I always pay attention whenever I receive information from multiple sources in the same day. Sometimes the repetition comes by hearing something, perhaps in a podcast or on a YouTube video or maybe in a conversation. Other times I read two distinct authors or books in which the same information presents itself to me.
The latter was the case yesterday as I read in John Powell’s book, The Secret of Staying in Love. He said that people live satisfying lives in direct proportion to their level of self-esteem. Powell, citing the book Reality Therapy by Dr. William Glasser, suggested that a lack of self-love creates a very painful life which manifests in one of four different ways:
1. Depression – Spares a person from the agony of his deeper pain, protects him from the full impact of his unbearable life situation.
2. Anger and antisocial behavior – Acting out the bitterness which accompanies the sufferers sense of failure and frustration.
3. Insanity – Both a choice and an escape, a liberation from a very uncomfortable world and life.
Powell stated that the pain of low self-esteem leaves people seeking “relief by distraction, living like barnacles on the TV screen or dissolving themselves in work or play.”
As I read this chapter in Powell’s book I could definitely see myself, if not so much now, certainly earlier in my life. I have, at different times, manifested my lack of self-love in each of the four ways described by Glasser and discussed by Powell.
Later, yesterday evening, I opened a file I keep as idea starters for future Secrets to Peace and I found this quote from Aldous Huxley in Doors of Perception: “That humanity at large will ever be able to dispense with Artificial Paradise seems very unlikely. Most men and women lead lives at the worst so painful, at the best so monotonous, poor, and limited, that the urge to escape, the longing to transcend themselves if only for a few moments, is and has always been one of the principal appetites of the soul. Art and religion, carnivals and saturnalia, dancing and listening to oratory – all these have served, in H. G. Wells’ phrase, as Doors in the Wall.”
While Huxley, in the quote I had saved, did not specifically address the reasons why we live pain-filled lives, it still resonated with me as similar to the information I had read earlier in Powell’s book.
I have worked on learning to love myself ever since I recognized that it was a problem for me; some thirty-five years I would guess. While I have made great strides in self-acceptance, I occasionally still hear an inner voice which is not totally convinced that I deserve the fruit of my efforts. It is not a conscious voice, but one that shows up when my actions cause less than pleasant surprises. While I have not used drugs or alcohol for many, many years as escape mechanisms, there are times when I feel tempted, even if only for a hot minute.
While I believe we all value happiness, we are often not aware that our thinking is what creates most if not all of our problems. Until we understand this truth, we tend to blame others or our environment for all the pain we experience. While this post is not the perfect venue for dispelling this understanding, I do want to list just a couple of thoughts worth considering:
- Unless there is some compelling medical condition which is creating one’s depression, the continual thinking about one’s self only increases our sadness and anxiety. I know some believe that chemical imbalances are the cause of depression, but my experience has proven to me that if I can just take my awareness off of myself, my chemical imbalance seems to take care of itself.
- What we focus on grows. When we are down, telling our story does nothing to help our condition. There is no value in telling others about your pain; you only intensify it by telling others about it. Rather than picking up the phone and telling your friend about your latest misfortune try finding some way to serve others, preferable anonymously. Or, if that idea does not sound feasible, try finding some form of exercise where your mind must be occupied by the activity itself instead of being focused on the perceived object of your discomfort.
- Finally, self-acceptance is not something that needs to be verbalized. It is self-evident by the way that we treat ourselves and others. If we are always building others up and tearing ourselves down, we are not demonstrating love, we are testifying to our own dysfunction. Love begins with acceptance. Realize that you are worthy and only programming, over which you probably had little to no control, could ever convince you otherwise. If you are demonstrating any of the above-listed four behaviors, allow yourself to change your beliefs. You may do this by spending time in the quiet until no thoughts of self-hatred exist, or you could work on it with a professional therapist. One way or another, you deserve a life that is free of the pain which accompanies low self-esteem.
In closing I want to offer these three things which John Powell says love does:
1. Love esteems and affirms the unconditional and unique value of the one loved.
2. Love acknowledges and tries to fulfill the needs of the one loved.
3. Love forgives and forgets the failings of the one loved.
If you do not believe you are worthy of at least these three promises of love, find a way to make a change. You are valuable and you deserve to be loved, just as you are, for you are a unique expression of the One True Power which underpins all of life. Live like you know this to be true, even if you do not just yet.