“Give up defining yourself – to yourself or to others. You won’t die. You will come to life. And don’t be concerned with how others define you. When they define you, they are limiting themselves, so it’s their problem. Whenever you interact with people, don’t be there primarily as a function or a role, but as the field of conscious Presence. You can only lose something that you have, but you cannot lose something that you are.”
– Eckharte Tolle
So something happened today.
I got a phonecall and it triggered some feelings inside me that had been brewing over the last few days. And you know what happened? I maintained as happy a voice as I could on the phone, then hung up. Then I threw my phone at the wall, scribbled all over a post-it note and shed some really angry tears. At that exact moment, I was about to do what I would usually do- beat myself up for feeling the way I felt. I was about to go “Gowri, just pull yourself together, you don’t even have problems. This is so minor, and you’re stronger and tougher than this…” but instead I did something else.
I gave myself a really tight hug.
Then I said “You know what? It’s okay. Just let it out. It’s okay to have these feelings and you don’t need to justify them to yourself all the time. You just feel them. You will be fine because you always are.” It was an odd moment. I felt like my mind’s dialogue cracked into two- emotional Gowri and comforting Gowri. I spoke to myself the way I would want my best friend to speak to me.
And it made me think long and hard about a notion that many psychologists have picked up on today, but one that has been around since ancient Hindu times, and it was the idea of self. And that of self acceptance.
You see, self acceptance and self improvement are two very different things. And the two may coexist peacefully. But self acceptance must come first, and I think that’s where I’ve been going wrong for so many years. See, when we are born, we are perfect. But from day one, the human conditioning begins. We are conditioned by our parents, our families, our peers and as we grow up and become beings who must conform to a society, we have built a dangerous image of ourselves in our own minds. That image is called The Ego. The ego has been made up of judgements formed by other people initially and then by us, about ourselves. ‘Hi I am Gowri and I’m thoughtful and sometimes funny’. The latter part of that sentence is all wrong. It should just be ‘Hi, I Am’. I just am. The rest of it has all been built up for me by myself and other people.
But beneath the ego lies something else. This is the real essence of self. The self is simply pure consciousness. Consciousness is just being aware of the fact that you exist. You just are. Consciousness is simply being. The people who really understand this are the ones who have dedicated their lives to meditating upon it. And in the fast paced world that we live in today, it is difficult to reach that kind of level. So I can, by no means say I understand it properly either. But this is what I do know… complex notions of consciousness aside, on a real-world, applicable level.
Self acceptance is the act of simply accepting who we are, with all our flaws and all our imperfections.
It seems like such a stupidly clichéd statement. But stop and think about it for a second. How many of us really, truly, hand on heart accept ourselves? I think such people are few and far between and must have also really worked on themselves to get there. But since I’m in a mood to break things down… let’s break this idea down a bit further.
I had an exam yesterday. My next one is in a week. That means seven days. Days 1 and 2= consider everything but work. Day 3= Freak out. Days 4-7= Become a caffeine crazy, fact absorbing, scared shitless wreck, motivated beyond belief, working like her life depends on it. It’s the same story. And the best bit is that I know myself so well. I know exactly that this is how I will be. Yet I spew over it and contemplate it and go… “Why can’t I be more hard working, motivated, intelligent…” something. Something I am evidently not. Not yet because I haven’t received the right kind of stimulation to become like that yet.
Stop resisting ourselves.
That’s just me. I’m not motivated 7 days before an exam, but I am motivated 4 days before one. The best thing for me to do now is accept that. Work with that rather than against it. And stop trying to resist it.
Hold up on perfectionism.
The people we try to be according to psychology today, are very much a reflection of our childhood conditioning. But the issue with us is that we are always striving to be ‘better versions of ourselves’. Although that seems like a really classic and overused ‘positive’ statement, isn’t it actually little demeaning? Aren’t we telling ourselves we aren’t good enough? This doesn’t mean we can’t improve on our weaknesses, just that we should maybe accept those weaknesses first, instead of rejecting them and trying to become something we are not… yet. Normally self improvement isn’t a choice anyway. It’s something that happens due to circumstance. For instance- you go through an excruciatingly painful breakup, and come out of it stronger, happier and more wise. You don’t repeat the mistakes you once made. You become the ‘better version of yourself’. Great. BUT those so called ‘improvements’ happened because you dealt with the breakup positively. But had that breakup not happened in the first place, the circumstances that forced you towards self improvement would not have existed. Of course, we can actively try and improve ourselves, but it’s harder if the situation doesn’t demand it. And there is no way we can improve ourselves without accepting ourselves first.
I think this is where the journey really culminates. It is only by loving ourselves unconditionally that we can accept all the good things that are given to us by God, by the Universe, by whatever. It’s only by loving ourselves that we can truly, truly love others. Because true love is selfless, and doesn’t expect anything in return.
I’m not there yet. On any of those levels. I’m so so so far away. But after my little moment today, I’ve told myself this. I’m going to really try and be happier with who I am. I know I need to make a change here. Not to make myself a better person. Not to be the girl who studies harder, who’s a better friend, a better daughter, a better student… but to just be content with who I already am.
Don’t get me wrong, I am happy with myself already. But we all have days where we don’t like ourselves as much. That’s what I’m going to try and make a conscious effort to cut myself some slack. Cause I’m pretty great as it is.
So that was deep. I think I need to take up meditation, yoga, drink green tea regularly, travel the world with no money and adopt a vegan diet soon at this rate, but hey… baby steps right?! (Semi serious about the meditation to be honest, watch this space)
Bookworm inside me just has to butt in right now. Anyone who wants to know more about the ego and self… read ‘A New Earth’, and ‘Stillness Speaks’ by Eckharte Tolle. Mum loves him and we’ve nicknamed him ‘The dude who saw the light’, but his teachings are profound and are based on Hindu and Buddhist foundations coupled with his own experiences of enlightenment. I often disagree with him but he still has some very good things to say and his writing always stirs up something inside me. A lot of what I’ve written is here is what I have learnt from him.
I don’t know how well I’ve articulated myself here but I hope anyone reading has gained something from it, although it’s a little deeper and more complex than my usual writing! Promises for something a little lighter next time. Or not. Depending on what inspires me that day.
Soooo much love & hugs as always