Sunday, August 19, 2012

Forget Self-Esteem, Just Love

Sometimes as I write this blog I feel completely unqualified to be writing anything at all. Perhaps all of my notions about marriage are wrong. In a way writing this blog is similar to being married. I keep living it, every day, but sometimes I don't know if I'm doing it right.

Actually, I feel unqualified to be doing most of the things that I do. When Owen and I are volunteering at the Shelter House, we end up deferring to the staff members whenever people ask tough questions, even when we really do know the answers. Why do we ask questions that we already know the answers to? Why do we doubt our own knowledge? At work, situations arise that I was never trained to handle, and I have to make up the answers. Through all of the feelings of not knowing what we are doing, we continue on, doubting and also hoping that we are doing the right thing.

When we allow that doubt to stop us, we put ourselves in danger of failing. In relationships of any kind, if we allow feelings of inadequacy to overwhelm us, we won't be able to have fulfilling relationships. We may even allow ourselves to be treated poorly. I saw a movie clip recently that made sense to me. The girl says to her friend, "Why do I always end up with jerks?" The friend responds, "Because you only accept the love you think you deserve."

When I was in high school I would get wrapped up in notions of fixing myself. I always sought my flaws and worked to make myself "better." That doesn't sound like such a bad thing to do, but it caused me more stress and unease than it may have been worth. I learned to break free from this self-depreciating pattern when I was on a mission trip in New Orleans. At one of the sermons, the speaker discussed self-esteem, and for the first time I heard it discussed as a negative phenomenon. She asked who are you to esteem yourself? We don't have the right or the power to determine our worth, it's something infinitely designed by God.

As a Lutheran, I can take this idea that God determines my worth and make it really mean something to me, but what about people who don't believe? Perhaps this idea can still be meaningful in that there is no sense in trying to evaluate our own worths.

How can we even begin to love others if we are overly concerned with how lovable we are? One of the most hindering aspects of questioning our worthiness is the selfishness that results. If we allow ourselves to be consumed in guilt or embarrassment about things we have said or done, we are not thinking about the people we love anymore. We have to love ourselves enough to focus our attention on others. I would suggest that we should love ourselves without reason because as soon as we attempt to give it a reason, we risk minimizing the love and getting caught up in selfish patterns.

Does anyone remember that movie from years ago, Aquila and the Bee? I still meditate on the quotation that her trainer gives her, which has been a source of inspiration for me:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond imagination. It is our light more than our darkness which scares us. We ask ourselves--who are we to be brilliant, beautiful, talented, and fabulous. But honestly, who are you not to be so?

You are a child of God, small games do not work in this world. For those around us to feel peace, it is not example to make ourselves small. We were born to express the glory of God that lives in us. It is not in some of us, it is in all of us. While we allow our light to shine, we unconsciously give permission for others to do the same. When we liberate ourselves from our own fears, simply our presence may liberate others."
-Marianne Williamson in Return to Love: Reflection on a Course in Miracles

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much, Summer! This is a really inspiring and enlightening post. I think people do get caught up too often in trying too hard to find or create value for themselves, when they already have it. I'm glad you're doing well! I miss you in Colorado!