DEAR FRIENDS-- The vast majority of us struggle with self-criticism and the haunting belief that we aren't "good enough". Standing before the mirror -- either literally or figuratively -- we forever find fault with what we see. Pride and confident self-acceptance always seem just over the next hurdle, just beyond the horizon.
Are you proud of yourself and your life? Or are you haunted, to one degree or another by the feeling that you are "a failure".
Millions of people are driven by the feeling that they always have to do more, be more, in order to prove their validity. They stand as the accused, in a never-ending trial. Who are you trying to prove your validity to? God, society, your parents....... yourself?
I want to help you wake up and realize that your self-criticism is undeserved. The truth about you is that you are a unique masterpiece -- fully worthy, fully valid, fully lovable. You do NOT need to change who you are -- you need to open your heart to yourself and affirm your essential beauty and rightness. When you finally end the self-doubt and self-criticism, and see yourself with the eyes of love -- your spirit will be free forever.
Where does the feeling and belief that we "aren't good enough" come from? And how do we permanently release it and gain the sense of our own rightness? The key to this inner revolution is to recognize that your self-doubt and criticism are being generated by powerful (and largely unconscious) feelings of self-rejection -- in other words, shame. You weren't born with shame. It was conditioned into your thoughts and feelings early in life, via misunderstanding and hostility toward the natural and authentic you. You must become aware of the shame you carry -- in your body and mind -- and learn to release it in order to free your life of its crippling effects.
Shame is like an invisible "electric fence" that limits how much of our real selves we can show to ourselves and other people. It jolts us back before we feel too much, show too much, express too much. It is the ultimate inner prison, because it is largely unconscious, hidden in our deep emotional reflexes. The key is to revolt -- to start questioning the shame itself, rather than your own validity and worth!
The basic sensation of shame is a sickening and anxious feeling-- felt acutely in the stomach, heart and belly -- that gives you the feeling that you are you are worthless, inadequate, dirty. Shame gives you the feeling that you want to hide from the world. Embarrassment is another word for shame. It is the opposite of a feeling of self-acceptance and self-confidence.
Think of the excruciating feeling of being deeply embarrassed. You feel that all eyes are on you, and that you are or will be ridiculed and scorned. You may feel so humiliated and unacceptable that you could die. When feeling deeply embarrassed/ashamed, your face may burn, you may perspire, it may become very difficult to breathe. Now try to imagine a constant, low-level operation of this state existing in your body in a chronic way -- like a dormant virus that drains your energy but only rarely flares up into a full-blown attack. This is how unconscious shame exists in the vast majority of people alive today.
Shame develops, and we stop believing in ourselves, early in life when some parts (or ALL parts, depending on the severity of the situation) of ourselves are misunderstood and judged. For example, our need to express anger and self-assertion; or to release sadness through crying (especially true for men); or to reach out with our longing to be held and loved. A child's first innocent sexual feelings (which start to arise between the ages of 3-6) are often shamed -- because they are misunderstood and feared -- by the parents.
Many people go through life without ever realizing that they are trapped in an unconscious prison of shame. Shame is such a painful experience that it is the most deeply suppressed of all emotions. But the emotions we suppress create our basic mood and experience of life, and limit our ability to feel good. For this reason, making our shame conscious and thoroughly releasing it is a crucial step in becoming capable of self-love, inner peace and lasting happiness.
Children are born -- YOU were born! -- wide open, emotionally speaking. A young child's feelings, and expressions, are open-hearted and whole bodied. Before they experience resistance to the emotional power of their being, children hold nothing back. Their sadness, their anger, their longing, their excitement, their love and their joy -- all are pure and undiluted. But their parents, due to their own shaming and emotional wounds, cannot "vibrate" in harmony with the openness of the child. They themselves were experienced as "too much" by their parents, and developed the shame which restricts lively and full expression. Without intending to do so, most parents respond to the freedom and instinctual openness of their children the way their parents, cultures and religions taught them to -- with the impulse to control and suppress, rather than to embrace, nurture, trust and understand. And so the feeling that "I am not okay, something basic about me isn't acceptable" passes from one generation to the next. This is one of the great tragedies of human existence, and must be remedied for individuals and humanity to reach our inborn potential for love, creativity and joyfulness.
Our civilization has such a long way to go in warmly understanding and validating childrens' instinctual reactions and emotional expressions. Most parents simply have no idea how to not be threatened by the aliveness and power of their child's expressions, so they shut the child down -- which results in guilt and shame, a haunting sense that "there is something wrong with me" that gets buried deep inside and lasts one's entire life.
Since painful early experiences are suppressed into our bodies and unconscious minds, how do you know if you are being crippled by feelings of shame that began long ago? You can begin by asking yourself these simple but revealing questions:
1. Do you worry about what other people think of you?
2, Are you easily hurt or angered by others' criticism toward you?
3. Do you have self-critical thoughts on a regular basis, or during times of stress?
4. Are you anxious about speaking up when other people may disagree with you?
5. Are you anxious about protesting when you have been wronged or treated unfairly?
6. Do you feel afraid of public speaking?
7. Are you completely free to let go of control, follow your impulses and do what feels exciting for you during sex? Including freely making sounds?
8. Do you have physical symptoms that include: stomach pain, difficulty breathing fully and easily, panic attacks (or chronic anxiety), overall body tension?
9. Can you let your feelings freely show on your face?
10. Is it difficult or impossible to cry in front of other people? Or to cry at all?
If any or all of these apply to you, to one degree or another, you are being inhibited in fully being yourself by unconscious feelings of shame.
Loving and believing in yourself involves throwing off the shame about your authentic feelings and instincts, and finally validating all the parts of you that were rejected or misunderstood. Seeing the goodness and rightness in your sexuality, in your self-protecting anger, in your longing for love, in your authentic sadness creates a real revolution in your sense of well-being.
And, by accepting your basic emotions, you become empowered to see and feel your own beauty -- which is impossible when one is blinded by feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness.
All of us have so many wonderful facets to our selves -- kindness, sensitivity, faithfulness, determination, intelligence, creativity, love, a sense of humor, passion, various talents -- the list of beautiful things inside us is endless. By recognizing and appreciating the strengths and beauty that are part of you, you love and believe in yourself more and more.
But I must emphasize that to break free of shame once and for all, and raise your level of well-being and happiness permanently, you have to accept and validate your basic emotions and instincts. This is often overlooked in an age where we are disconnected from our bodies and our feelings, overemphasizing our minds and our thoughts. If you can't see the goodness of your anger (positive anger, as I described in an earlier blog), your sadness, your sexual feelings, your vulnerable need to love and be loved -- your ability to warmly accept yourself will be tragically limited. This is why I stress the quest for UNCONDITIONAL self-love. We needed this as children and to one degree or another didn't receive it - because our parents couldn't unconditionally love and accept themselves. So we need to give it to ourselves now. And as we get better and better at this, inner peace and well-being, a mood of happiness and joy, take root in our bodies and hearts and spirits. TRUST YOURSELF AND HOLD NOTHING BACK! LOTS OF LOVE -- BRYAN