So many of us are self-critical to the point where we dislike ourselves.
The Dalai Lama was meeting with a group of Western psychologists when the subject of poor self-esteem came up. He indicated that he didn’t understand this concept. After much discussion with his translator he finally said: we just don’t have that issue in Tibetan culture. Not only do we not have words for this, this condition doesn’t exist for us.
Would that we could say the same thing in the west. Those who were most severely criticized, rejected, or abused as children can suffer terribly with self-criticism and dislike of themselves. Even if we were mostly treated well as children, it’s hard to find someone in our lives who doesn’t struggle in some way with self-esteem.
There are people who seem to have too much self-esteem, but if one’s sense of self isn’t based on a balanced and realistic embrace of weaknesses and strengths, an over-aggrandized sense of self-importance will deflate in the face of real hardship. When this person falls, they fall hard.
“Ok,” you say, “I know I’m too hard on myself. I’m much kinder to others than I am to myself. But I’ve always been this way. What can I do?”
Beginning a practice of the Loving-Kindness Meditation could help ease your harsh judgments of yourself.
The Loving-Kindness Meditation is a short series of intentions you can say to yourself silently or aloud:
May I be filled with loving-kindness.
May I be well in body and mind.
May I be free of anger and anxiety.
May I be peaceful and at ease.
A number of my clients have begun repeating this meditation to themselves a few times throughout their day or perhaps for a longer period of time in the morning or evening. They always say it helps. Often within the first week they notice a significant shift in how they feel about themselves.
“Those are nice words,” you may say. “But I don’t believe I could ever be that way. Really loving to myself? Free of anxiety? It would feel like I’m just going through the motions if I tried doing that meditation.”
So take the risk and try it anyway. As you say the words, they become a part of you.