Step 2: I realized that my perfectionism and self-hate was an unskillful behavior and that there was something better waiting for me: Love.
In my last post, I suggested that many people have a difficult time loving themselves because we are often taught that self-love is a bad thing, and so we do not learn thoughts and practices that help us become good friends with ourselves.
In addition, patterns of self-hate are a consistent part of our culture, although they are often cleverly disguised as patterns of perfectionism, control, judgmental attitudes, overworking, addictions, eating disorders, rage, and other behaviors in which we try to prove our worth, control the world to make us feel good about ourselves, or numb painful feelings of unworthiness.
Patterns of self-hate are such a common phenomenon in our lives that we often do not even realize that we are exhibiting signs of self-hate or if we do, we just think that is the way it is.
On the contrary, we were not meant to get stuck in patterns of self-hate.
One of the most important steps in overcoming self-hate is remembering our true nature and its connection to love.
Our true nature is love, wisdom, creativity, and compassion, and I often call it our Wise Self. Another way to think of this true nature is to think of it as our baby nature. If you look at little babies, they are not born hating themselves or people or despairing about life, although young children can certainly develop these tendencies.
Instead, little babies want to be close to their caregivers; to give and receive love; to explore the world; to develop mastery over their environment; and to enjoy peaceful and happy feelings that come from sleeping, eating, playing, and snuggling. Little babies also love to mirror the feelings of the people around them–they are sad when their loved ones are sad and happy when their loved ones are happy.
In all of these actions, babies show seeds of goodness like love, compassion, creativity, and wisdom. That’s one of the reasons we love babies so much. And the more we love babies, the more these seeds develop and blossom.
It is possible to think of this original baby nature in both a non-religious and a religious way. If you are not religious, you can think of the seeds of goodness in us as some of the basic structures of our emotional and intellectual life.
When our emotions are functioning in a healthy manner, they allow us to celebrate good things; grieve and mend bad and broken things; and stay away from dangerous things. Healthy emotions also allow us to connect with other people and develop a sense of confidence, autonomy, and adventure.
In the same way, when our intellect is healthy, it allows us to determine what is true and false, good and bad, just and unjust. This allows operate critically and creatively in the world to solve problems and create new and better ways of living. Healthy emotions and a healthy intellect consistently operate in paths of love, creativity, compassion, and wisdom.
If you are religious, in addition to these points above, you can think of these healthy emotional and intellectual structures as the light of God present in everyone. God is the ultimate source of love, creativity, compassion, and wisdom, and so it is no surprise that these beautiful gifts shine brightly in the people and things God creates. This light is what is magical about human beings, and every person has this magic.
These healthy emotional and intellectual tendencies, or light, or magic (whatever you want to call it) is a natural part of our baby nature. What we often forget is that we were all babies once, and we all possess this original baby nature full of this goodness. We can never lose this originally good nature, although we can forget about it or cover it up.
That is what often happens as we get older. Through distorted messages we hear from the people around us or from our own human foibles, we often forget our original baby nature, and we lose touch with the goodness inside of us. When this happens, we become disconnected from our purpose, from inner health, and from all the best things in life that we crave so deeply.
When this happens, we don’t recognize ourselves; we don’t understand our purpose; we begin to question our worth; we feel alienated from ourselves and the people around us. We feel cut off from love.
And that’s when we start to develop unskillful emotional and intellectual habits like perfectionism, self-hate, control, self-numbing behavior, etc.
What Do We Do about This?
Of course, we cannot heal our problems by hating ourselves more, which eventually causes us to hate others, too. We can only heal our problems by remembering our true nature and reconnecting with the seeds of goodness in us, which allows us to connect with ourselves, with each other, and with the Divine (if we believe in the Divine).
When we do this, we reconnect with Love.
When we reconnect with Love, we remember that we can never lose our dignity and worth as a human being. This dignity and worth is our original baby nature, but I also like to think of it as the Wise Self.
When we reconnect with our Wise Self, we learn to love ourselves unconditionally, and we create the perfect conditions to heal, nurture, and cultivate the strength of our Wise Self.
This is the life we were meant to live. The purpose of our lives is not to be better or do more or prove our worth in some other way. The purpose of our lives is to honor our dignity and love our Wise Self unconditionally so that we can become who we already are.
If you would like to read more about how to connect to the Wise Self, you can keep reading.