I have been working on this issue for almost 40 years.
One of the things I used to say over and over to myself was “Nobody ever loved me and nobody ever will.” I meant romantic love, friends didn’t count. In 1975 I said this out loud in front of my friend Trudi and she said “What about me? I love you.” Later I said it in front of my friend Ron, and he said “What about me? I love you.” Both their responses blew me away. The next time I tried to tell myself that nobody loved me, my scientist popped right up with “That’s not true. Here’s the data: Ron loves me and Trudi loves me.” The next two names on the list were Miriam and Tony. I added names until I had a list of about 20 names, and I recited it regularly, and for sure whenever I tried to tell myself “Nobody loves me.” Not so long after that I was in a workshop, and told my roommate about how I was working on learning that there were people who loved me by reciting “Ron loves me, Trudy loves me, Tony loves me, Miriam loves me, …” When I finished, my roommate said “You can add me to that list.” I was astonished. She hardly knew me.
I found this in Richard Rohr: “people who are more transparent and admitting of their blind spots and personality flaws are actually quite easy to love and be with.” Breathing Underwater, p32 This surprised me and helped me see how people could love me. I think about my own movement of compassion toward people when they admit their faults. I also think about the many times I’ve said “I’m scared” or “I’m sad” and people have tried to fix me by offering a quick fix because they don’t want to see my pain. On the other hand, I recently went to a small circle dance group where I am not the teacher. I said I was depressed and was greeted with a hug and “you’ve come to the right place.”
I did a session with my shamanic coach today. One of the things we worked on was my perennial difficulty with low self-esteem. Finding love and compassion for myself continues to be hard. Today we were working on my being able to embody my vocation which is (in short) opening people’s hearts by teaching them sacred circle dance. It was easy to imagine myself dancing with a circle, harder to visualize people loving and thanking me for what I do. Jim told me to tell Jenny that I love her. I discovered that it is very hard for me to tell the “Dance Teacher” — who is a very strong and positive part of me — that I love her. But I thought about all the other parts of me: the scared children, the one who keeps trying to “fix it,” the Astronomy Teacher… and I realized that it’s much easier to love myself if I include all the parts of me, not just the “good” ones. I searched my blog for posts when I talked about the “little group of jennys,” and found this:
(Written in 2008) Told Beverly about my project of compiling all the good experiences into a document that I read every day, how feeling good about myself is pushing against the ancient injunction “Don’t think you’re so great.” Sitting here writing I remind myself that my commitment is not just to love the part of me that is “good” but to love all of me: the Shambhala warrior and the traumatized baby, the priestess who leads the dance, and the tough little drip that just wouldn’t quit. Imagining this little group of Jennys warms my heart. That’s so amazing! Yes, I welcome all the parts of me in, whatever you have done or not done, I love you all.
Imagine my surprise when I read the words “Welcome … what ever you have done, welcome.” (Written in November 2008) That’s what god said to me at the pearly gates two years later.