How To Embrace Who You Really Are

Published on: August 10, 2015

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Self-Love Requires Patience And Commitment

“Your task is not to seek for Love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”—Rumi

Complete acceptance of our identity is central to our existence, since our interactions stem from the recognition of our true self. The Dalai Lama said it puzzled him why so many people in the West suffer from low self-esteem and lack of acceptance. We have everything we need to thrive, yet are tormented for honouring our spiritual self. Self-love is a soft concept for many, since our upbringing emphasises serving the needs of others. To nurture ourselves first is selfish, so individuals indulge in altruistic service to the detriment of meeting their own needs. How about you? What is the relationship you have with yourself? Is it nurturing or based on guilt and criticism?

To cite a personal example: I spent countless years locked in a futile struggle to approve of myself. This was compounded by an inflexible father whom I couldn’t please. As a result, I turned to ultra-endurance sports as an outlet to vent my discontentment and punish myself for not living up to my expectations of myself. My inner-dialogue summoned me to go harder until I was overcome with exhaustion or collapsed in pain. Undeniably, the inner voice was the same one echoed by my father, and I had adopted it as my own. Yet underneath, my body was crying out to be loved and nurtured. The constant pain reinforced my childhood conditioning until I could take no more; something had to give. Exercise nowadays encompasses healthy movement to embrace the self-love I uphold. Whilst I’m a work-in-progress, I am at peace with myself having endured the contrasting state.

Self-love is expressed to the degree we are vulnerable. By exposing our cracks, we give ourselves permission to be authentic and attract like-minded individuals. Contained within that vulnerability is the need to love ourselves again. Countless books and articles espouse loving ourselves foremost for others to love us. Whilst I acknowledge this as helpful advice, it should not be our sole reason. Our duty is to honour ourselves primarily, because within our DNA is the disposition for self-nurturing. To accept ourselves as whole means to embody our strengths and limitations; our shadow self. To disown our dark side means going to war with ourselves, which is a move away from self-love. Are you comfortable with this idea that self-love is built into your genetic potential? Your role is to let go of the barriers that prevent it being expressed through you, i.e., your Limiting Beliefs.

You Are Not Your Feelings Or Thoughts

“Find the love you seek, by first finding the love within yourself. Learn to rest in that place within you that is your true home.”—Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Shame, disgust and self-disapproval are feelings we impose upon ourselves. We are not born harbouring such thoughts but allow it to thrive when we find evidence to support it. Loving who we really are starts with the smallest act of self-renewal and self-compassion. It is the recognition we are already worthy, irrespective of our limiting beliefs. In his book Your Redefining Moments, acclaimed spiritual author and my mentor Dennis Merritt Jones writes: “Who you really are is not subject to transition because the true Self is formless and changeless.” We are perfectly imperfect. The dichotomy of that statement affirms that our imperfections make us perfect. Therefore, we must embrace the wholeness of our being from our current place of awareness. We already personify goodness by our mere presence. We must use our imperfections to engrave upon our character that which we aspire to be. Whilst an overused analogy, the diamond formed through heat and pressure is akin to that which takes place within us. Our trials are nourishment for our soul, and our imperfections are nature’s gifts to impress upon our being. Therefore, we must stop assuming we are broken since that only capitulates to our problems.

The words Really Are in the title are used to denote the impenetrable self that lies beneath the voice of the ego. This reaffirming voice cannot be obscured since it does not affix itself to labels relating to our self-worth. It is as eternal as our spiritual nature, and our primary aim is to make peace with the inner critic. But what assurances do we have the inner critic is not who we really are? Our feelings become our guidepost. The inner critic strives to make us inferior. This is clear when provoked and we respond in anger to uphold this image. The authentic self does not insult us, nor does it hide behind a veil of deceit. To differentiate these voices, we realise the inner critic is nothing more than a learned script often recited. By confronting pain, we summon our intent to move through it. Pain is a portrait into the past to the degree that suffering means referencing the past by bringing it into the present.

As we abandon our pain story, we recognise we are not our feelings or thoughts, but something we have tied ourselves to. In any moment we are suffering, we direct our attention inwards and ask: “What is going on inside me right now?” Stay attentive to the sensations which arise: a thought or an impulse. Move towards them with modest attentiveness instead of running away from them. The act of embracing our feelings is a show of self-love because we are nurturing our emotional well-being. It is a prompt reminder that I return to the title quote by Rumi who wrote: “Your task is not to seek for Love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built up against it.” Ultimately, loving who we really are entails tearing down the barriers that stand in the way of our spiritual essence.

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