Today as I feel into the vitality of self-love within me, it feels most essentially composed of self-respect, self-compassion, self-trust, self-forgiveness, and a generous dose of no longer giving a fuck about anything it doesn’t serve me to!
Granted, these qualities are far easier to string together in a sentence than to truly embody. I’m inspired to try and articulate some of my thoughts on self-respect, specifically. Because I don’t know about you, but for me, self-respect has been particularly hard-won. It has come with time and grit, vigilance and resolve; an ongoing willingness to intimately face inside myself that which hasn’t been respectable in the least.
Almost two decades ago, my masterful spiritual mother Gangaji said to me: “You must learn true self-respect. You must learn to be as fierce as a mother lion in your own care!” This comment did not come out of the blue. She had been watching me caught in an unbearable cycle of suffering with a lover who was not a healthy match for me. There was a way I had become oddly addicted to the painful emotional drama this relationship entailed. Somewhat masochistically, I just kept going back for more.
Due to what I now understand must have been some degree of unresolved wounding, at that stage I still lacked the true self-respect necessary to know my own worth, to value my own deep listening about the truth of what I wanted, to speak this clarity and choose to align my life with it, come what may. As I discovered the courage to break this pattern, the toxic relationship was released once and for all, leaving in its place a wholehearted prayer to fully receive the lessons I had been given, so I wouldn’t need to attract them in that way ever again.
In retrospect I can say that from that point on, I was able to stand true to my realization and my prayer to embody deeper self-respect in relationship. I never found the need to attract another partner whose qualities might tempt me to repeat that specific masochistic pattern again. However I would say that every relationship since then has profoundly served to trigger and test my resolve for true self-respect.
What true relationship doesn’t?
It’s such a juggling act— the way relationship asks us to neither abandon nor betray ourselves to cater to another’s needs, while surrendering bravely to the humbling commands of Love.
One of the most important ways we can foster true self-respect is through active inquiry; through listening to our own heart, and then daring to honor what it is we hear. When we realize we are accountable to our own living Truth, we stand tall in the self-respect this awards.
When we realize what choices are in alignment with our evolving self, and then line our living actions up with that, this tends the garden of self-respect. If instead we choose to ignore or minimize what we know to be true, the cost of this pattern over time is a vitally diminished self-respect, and a lack of trust in our capacity to live from our holy integrity.
Have you ever noticed how we become trustworthy and respectable to others only in direct proportion to the degree we trust and respect ourselves?
When we do not respect nor trust ourselves to live in alignment with our deepest hearts, how can we expect anyone else to trust or respect us?
This cycle of self-deceit and self-betrayal feeds an insidious pattern of self-loathing, potentially causing dis-ease on all layers of our being, which then easily translates to dis-ease at all levels of our world.
What does it mean to be “as fierce as a mother lion” in our own care? To me it means that we defend our own integrity, our sacred sovereignty, own tender aliveness, the sanctity of our soul’s worth, and we treasure our deepest knowing with all the ferocity we can muster. It means that we love ourselves enough to not betray our own bodies, our health, our heart’s wisdom, our sacred attention, by behaving in ways that diminish our dignity and honor.
It means that when the temptation to follow an addicted or fixated response arises, (whether that be to a substance, a person, a behavior, or an emotional/mental tendency) we know better. We know from experience what following this temptation will lead to, and we know all too well the cost to our self-respect. It means that we finally choose the delicious sobriety of self-respect over the tempting familiarity of avoidant distraction, reactivity, or some glory of fleeting pleasure.
One of the most valuable ways we can cultivate self-respect, is by discovering firsthand our capacity to meet any discomfort and challenge that comes our way. When we discover that we can face the dreaded boredom, loss, aloneness, shame, rage, futility, despair, illness, failure, and rather than indulge a habitual reaction to this discomfort, instead choose to simply feel the array of feelings rising within us— then we discover the invaluable knowing that we are capable of bearing this life, as it is.
But of course in our still-learning, ever-humbling human ways, inadvertently we fail. We fail to be sober or mature in our response each time we get triggered. We fail to be unwaveringly vigilant. We fail to be consistently respectful of another’s perspective or psychic space. Like just yesterday morning, when I lashed out angrily at one of my Beloveds, from a place of deep internal hurt. Ouch. 🙁
And yet how important to notice the ways in which each mistake serves to hone our self-awareness, while beckoning an authentic path home towards repair— inside our own hearts and that of those we hold dear.
When we recognize how to balance this fierce sword of discerning self-respect, with true respect for others, gracious self-compassion and self-forgiveness for all the human ways we undoubtedly fall short, then we know we can trust ourselves with our life. What a thing to know: we can be trusted with our own life!
When we trust ourselves with life, this is deep self-love. From resting in this love with ourselves, absolutely anything is possible. ~*~