Once upon a time, I was taught to believe that I was unworthy.
Those weren’t the words that were used, specifically – in the strictest sense, but that was the lesson. It was sneaky and crafty and designed to destroy. Though I would really like to believe that wasn’t the intention of the people who used the words.
It has taken a long time and a lot of work to see this lesson. It has taken even more time and work to be able to admit to myself that I even received this lesson. I am not one of those people who thinks in victim mentality or that people are out to get me or that people who cause damage do so intentionally. One of my greatest strengths (and weaknesses) is the ability to see the other person’s perspective. The words said that led to this self-belief were not said in anger, judgement, or nastiness. Mostly they were said in fear. My surface me saw the fear. My inner me heard the sentiment.
Only just now, today, this morning, I woke to the realization that I had been taught that I am unworthy. This realization came when this question was posed to me (by me) as I did my readings:
Do I believe myself to be worthy of the love it takes to cultivate a daily practice?
Worthy of a daily practice.
Worthy. Of a daily practice.
Hold on ….
Isn’t practice something we just “do”? A step in a process to achieve a goal? A workout, a diet, a personal development practice, spiritual practice – aren’t these steps on a path to a desired outcome?
I had always believed so. I thought that how we move forward is to determine a goal or outcome, identify the path or steps to achieve that goal or outcome, and start doing the things. All the things. Move forward a little each day through consistent action. In fact, we have entire lines of business devoted to helping us do exactly this as we work to achieve these goals and outcomes. Daily planners, journals, accountability partners, check ins, weigh ins, books, podcasts, coaches … the list goes on.
But up until now, no one had ever asked me if I felt worthy of my practice. I had never considered that a practice is an expression of something higher than a goal. The goal, is a representation of love. Practice, is an act of love. The dedication to the practice, the time, the effort, the preparation – all loving acts. Love.
And I had to answer from my heart that no. No I did not feel worthy of the love it takes to cultivate a daily practice. No. I did not feel worthy of the achievement of a daily practice.
This was something of a shock to me.
But as I thought back on my life, I see where that lack of self-worth entered my space. I wasn’t raised that way, I was raised to believe I was worthy of anything, everything, whatever I wanted. Just go get it. But for a period of time in my life, I was told I was unworthy. Of everything. Those weren’t the words used, but that is where they went in my brain, and heart, and fears.
There were the small unkindnesses of past acquaintances.
“No man will ever love you the way I love you.”
“I don’t believe YOU have a boyfriend.”
“You could be a model if you’d lose ten pounds.”
“This could be a really nice apartment if you would only change x,y,or z.”
“If you are friends with him/her/them, you can’t be friends with me.”
Then came the truly deep unkindnesses that wore a hole in the armor of the heart and allowed the other voices to slide in.
“You are lucky to have the job you have.”
“Sure, you are good at the job you do, at the company where you do it. They taught you how to do it. Those skills won’t be useful anywhere else”
“I don’t believe in all this self-actualization nonsense.”
“You only have this (thing, house, life, etc.) because you are with me.”
“I need you here to take care of this thing.”
“I don’t like that friend of yours, I think she will get you in trouble.”
These words coupled with random words from others through the years coalesced into a belief system. Deep inside. Unbeknownst to me. Changing me. Working to extinguish every fire I have tried to ignite for years now. Every workout, every practice, every business. Every time I tried to pull ahead.
Coaches would tell me I was afraid of success. No, that wasn’t it.
They would say I was afraid to fail. No. that wasn’t it either.
One even told me I was lazy. That almost made sense, except that I was working, really hard, on the work I was supposed to be doing.
I have spent thousands of dollars and countless hours trying to figure out what held me back. Therapy, studies, work work work.
Until this morning when I read these words: “…many people fail to see practice as a loving act and to see themselves worthy of such love.”*
As I sat with these words, I asked myself, Do I see practice as a loving act? No. I see it as a box to tick on my to do list. A mark on my habit tracker. A 1% movement. I may see it as an activity that will open me to love, that brings out my highest self. But I did not see the daily practice itself as a loving act.
Then the next part of the equation was to ask if I am worthy. The surface answer was “of course I am worthy!” said in my head with that loud, proud ego voice that wants you to look no further. But this time, I did look. I pushed the voice aside with a hush and asked again.
And my heart answered “No. I do not feel worthy of the love of a daily practice.”
“But I want to.”
But I want to … and with that, I take the first real step forward.
*Quote is from Christina Sell’s book “My Body Is A Temple: Yoga as a Path to Wholeness”