When You Feel You're Not Enough
How often do we compare ourselves to others and take our conclusions as a reflection of our self-worth?
How to Coach Yourself Using these Wisdom Quotes:
Give yourself time to go through each point slowly
Consider your answers to any questions
Explore the links but come back to this page until you finish all the points
Pay particular attention to anything that touches your heart
1. The Beginning of Insecure Thoughts
"The way in which a child learns is that the parent is under pressure to socialize the child, to make the child socially functional, and in doing that (whether they intend to or not) they reward and punish the child for behaviors.
The result is, when that starts very early, before there is a lot of reasoning process between the parent and the child, the child will have certain emotional feelings [and believe] that certain ways it is in its natural state are not acceptable.
The result is some feelings of unworthiness or inadequacy in most human beings as a result of socialization. Very few people ever come through socialization unscathed.
You build the social structure and often, what you end up with is a personality that’s constantly looking to the world and other people: Do you approve of me? Do you like me? Am I good enough? Am I acceptable to you? Have I achieved enough?
You get an A for effort and you feel good, and if you don’t get the A, it’s not like you feel nothing - you feel bad. It’s as if the baseline is negative, not zero; so that you’re constantly using your life experiences as a way to disprove a basic negative feeling about yourself."
~Ram Dass, from the video: How to Love Yourself
Do you see how it all starts? Is it any wonder that we look outside of ourselves for validation and self-esteem?
Understanding that our feelings of insecurity come from our conditioning, from the way we were trained as we were raised, can free us from the belief that they are true.
Remember though, not to fall into the trap of blaming your parents or society and its systems. This only causes more suffering. Instead, open your eyes to see how self-criticism originated and open your heart for compassion to flow.
2. Fragile and Temporary Self-Worth
"Where does self-worth come from? Do you get it from success in your work? Do you get it from having a lot of money? Do you get it from attracting a lot of men if you’re a woman or a lot of women if you’re a man?
How fragile all that is, how transitory.
When we talk about self-worth, are we not talking, really, about how we are reflected in the mirrors of other people’s minds? But do we need to depend on that?
One understands one’s personal worth when one no longer identifies or defines one’s self in terms of these transient things.
I’m not beautiful because everyone says I’m beautiful. I’m really neither beautiful nor ugly. These are things that come and go. I could be suddenly transformed into a very ugly creature tomorrow, but it is still “I.” Then, say I get plastic surgery, and I become beautiful again. Does the “I” really become beautiful?
You need to give time to reflect on these things."
~Anthony de Mello, from the article: Where Does Self-Worth Come From?
Have you ever stopped to consider how fragile and transient the things we rely on for our self-worth actually are? As Anthony says, give yourself time to reflect on these things.
3. True Self-Esteem Is Not Comparative
"There’s a very common problem people have that’s called self-esteem. "What value do I have? What value does my life have compared to others?"
Self-esteem, in the way in which it’s conventionally used, is comparative and it’s always connected to ego. How do I rate myself relative to others? And usually, it’s related to what you have - possessions, what you can do - abilities, what you know - knowledge and physical appearance.
There’s always a sense of unease because there are always some who are better than you are, and then there are others who are worse.
I would suggest that the only healthy self-esteem is self-esteem that is derived from a deeper place than any of those things that usually make up a person’s self-esteem: how you look, what you can do, your knowledge or your abilities. Or even weird things like who you know. The strangest things make up a person’s self-esteem.
You have to go a little deeper into yourself. True self-esteem is not comparative. It’s not, “I am better than or less than.” Quite simply, that sense of value, of worthiness, is derived from that deeper place of your presence - the presence of you, the presence of consciousness.
If you can sense that presence of you, you don’t need to compare yourself anymore to anybody else. You know that that is who you are in your essence and no narrative is required anymore in your mind to justify your existence or to explain who you are in relation to others."
~Eckhart Tolle, from the video: The Challenge of Self-Esteem
How often do we compare ourselves to others and take our conclusions as a reflection of our self-worth? Self-esteem based on comparison is unhealthy and fragile because it is dependent on others and the ego's desire to feel superior.
Consider where true self-esteem comes from.
4. Transcending the Programming
"Compare the serene and simple splendor of a rose in bloom with the tensions and restlessness of your life. The rose has a gift that you lack: It is perfectly content to be itself.
It has not been programmed from birth, as you have been, to be dissatisfied with itself, so it has not the slightest urge to be anything other than it is. That is why it possesses the artless grace and absence of inner conflict that among humans is only found in little children and mystics.
Would you be tormented by jealousy and envy if, like the rose, you were content to be what you are and never aspired to what you are not? But you are driven, are you not, to be like someone else who has more knowledge, like someone else with better looks, more status and admiration, someone more successful than you. You want to become more virtuous, more loving, more meditative...
Think of the sad history of your efforts at self-improvement, that either ended in disaster or succeeded only at the cost of struggle and pain. It becomes an exhausting, self-defeating process akin to driving with your brakes on.
Now, suppose you desisted from all efforts to change yourself, and from all self-dissatisfaction. You might see this as giving up, but there is another way besides laborious self-pushing on the one hand and stagnant acceptance on the other.
It is the way of self-understanding.
If what you attempt is not to change yourself but to observe yourself, to study every one of your reactions to people and things, without judgment or condemnation or desire to reform yourself, your observation will be non-selective, comprehensive, never fixed on rigid conclusions, always open and fresh from moment to moment.
Then you will notice a marvelous thing happening within you: You will be flooded with the light of awareness; you will become transparent and transformed."
~Anthony de Mello, from the article: Always Dissatisfied with Yourself, Always Wanting to Change
Being content with yourself as you are is not a negative thing, even though we may have been bombarded with messages to the contrary, e.g. the self-improvement industry.
There is a knowing within each of us that transcends all the programming and conditioning. And even if we can't get still enough to be sensitive to this, we definitely know when we are exhausted from driving with the breaks on.
Instead of continuing with our dissatisfaction and wanting to change ourselves, we are presented with "the way of self-understanding," where we observe ourselves and our reactions to life "without judgment or condemnation or desire to reform yourself." Consider if you are ready to swap your self-criticism for the way of self-understanding.
5. Allowing the Feelings
"The reason why we’re afraid that others will feel that we’re bad, inadequate, imperfect, etc, is because that’s how we feel about ourselves. We project that feeling onto somebody else and we presume they’re having the same feeling about us.
When you feel these unworthy feelings coming up - the feeling that I’m bad, that I’m unworthy, that I’m unlovable - whatever form it is in you, just really be with that feeling.
Feel the impulse to avoid it, to try and make it go away, to make it better, to improve it - the whole repertoire of things the mind does to push this feeling away or improve it. Be aware of all of that but just allow the feeling to be totally as it is.
Let all these imperfect, unlovable, bad feelings and thoughts that you have about yourself come up and see that, actually, you can live with them. You don’t have to push them away. They’re perfectly acceptable.
In other words, discover in your own experience that you are acceptable and lovable. And as you discover that for yourself, that will change the projection that you have about other people."
~Rupert Spira, from the video: Self Acceptance
What Rupert tells us here may seem strange and counterintuitive, but be open to trying it. Every time you have feelings of being 'less than' in any way, accept these feelings fully and resist the urge to push them away. Don't add any explanations or stories to them - just sit with them silently.
In this open acceptance, you may find something quite surprising.
6. The End of Violence and Embrace of Grace
"You look down and, my goodness, there is a chair there, offering itself, supporting you unconditionally, asking nothing of you. What grace!
The chair doesn't care who you are, who you think you are.
It doesn't care what you've done or haven't done.
It doesn't care what you've achieved, or haven't achieved, what you believe or don't believe.
It doesn't care if you're a success or failure, if you've reached your goals, or not.
It doesn't care whether or not you think you're enlightened.
It doesn't care what you look like, what clothes you are wearing.
It doesn't care whether you are sick or healthy, whether you are a Buddhist or a Jew, or a Christian, whether you are young, or old, whether you understand or don't understand.
It only offers itself, unconditionally. This message isn't complicated. It's there in something as simple and commonplace as a chair. And not just the chair, but all things. All things offer themselves unconditionally."
~Jeff Foster, An Extraordinary Absence: Liberation in the Midst of a Very Ordinary Life
"The way the chair you’re sitting on is embracing you, exactly as you are... The chair is not waiting for you to deserve the embrace. The chair is not waiting for you to understand. It’s not waiting for you to become perfect - it’s not interested.
Because it’s Love. It’s full, present Love.
It embraces you - even with a feeling of restlessness or incompleteness.
If only we were taught to see everything within us as divine expression. That would be the end of violence in the world, the end of violence in yourself. And that’s really what I’m teaching, is the end of violence - the subtle ways in which we turn against ourselves.
That’s what becomes exhausting because it’s not our nature. It’s not our nature and the exhaustion is intelligent. That’s what it’s saying, is: "Stop! This isn’t your nature. Your nature is Love." Nothing else is ever going to work."
~Jeff Foster, from the video: If Only We Were Taught to See Everything Within Us as Divine
"This message isn't complicated. It's there in something as simple and commonplace as a chair. And not just the chair, but all things." Notice how "all things offer themselves unconditionally." To you. Right now.
Also, notice "the subtle ways in which in we turn against ourselves" and how exhausting it is emotionally. From now on, every time you sit in a chair, remember the embrace of grace and your true nature. (Use the image quote above as a visual reminder.)
If you don't yet know yourself as the beautiful, aware being that you are, you may want to explore the following blog posts: