All spiritual teachers speak of the importance of self-acceptance. At the beginning of my conscious spiritual journey (conscious because all our life is really that but only at a certain point do we become conscious of that notion) I was puzzled by this. Why even talk about self-importance? Is it not selfish to even think of it?
In our society we are caught between two contradictions that can, if we allow them, slow down our journey towards self-acceptance. They are the confusion of self-acceptance with self-importance (or egoism), and distrust of any form of spirituality. We can’t blame ourselves for confusing self-importance or egoism with self-acceptance because most of us have never had the difference explained to us. Most of us are exposed and actively participate (and this includes myself as well) in the media and social media, screaming with its ‘look at me!’ messages. But self-importance is different from self-acceptance, and the most important difference is this: self-importance is a desperate attempt by the ego to be better than others. This is not a judgement and I am quite convinced we are wired by nature to be like this; our society both encourages it and disapproves of it.
Self-acceptance is different. Self-acceptance does not mean that you try to be better than anyone else, but it allows you to live with yourself in peace, it allows you to accept all your ‘imperfections’, and it allows you to forgive all that you believe you need to forgive. This is why I believe that all spiritual teachers emphasise self-acceptance. If you do not accept yourself, frustration, anger, and even hatred can unconsciously make your decisions for you. You might feel unworthy of good things in life, or even worse you might feel unworthy of happiness and any connection with that mysterious force that we are part of. This what self-acceptance teaches us – you need to feel worthy (but not better than others – this is not a contest) to be able to feel that connection with the ultimate source of existence. To feel one with the One.
You can call the One anything you want – I think traditional religions have spoiled the ‘G’ word for us enough so I am not going there – but that does not mean the source does not exist or that this connection is not the most important and beneficial part of our existence.
Am I getting too philosophical? Probably. You see, this little blog is an exercise in self-acceptance for me. I have been beating myself up about not being more popular, about not writing on more mainstream topics that would attract bigger audiences and please publishers. But that is not who I am.
I am that person who, ever since she could remember, has been puzzled by questions such as: ‘Who am I? Where do we come from? Where are we going? What is a fulfilling life and how can I have it?’ Did it make me the most popular girl in class? Probably not. So now I am writing this blog as an act of self–acceptance. This is who I am and I hope I can love myself as I am. Like many women, I have a long history of hating my ‘imperfections’. I want to move past that. And, I believe, the questions that obsess me can also be of interest to you. Perhaps we can walk towards the answers together – in self-acceptance, and as we are – perfect in our imperfections. Awake.
Joanna I love this blog. It describes most of us so perfectly
Thank you Dianne :). It seems so obvious that we should love and accept ourselves and yet it is such a difficult thing to practice xxx
Another great blog. I think we do all struggle with this one, but obviously, how can we love ourselves if we can’t accept ourselves? If we can’t love ourselves, how can we love others?
Thank you Sumitra. I have been working on this one forever. And yet, every time I am a bit low on energy and tired, a self-doubt creeps in and torments me, a positively whingy, vicious and, unfortunately, very eloquent voice that tries to undermine me in every possible way. Sometimes it takes all my energy just to recognise it for what it is – some old recording – and say, ‘I know what you are, stop that!’
Joanna, I resonated deeply with this. That subtle line between self importance and self acceptance is hard to articulate but you have done it really well. The complexity we face today (I feel) is that whilst a lot of people are now looking inwards to find self-acceptance, we’re doing it in a culture that unashamedly continues to promote the egoic structure of self importance. This creates a kind of schism…..I note here also things like the proliferation of ‘yoga selfies’ taken by those we look to as spiritual teachers, performing highly advanced asanas presumably to ‘inspire’ their audience but which I am convinced leads only to a sense of “I’m not good enough”…..and the process of self acceptance in this self important culture gets ever more challenging. Still, more honest sharing, as you have done here, is an important part of the shift towards less judgement, and more of what we really need – LOVE. Thank you Joanna, and many blessings to you. Shelle x
Thank you Shelle and what an insightful response. True it creates ‘schism’ and in some ways it is an invisible schism as so many of us do not even know about a deeper part of ourselves and can’t distinguish between different ‘voices’ within us (either conditioned and wired into us’ naturally’) so I see so many young and smart people walking unaware, lost in goss magazines. Even worse, I have so many wonderful colleagues and friends both in the literary world and in academia who put all their energies to denying that deeper part, and holding to the limited version of ourselves with great determination and eloquence 🙂
You’re right there – the trap of banal consumer culture is one pitfall….so too, however, is the over-identification with the notion of ‘self’ as the ‘thinker’, or in our experiences, as ‘academically’ intelligent. It raises the question of what we really believe ‘intelligence’ is. Are its qualities really limited to one’s ability to construct a coherent argument? Surely not! This world provides us with a plethora of masks to wear, and ego-constructs to hide behind….but perhaps going through them is an important process as we exhaust the false guises and realise that deeper acceptance, love, and connection to ‘Source’ are the only meaningful things….
Yes, and it is sometimes very painful professionally and creatively. I still find that I am rather reluctant to disclose myself in those settings. Yet recently, as I get more and more comfortable in this self-disclosure, I have met with some positive signs. E.g. colleagues from Monash asked me to participate in a seminar on travel and spirituality – I was genuinely pleased and surprised. Then I learned tat a colleague form UNiversity of Sydney now does a research in CA on spiritual experience, mindfulness and ecstatic states (as an academic!). I also hope that literary publishers will be more open to the ideas with the success of memoirs such as Eat, pray , Love and Holy Cow! etc. I also have an artist friend, Tracy Verdugo who beautifully connects art and spirituality. But is still feel like an avant garde of a sort. After all, academia is focused on ‘critique’ and literary circles often more on the form than an essence (even though I do appreciate a great ‘voice’ and aesthetic qualities – within themselves they are not enough).
Wow! Rejoicing in the reconciliation of academia and spirituality in a more honest, open and apparent way! This has been somewhat of a stumbling block for me in the search for further education. Thank you Joanna for being a part of this movement for the benefit of many of us.
Also congratulations on your blog! Wonderful to see this side of you more fully expressed! To talk about such things within the context of our egoic lives takes courage. Furthermore whenever I have attempted to write on spiritual matters I have found myself questioning the piece seeing as the ideas and convictions are temporary; relevant only in that moment and arbitrary in the next. Whether this is an excuse or not, I have almost always chosen to delete. But there is hope yet. Perhaps someday my words will find their wings.
Infinite peace + love + joy
Great to hear from you Jaclyn as I know that you, too, are a meditator. And it is so good to hear that you intend to write about it as well. I was just thinking that this is such an uplifting part of our lives and yet so difficult to express in words. I, too, find, that as much as I love writing (and I love writing with all my being) I find it often challenging to write about spirituality. I often fear that I would sound ‘religious’ (and trust me – I a not, not in the traditional sense anyway) or otherwise I will sound like a lunatic to my literary and academic colleagues – yet here I am being probably very brave. I know some colleagues in academia who do write about it but it is still a new trail. At this stage, I am more interested to express myself within the literary domain – let’s see how this one will go:) I hope to read your blog as well and share ideas :).
Thank you for this Joanna. As always your thoughts are parallel to my own! Lovely analysis of an important reality.
You are welcome! It is good to connect on the soul level 🙂
Congratulation on this new Blog Joanna, you are embarking here on an important journey. I think your courage and leadership can be an inspiration for many others and I hope and pray that one day, this very kind of self-reflection and cosmos-reflection will be more popular than the skin-deep culture we currently inhabit. All evolution begins with those that are different. 🙂 Congratulations again!
Thank you Ben. This encouragement means a lot especially when it comes from someone who is a leader in matters of spirit globally. I love your Monk for a Month program and involvement in interfaith projects internationally. Here, I decided to sue this blog to express that connectiveness without reservations, share thoughts and experiences about matters of spirit without inhibitions without worrying about academic or literary judgements – and yet encourage a sincere exchange.
Very inspiring words! Yet, my thinking always goes round this, if we don’t love ourselves, we can’t love others, right? So, what’s this feeling we have when we can’t live without a certain person beside us? What’s called, if not love? Habit? Reflexion? Fear of lonileness under covered in “love”? Utopia? Illusion of love? What? And when can we actually know that we accomplished loving ourselves? And consequently we truly love our “beloved” one without any “false loving feelings”? Should we feel guilty then for “pretending” to love our other half, while in reality we “think” we love them? Oh these thoughts are always in my mind, never seem to find answers and peace…
Thank you Ada. These are important and intense questions. I am trying to address them in my new book to a degree. And I think that perhaps the answer might be in different types of love. You are right, most type of love we experience has to do with some sort of attachment and understandably – to love without attachment is very difficult. Here I mean, a romantic attachment or a intense passionate attachment- and I believe they are important expressions of human love. Boy, can Ii take us higher, huh? Unfortunately, after the high comes the low 🙂 because as someone wise once told me love can’t stay on the level of eros forever. Still, I believe that it is very important to allow ourselves to fully experience a passionate, mad love. Then there is ‘love’ because of fear of loneliness. I must say, I do not believe that this is a true love precisely because it comes from fear (opposite of love). And I think ultimately it contracts us and inhibits our ability to love others and ourselves. Then there is universal love – a tough assignment – but I think worthwhile which comes from self-love and self-acceptance. Once we truly love ourselves, we start to get glimpses of that higher, marvelous love – which connect is with the very fabric of the Universe and life as such and we feel one with everything. As the same time, it is still beautiful to have a companionship and affection and understanding of someone close to us who shares our experiences, our journeys. In my opinion it seldom happens with the same person through the whole life (possible but rare) so we meet and love different people at different stages of life and this is very beautiful to be able to walk together in this understanding :).
Thank you, Julie 🙂
I just found your site and I love it. Thank you for honouring who you are. 🙂
Thank you, Goddess :). Your encouragement is much appreciated.
Dr Joanna Kujawa