Self-pity was dragging me down but I think I found the antedote

Last week I wrote about feeling guilty that I’m not doing enough. About struggling to follow the message I received to “Relax and enjoy.”

In retrospect, I feel like that might have been self-pity. I really can’t stand self-pity, especially in myself. It makes me kind of throw up in my mouth a bit.

The thought of feeling guilty about feeling guilty crossed my mind, but I really gotta do better than that.

I was speaking with a really important person in my life about how I was feeling. I said that the only thing I was “legitimately doing” was taking (auditing) a course which I attend once per week. I spend some time reading the textbook, and I attend the class.

She suggested that I was actually doing a lot more than that, and listed a bunch of my regular activities: pottery, writing, cooking and baking, yoga and walking, resting, self-care appointments like therapy and acupuncture, hours of research for a project we’re planning for the next phase in our lives (more on that later), learning to code, and traveling to spend time with friends.

I suddenly felt a wave of emotion and covered my mouth with my hand – the way I do when I think I might-ugly cry.

“It sounds like the perfect life,” I said. (Whimpered?)

I couldn’t believe it. How did I get the perfect life? Someone else might have a perfect life, but not me. I’m not a candidate for the perfect life.

Gosh.

I guess I don’t believe I deserve it.

I thought I had made progress on the whole I-deserve-to-be-happy thing. The self-worth. I mean, I don’t think people should take advantage of me anymore. I have boundaries now, and people don’t cross them. I often stand up for myself and directly express what I want. Those are massive shifts compared to a couple of years ago, or even less.

And yet, it seems I still don’t think I deserve this perfect life.

Intellectually, I believe I deserve to be happy. But maybe this episode is revealing that that rational belief hasn’t completely sunken into my psyche.

Deep down, I guess I’m still feeling shame. Not guilt for what I’ve done, mistakes I’ve made, which have consequences. I’m talking about shame, the agony of believing that I’m fundamentally inappropriate and unworthy.

Where to go from here

There are a number of directions I could go with this. I could sink deeper into self-pity by feeling sad for myself. I could picture my inner child, a little girl crying and alone. I could replay and sink into all the times I felt the full-body pain of feeling like a worthless piece of garbage,

I’m not going to let myself do that, enticing as it may sound.

Last week I wrote about the relax part of “Relax and enjoy”. During my meditation time this morning, it came to me that the solution to this shame/unworthiness problem lies in the enjoy part.

On the one hand, I could theoretically relax – in the sense of not driving myself so hard – without enjoying it at all. In other words, I could do relax-actions while feeling guilt and shame about it. Basically, being tense about relaxing.

Or I could delve into enjoying. Otherwise, what’s the point?

It’s about gratitude.

It’d be easy to be sarcastic with myself: Who has the perfect life and refuses to enjoy it? What kind of person responds to a shower of blessings by wallowing in self-pity?

I’m feeling duly convicted.

But, being hard on myself isn’t going to get me any closer to enjoyment. I’d have compassion for someone else in my shoes, and therefore I ought to have compassion for myself as well.

grateful hands holding heart-shaped bread

As someone who believes that “Every good and perfect gift is from above”, if I hang onto the belief that I don’t deserve what I have, I am basically saying that God has made a mistake and I know better than Him. Which couldn’t be true.

Not enjoying what I’ve been given is like throwing a gift back in someone’s face. Not an ugly-sweater gift, not an empty apology gesture by someone who’s not sorry. This is a perfectly crafted, thoughtful and bespoke gift from someone who loves me incomprehensibly and knows what I need better than I ever could. I’ve really got to embrace this.

Even if I were an atheist, I wouldn’t deny that gratitude is the way to go on this one. I’d take this gift from “the universe” and try to enjoy it to its fullest!

There is plenty of information and research out there on the connection between gratitude and joy. The happiest people are those who appreciate what they have. Even people with very few material possessions can find beauty and joy in the world around; and even those who seemingly have everything can be miserable.

It makes sense to me that gratefulness will unlock the enjoyment of this (and every) chapter of my life. Now to practice it!


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