“Our first duty is not to hate ourselves, because to advance we must have faith in ourselves first and then in God. Those who have no faith in themselves can never have faith in God.” ~Swami Vivekananda
My first spiritual duty is not to hate myself? Wow! That’s the complete opposite of what I was taught growing up. In fact, I remember having a discussion about self-esteem a few years ago with my mother, and she claimed that she believed that whole idea of having any positive self-esteem was sinful because we, as humans, are so depraved that to claim we have any value is sacrilege. That sounds pretty close to the idea that my first spiritual duty is to learn to hate myself.
Unfortunately, I learned that lesson all too well, all too young. The older I get, however, the more I am convinced that Swami Vivekananda has it right. Learning to NOT hate myself is the first step.
I believe that we are only capable of loving others (including the divine) as well as we love ourselves. We are only capable of valuing others as well as we value ourselves. We are only capable of having faith in others to the degree that we have faith in ourselves.
“I began to understand that self-esteem isn’t everything; it’s just that there’s nothing without it.” ~Gloria Steinem
Self-love, self-esteem, self-value isn’t everything. It is the first step—the foundation on which everything else rests. If I don’t have that basic foundation, there really is nothing without it. How is one to build a life on a foundation of self-hate? How is it possible to offer my gifts freely to the world if I hate myself (and therefore hate what I create)?
This is more than just a philosophical argument for me. As the scientist needing to see the results of the experiment, I have seen the difference that letting go of the self-hatred is making in my own life. I’ve spent years trying to hide my gifts, trying to hide my Self, afraid to give of myself to others because I believed that I anything I did would never be good enough. It made me a miserable, selfish (in the negative sense of that word), miserly person.
As I’m slowly beginning to let my light shine in this world and to believe that I have something of value to give to others, I am happier, more generous, and (I think) generally more pleasant to be around.
I took great joy tonight in giving a friend a Reiki session. There is a time I would have been too afraid to put myself out there to give to another person in this way. I would have resented the time and been too scared of failing to try. Instead, I have been looking forward to this opportunity for days and found great joy in giving this gift to her—and did so with perfect confidence that she would receive exactly what she needed from Reiki in this moment. I had the extra pleasure of having the opportunity to get to know this delightful person a bit better through the experience, which made this a treasured gift for me too.
I am studying to be a yoga teacher and have taught two yoga classes to friends this week. There was a time when I would never have had enough confidence in myself to do something like this, but I am finding that it is pure joy to share yoga with others, even when I am becoming more aware all the time of how little I know about this beautiful tradition.
I have now been writing this blog for over a year, putting my words and thoughts out there in a public place. Sharing my writing is like sharing the deepest part of me, like standing naked on a street corner. While I do censor what I expose here, I share more of myself and my journey than I would once have thought possible.
“As you grow in self-esteem, your face, manner, way of talking and moving will tend naturally to project the pleasure you take in being alive.” ~Nathaniel Branden
I can’t see myself in an objective manner yet, but people who know me tell me often that they see such a difference in me. I believe that was they are seeing is my pleasure in being alive because I do truly find greater joy in simply being alive with every bit of self-hatred I shed. I’m not even sure I’ve really made it to self-love yet, but if life can be this beautiful just from the shedding of self-hatred, I can’t wait to find out how amazing life is going to become as I eventually learn to love myself.
I may be coming to it late, but I am grateful that I am finally learning that first duty. Self-hatred is a burden that I am more than willing to lay down.
A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a very fragile place, and it takes a good deal of vulnerability to share this personal journey of transformation so openly. Therefore, I need this to be a safe place for exploration and sharing for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight—or the expression of that experience or insight—are NOT welcome here and will be deleted.