens of what we lack, rather from a lens of abundance. We are our own harshest critics, on our own, without any one else telling us to be. The caretakers of the world want to be the best we can be in anticipating other peoples' needs. We swoop in and care for others, often without establishing the importance of taking care of ourselves first.
My counselor is wise. In the three years I've known her, she has also, time and again, reminded me that opinions and judgments do not define me. They do not make me who I am, no matter how much I identify with them. I should be able to hear criticism without taking it so much to heart that it damages my self-esteem, which can then lead to a dangerous cascade of defensiveness stemming from fear of failure.
I have made a grudging peace with the "Bad" emotions: Fear and anger. Before, I shied away being angry, or the label of an "angry" person. The emotion scared me, since I always suppressed it as a kid. Until recently, when I realized it's healthy to feel angry.
Just like it's healthy to know that being a person in relationships, practicing intimacy, getting close, stumbling through life with others, means you will disappoint people. You will cause hurt, and people should be able to voice that hurt and have it land on receptive ears. Hearing it without having to navigate through a cascading ripple effect of Self-Loathing and a dismantling of Self-Worth.
Something so simple and self-evident has been, for me, a true revelation to accept, since changing patterns of 40 years takes time. And a hell of a lot of patience while it takes root.
Self-worth does not involve affirmation from someone else. It does not require validation or approval. Becoming non-attached means you can hear someone else's emotions, stories and opinions with empathy and respect, while still staying true to yourself.
Learning non co-dependency and non-attachment leads away from self-centeredness; I have found that developing self-worth and owning all of my flaws has made me more compassionate. It's a moving towards, however. Self-worth also includes accepting the mess-ups and failures that I will invariably continue to do - even with the best intentions not to.
I hope someone reading this can take up the challenge to extricate the 'you' from a complicated relationship with self-worth. Maybe start to realize, right along with me, that you can be a wonderfully considerate, empathetic person without giving yourself up in the process.
You can love and like yourself even as you accept your flaws, as you become more at peace with this complicated process of self-understanding. Self-worth and inner peace with non-detachment: the most difficult journey of all,.
I read once that “difficult journeys often lead to great destinations.” In this case, the ultimate destination becomes finding the most true, most loving form of yourself.