Facing our inner fears is perhaps one of the most terrifying experiences a guy can have. Why is it so painful and daunting to look deep into that abyss? Is it because we’re afraid we’ll discover things about ourselves that we’ll reject? It’s painful enough if the World rejects you, so why would I delve deeper and run the risk of rejecting myself as well? Why would I walk straight into a burning house?
Truth is, until we’re able to face our fears and befriend them, patterns in our lives will continue to repeat themselves. Specifically, I’m talking about poor attitudes towards others, broken relationships, displeasure at work and feelings of unhappiness at home.
Several weeks ago, as part of an exercise from a Men’s Group I joined, we were asked to request from people we care about to tell us something about ourselves that we’ve been unable to hear. In other words, “Tell me something you’d like to change.”
The exercise was empowering for several reasons. One, it promoted good listening skills without judgement. Two, it separated another person’s perspective from my own and allowed me to see myself from a different vantage point. Three, it strengthened my ability for personal growth and change. Four, it promoted self-awareness and trained me to pay attention to my body and thoughts, and to see if I can listen without taking things personally in order to be at a place of acceptance. Five, it’s a good litmus test for my self-love/self-esteem if I was able to hear feedback without feeling discomfort. Remember, we can listen to other people’s opinions, but we don’t necessarily have to agree or respond to them. That demonstrates personal fortitude. I asked four close friends, one of whom was my son and here’s what they told me:
“You can be inflexible with other people’s opinions sometimes.”
“At times, you seem to have your mind already made up, even though you hear out their perspectives.”
“You can be judgemental sometimes in a passive way which makes it a bit suffocating to be around. For the most part it’s great, but there’s times, I feel I can’t be myself.”
“You analyze things a lot! You analyze situations and what people say too much.”
When I took a step back and heard what they all said, I acknowledged their perspectives.
Was it easy to hear them? Yes and no.
Was it useful? Absolutely!
I got to learn a little bit more about myself and work towards self-improvement. That being said, it is ONLY their perspectives and I need to recognize that I will not change just because someone suggested these things. I need to process the information and become more mindful of these, and see if there’s a balance between accepting myself for who I am vs finding areas I can improve upon if there are behaviors that are hurting others.
The beautiful part after I immediately thanked them for their feedback was I felt a deep sense of gratitude for them. I saw this as something positive. My friends (and son) ACTUALLY know me well enough to generate a caring opinion of me. They weren’t sharing with the intention to hurt me. I feel fortunate that they’re in my life and I am important enough to them to even notice these details about me. I welcome all parts of myself, good and bad. I matter to them and it was such a positive experience to realize this.
What is Self-Love?
So, why are we so afraid of our feelings of sadness, hurt, love and anger? Our emotions are real and a part of us. If we reject them, we are rejecting a part of who we are. It’s perfectly healthy to feel.
We’re afraid sometimes to be in touch with our feelings because we might learn that we have insecurities, or we’re afraid of abandonment. Maybe, we’re afraid of creating intimacy because deep down we feel we’re undeserving of it; we’re not good enough. Why would anyone want to be with me? These are questions that point towards self-love.
Self-love is a term that I feel is over-used. Without context on Social Media posts, the words don’t mean a whole lot, until we truly grasp the concept of its definition. Self-love is the ability to be vulnerable and in touch with all your emotions. We don’t numb them out, or push them away. Instead, we allow them to flow within us. There’s no “marker” or “sign” you carry around that says you have self-love. You just know it, when you allow the feelings of sadness, hurt, anger, love, forgiveness and compassion to flow inwards. You become aware and are able to receive these feelings without resistance. You can talk about them and you befriend the feelings instead of choosing to run away from them.
In a more Universal sense, self-love will be reflected back to our outer world. We will receive what we feel inside. If we feel sadness, anger, longing and resentment, we will receive the same in return. But when we allow ourselves to feel self-love, self-compassion, and self-acceptance we will receive those back from the world. How wonderful is that instead?
What came out from the exercise, in retrospect and over the past several weeks, was a greater realization of my own dignity, self-worth and self love. I feel a greater sense of empowerment, knowing I’m a better man today than I was yesterday. I give myself persmission to love myself.
Growth and change is a process.
All things will come together when I allow things to be.
It is here.