One of the more destructive aspects of our interior life is negative self-talk. Very rarely is it productive or self-motivating and, more often than not, the stories that we tell ourselves are simply not true.
Just as we draw the map that leads us into the desert of self-doubt and negative self-perception we are also quite capable of re-drawing it, leading us to an oasis of loving-kindness and compassion toward ourselves. We do this by shifting our point of reference for what is our "normal", and rewriting the narrative of negative self-talk we so often allow to inform our daily lives.
I am unlovable - It's not uncommon to feel unloved. Our sense of being unloved is drawn from messages, both real and perceived, that we've gotten over time. Those messages become the plotline for the story we tell ourselves about being unlovable, which, of course, is why we feel unloved. We often amplify these feelings and turn them in on ourselves, transforming a bit of negative socialization into a distorted pronouncement of character that we then play out as fact.
Like the symbol of the 'ouroboros' -- the snake that eats its own tail -- that Jung borrowed from the ancient Greeks, this is a self-sustaining cycle of destruction and creation. As long as we maintain that we are unlovable, we will feel unloved, and as long as we feel unloved, we will maintain that we are unlovable.
The task here is not so trite as to learn to love ourselves, as we so often hear. It is to unravel the source of story, and uncover what we are doing to maintain it. Once we reveal that pattern, we will be able to develop a strategy different from the one that we are currently using, allowing us to rewrite the internal narrative of our own self-worth.
I am not good enough - Surrendering to the belief that we are unlovable robs us of meaning and a sense of place. Unloved, unlovable, meaningless and marginalized we struggle to establish a sense of our own value. With this stunted sense of value in hand, how is it possible to impose ourselves upon the world in a meaningful way? Well, from this place we can't, further fostering the insecurity that underlies the recurring beliefs about our own inadequacies and shortcomings.
The thing of it is we are perfect - right where we are, just as we are. It is our beliefs - the thoughts that separate our ego from our true nature - that pull us into suffering. Rather than recognizing in the moment that we are doing the best we can with the resources we have available to us, we get hooked by our expectations about others' expectations. We go from the inside out, and this becomes the stage upon which we play out our story.
I am a fake - What's a good play without costumes? The imposter complex is a timeless struggle that draws its energy from our lack of place, meaning and worth. Without a strong sense of place, meaning or worth to sustain us, we can end up feeling like an empty shell just going through the motions. If we're not right and we're not doing it right, then how could we possibly know what we're doing? Yet, Confucius would remind us that the first step on the path to wisdom and self-knowledge is to say, "I don't know".
Accepting the possibility of our own imperfection -- and holding space for that -- peels away the layers of the imposter's costume because it means we must show up authentically. This is an expression of our humanity and our vulnerability, as well as our willingness to enter into the kind of interdependent relationship demanded by asking for help. Acknowledging our outward imperfection through an acceptance of our inward perfection is a balance that can bring us peace.
I do not deserve this - Very often our point of reference for our own sense of value is the way that we perceive others as valuing us. In our culture, this valuation tends to hinge on some reward.
If we start from a place of feeling unloved and unlovable, harboring a sense that we have nothing meaningful to contribute and holding onto the notion that we are going to be found out and revealed as a fake, it becomes difficult to believe that what comes to us is actually deserved. Put through this filter of negative self-perception, even the most obviously deserved accolades can pale.
Unraveling the patterns of negativity that underlie these beliefs is central to rewriting our internal dialogue. Just as each builds on the other, slowly creating an unassailable wall of self-misperception, so the deconstruction of one piece of this puzzle will prompt the others to crumble in its wake. Revealing our inner worth to ourselves, the outer reward begins to gain value for us, becoming a reflection our genuine self-worth, rather than an unfortunate reminder of our distorted and degraded misperception.
I will fail - The world is divided into two groups - those who are right. If we hold fast to our self-misperception, we will work hard to validate that misperception. In effect, we will get to be right.
Failure here is less about actual failure than it is about what we define as success. True success is not measured in money or power or any of the other trappings that distract us from our mindful presence. It is measured in character, and we are the only ones who can define our character -- through our thoughts, words and actions.
We can choose to listen to the negative self-talk that debilitates our self-perception, or we can choose to run into the fire and confront what we find there, forging from this an understanding of who we really are, rather than relying on destructive, external messages to define us.
© 2011 Michael J. Formica, All Rights Reserved
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