What is self-esteem?

Someone asked me recently about self-esteem and I admit I fudged it.

My answer was along the lines of self-efficacy…which is more about recognising that I’m good at certain things.

So what’s self-esteem then?

I’ve been thinking it over and I’ve read plenty about it before, but self-esteem has to be more than just words.

Self-esteem isn’t about your skills, talents, or other qualities, but your intrinsic value. Specifically, it’s feeling good about yourself for no f***ing reason whatsoever other than…you’re you, and it feels better this way, and it makes everything easier and more enjoyable.

Baseless, irrational, and subjective…in a good way!

That’s what really threw me about self-esteem. I grew up thinking we were supposed to value objectivity and truth and give reasons for what we believe and reasons for how we feel.

But if you apply those criteria to how you feel about yourself…you’re pretty much screwed because there’s no objective basis for feeling good about yourself. You either already feel good, in which case you’re merely gilding the lily with fresh excuses to proclaim your wondrous existence; or you already feel crap, and there is nothing on earth that will overcome your crappy feelings and convince you to be otherwise.

Self-esteem is not objective. And yet it is vital and life changing, because if you can find a way to feel good without reason then that good feeling goes before you like a holy aura and changes everything around you.

If you can find a way to feel good without reason, then everything feels good the moment it comes into your presence.

Find a way to feel good without reason? More like remember the good feelings you’ve already had, feelings you probably crushed or put away because they seemed unreasonable at the time, as if you were going to be graded on the realism of your good mood.

That’s what self-esteem means to me. It’s not about holding myself in high regard, that’s just how people try to explain why they let themselves feel good for no reason. I prefer to see it as acknowledging that there’s no reason to feel this good, so there’s no reason not to. Life isn’t waiting on me to accomplish something that justifies these good feelings. If anything it’s the other way around.

How to do it

I don’t know if a “how to” will work, but for me my good feelings were all tied up with the fantasy novels and superhero movies and anime and manga that inspired me so much. Feelings of freedom and empowerment and adventure and excitement, love and authenticity and, yeah, worth, and the sheer joy of the characters at the height of their powers.

These are the things that speak to me. Why the hell shouldn’t I use them? Why shouldn’t I take those good feelings and carry them with me? Because I’m old enough now to know that none of the people with “strong” self-esteem I’ve met in the past had any real justification for how they felt. There was not an iota of considered, objective thought behind those people’s bias in favour of their own value. They just felt good because they’d felt good more often than not in their young lives and knew nothing else.

What I’m getting at is that we may not have had that foundation, but we did have inspiration and we still do. Knowing that we create our reality, how we feel is far more important than we ever knew, and it now makes complete sense that every time we put aside those good feelings we delayed their fruition into something more.

No, we had no reason to feel that good, but if we do it anyway, indulge in those wonderful feelings of freedom and empowerment, everything must give way to that.

 

 

 

 

Pushing against boredom

Our old habit is to push against things we don’t like. But pushing against something just increases our resistance, and since we are already creating our reality, increased resistance means more of what we don’t like.

Last night I went to bed feeling irritable, angry and in physical pain, struggling to work out why and find relief.

It wasn’t until this morning that I felt good enough to see the bigger picture.

After dinner I’d been feeling bored, and my wife wanted to use my computer to watch a movie.

I was already feeling bored, and in addition I felt like I wasn’t free to use the computer myself. So now I felt bored and powerless.

I looked for something else to do, but couldn’t find anything. I started to feel annoyed at myself for not having more interesting options.

An old physical pain started to return, and I decided to go for a run. But between the pain and the cold outside I felt too dismal to continue.

Coming back home I was angry and frustrated, irritated and powerless. To make matters worse, I believed I shouldn’t feel this way, and it was up to me to overcome or solve these bad feelings.

But by now I was pushing so hard against all these unwanted things, and these old patterns of thought had a lot of momentum. Boredom, frustration, powerlessness and anger, going right back to childhood.

Go to sleep

Sleep was the best way to get some relief. But this unwanted experience was also valuable contrast. It showed me very clearly a residual pocket of resistance, and in the light of day I can see how it started and how it got worse and worse by pushing against the unwanted.

Pushing against things doesn’t work. I tried to push against boredom, focusing on how unwanted it felt, and soon every aspect of my experience felt unwanted and infuriating.

Boredom is very close to contentment. If I could relax and look for things to feel good about, the boredom would dissipate in my ease and relief.

That’s how we create our reality after all. I thought I was bored because there was nothing to do, but it’s the other way around: I couldn’t find anything to do because I was already feeling bored. And I was already feeling bored because I’d looked to my circumstances to entertain me and make me feel good.

The lesson is clear: if I feel bored I find everything boring. If I feel satisfied I discover satisfying things. If I feel excited I will find exciting things. And if I feel inspired I will draw inspiration into my experience.

The only variable is momentum – if I’ve spent a lot of time in negative emotions then it will take longer for positive ones to bear fruit. If you’re really good at feeling bored, inspiration will take a bit longer to learn.

Inspiration, expectation, validation

The feeling I’ve been writing about and calling inspiration is everything I’ve ever wanted to feel, and therefore the reason for every manifestation I’ve ever desired, every preference I’ve ever formed in response to life’s circumstances.

Feeling inspired is so nice. And to make it complete, it’s time to start expecting life to reflect this inspired feeling in me.

Expectation means knowing and believing that manifest reality must respond to my alignment with God, my inner being.

And it has. Last night things just unfolded so smoothly and easily. My timing was perfect, small things happened that I really enjoyed and appreciated.

These changes match my expectation that by feeling good I’m allowing God’s blessings and graces to flow into my experience more than before. Or better yet: feeling inspired is the sign that I’m allowing these blessings to flow, and everything else must follow.

Best of all, these manifestations validate the good feeling inside me. They complete my expectation that my alignment – indicated by how I feel – is everything in my reality. They demonstrate to my own satisfaction that this is indeed how it works, I do create my reality and my feelings are guidance as to my alignment with Source, and with everything I desire.

At the same time, this beautiful unfolding of inspiration into expectation, and the validation of life’s response is a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’m inspired because I’ve finally realised that’s how I want to feel and I’ve let go of obstacles to feeling it.

I expect life to change to reflect my inspiration, and having the expectation is what allows me to receive those changes.

And looking forward to validation is what allows me to recognise the validation pouring in. None of this can happen to a hostile observer. None of this can come into to “prove” against our convictions to the contrary.

Allowing inspiration, allowing expectation, and allowing validation; it’s a virtuous circle.

It’s not about answers

I spent years trying to make it. I spent years trying to find the answers. I had these feelings, I knew inspiration, but I thought the feeling and the inspiration were about what you then do with them.

Wrong way around, completely.

It’s all about the feeling and it’s all about the inspiration. Actions and answers and ideas can flow from that source, but don’t leave the source for any reason.

I thought I needed something to show for myself. But showing is about other people. I can’t share a feeling with you, and I don’t have to. A feeling is just for me. I’m the one who feels it, and that’s where putting myself first and caring about how I feel converge.

Every time I felt this good I’d look for the take-away. But there is no take-away when I’m here to stay. There’s nothing to take away because you’re not meant to leave. It’s not a brief reprieve of pleasure, delight, and satisfaction, it’s not a holiday, it’s where you live.

Welcome home, again. Try to stay this time. Don’t flee for any reason. You love it here, I promise.

Inspiration, emergencies and ease

Yesterday I was feeding someone’s pets while the owners were away, when I heard a cry for help.

I looked over the fence and saw a crumpled figure lying on the ground in a neighbouring yard.

I called out to her, and then ran around the block to get to her house. She was elderly, living with her husband who suffers dementia.

The husband opened the gate for me. I went to the woman. She was lucid, but very cold from lying on the ground for so long.

I got her a blanket and some pillows and called an ambulance, then waiting with her until a relative and the ambulance arrived.

The whole event unfolded automatically from the moment I heard the cry for help until the paramedics told me I could go.

Like a couple of other emergency situations I’ve been in, it’s as if the situation itself calls forth a response and there’s not really any need for effort or struggle or deliberation.

Inspiration

Lately I’ve been thinking about moving to live in the city centre. The idea came to me without any work on my part. I wasn’t looking for it, it just came up.

And since then I’ve felt really excited and inspired by the thought of living there.

Like the emergency, I don’t have to do anything. There’s no struggle. It’s as if inspiration is acting on me in the same way that the emergency situation called a response out of me.

Ease

If emergencies unfold so easily and inspiration is so effortless, why should any part of life feel difficult?

Inspiration feels so good: can we cultivate it and allow it to flow more in life?

Can we stop getting bogged down in the wastelands between inspiration and emergency?

Why does everyday life have to be a grind when the very good and the very bad are both effortless?

I take comfort from the ease that flows in emergencies, and I’m inspired by the effortlessness of inspiration.

Letting go 08: making the emotional connection

Before my diet I only felt bad about being overweight when I caught a glimpse of my reflection.

Then I would feel bad, but the rest of the time it wasn’t really on my mind.

And eating? Eating was one of my great pleasures in life. I never felt bad about that!

Joining the dots

It wasn’t until I embarked on my search for a final answer to losing weight that I realised this didn’t add up.

How could I be happy about the way I ate but unhappy about my physical appearance, which was a direct consequence of the way I ate?

This is what led me to see that my body was merely reflecting something about my behaviour. I just hadn’t joined the dots or made that connection before.

I mean the emotional connection: it’s obvious that people diet to lose weight, and over-eating causes weight gain. What I mean by joining the dots is seeing the connection between feeling so bad about my weight, but feeling so good about eating.

Either I shouldn’t feel so bad about my weight, or I shouldn’t feel so good about eating. Something had to give in this emotional dynamic.

The hidden connection

When I feel bad about my circumstances in life, there must be something prior – something I enjoy or feel good about – that sets me up for that suffering.

The painful part of these circumstances is their unwantedness. It’s painful to notice conditions that are not the way I want them to be.

What is it that sets me up for this fall? What is it that feels good at the time, but leads me into situations that feel bad? What is it that feels enjoyable but shouldn’t if I could see the bigger picture?

Assertion

I’m going to call it “assertion” for now. It’s an inner assertion of control, wanting, grasping, or conditionality within me.

It’s as though I’ve put forward a claim or a demand on reality to be a certain way, and this leaves me sensitive to every contrary circumstance and change.

This is the part that doesn’t feel bad, yet sets me up to feel bad.

It’s not about desire or inspiration. Desire is implicit in our very experience of life. Desire is preference. Desire informs our personality and shapes our existence and our whole sense of wanted and unwanted.

Assertion is different. Assertion feels important in the same way that having a stake in something feels important. Assertion is like getting involved because you don’t trust others to do it right.

But like anything we do, it stems from a thought. Here the thought is negative and resistant. It’s the thought that I need to speak up or I’ll be overlooked. It’s the thought that things don’t work out for me so I need to get involved. It’s the thought that I can’t trust or rely on life to go well.

It’s the thought that by sticking my oar in I can steer this whole thing in a better direction.

False premise

These thoughts hinge on a false premise that uninspired effort and action will improve my life and make me feel better.

It’s a change in mode from inspiration, enjoyment and ease, to worry, control, and struggle.

That’s why unwanted circumstances feel like failure or loss. They push against this invisible force I’ve set up within myself, this effort of trying to assert my will on the world.

The big picture

We would all prefer life to unfold with ease. Inner assertion is, like over-eating was, an attempt to feel better that only succeeds in temporary escape by kicking the can down the road a little.

The attitude of taking things into my own hands feels temporarily empowering. But it comes at a cost of trust and faith in the goodness of God and the universe.

If I could trust instead, I wouldn’t need this assertion and control; and since assertion and control don’t work anyway, all I’m giving up is an illusion.

After all, if everything is working toward my good, then what sense does it make to say that some circumstances are wanted and some are unwanted?

That’s why the Abraham-Hicks teachings say that everything has both a wanted and unwanted aspect, depending on where we focus.

Refusing this dynamic

I think the way forward for me is to become aware of whatever lack of trust or faith moves me to assertion and control in the first place; just as I learned to become aware of the negative feelings that used to motivate my escape into over-eating.

All it takes is to decline the false promise of escape, and the whole dynamic will start to lose momentum and wind down.

Let go of the urge to control, and the frustration of unwanted conditions will go too. Stop endorsing the underlying thought of negativity and dissatisfaction, and trust and faith will return.

Letting go 07: inspiration only?

The Abraham-Hicks teaching is simply to feel better by focusing on things that feel better.

Sounds a bit too simple, but it makes sense and with practice you’ll wonder why you used to give so much attention to things that feel bad.

The teachings go a lot deeper, but keeping it simple benefits us.

Speaking of going deeper: I’m excited at the thought of mastering this practice, and I’m proud of the breakthroughs I had on the subject of dieting before I even got into the A-H teachings.

I want to have as much clarity around everyday life and focus as I did on that subject.

Focus

Yesterday’s post made real progress. Today I want to observe more closely how my focus changes moment by moment, and the feeling-result of those changes.

Recently I’ve been inspired by the thought of living in the city. I’ve been looking at beautiful apartments and townhouses and just appreciating how enjoyable it would be to live in one of them with my family.

This is clearly inspiration. It feels amazing, and I naturally relish all the little details that pop into my head. Images and feelings and ideas keep occurring to me, and they all feel like relief, eagerness, appreciation, but stronger than that: they feel gratifying.

I’m looking at pictures of luxury penthouses and feeling gratified that such places exist.

Inspiration

So that’s inspiration. It wells up within me, doesn’t take effort, feels intrinsically rewarding, and simply excites me.

That inspiration should be my standard and my aim. Not living in a penthouse, but allowing inspiration to flow all the time and never cut it off or quash it. If inspiration flows toward thoughts of luxury penthouses, go with it. Don’t judge, don’t criticise, don’t overthink it.

Learning to let inspiration in is the skill here. It’s not about taking action to make the inspired goal a reality. It’s not about critiquing the goal to find a more “realistic” version of it. It’s about the inspiration itself.

Inspiration is the experience of alignment. Like being in love, appreciation, joy; these positive emotions are a sign of alignment with God/inner being.

Misalignment

Knowing what inspiration feels like, we know how it feels when we quash inspiration. It feels bleak, heavy, slow, stressful, effortful, and frustrating.

Inspiration is quashed when we focus on thoughts that contradict it. Or perhaps a better way of saying it is that inspiration has its own path and flow, and we lose it when we step outside it and focus on uninspiring things.

I started writing this morning, and my son was a bit grumpy and reluctant to go to school. I didn’t want to yell or push or coerce him to hurry up, so we took our time and got to school quite late.

The whole time, I was conscious that there was no inspiration in the dynamic or the drama of getting him ready. In other words this activity wasn’t worthy of much attention from me. Inspiration was not flowing there.

I don’t have an answer to that situation right this minute, but I have an intention to let more inspiration into my life around this subject of morning routine; and I’m already appreciating that the situation didn’t go badly.

A new rule?

For my diet I devised a rule of only eating when I was genuinely hungry, which for me meant only when I felt I couldn’t keep going without some immediate sustenance.

Perhaps there’s a new rule brewing here, to only follow my inspiration?

Letting go 06: open to inspiration

My diet started to work when I realised I was eating to escape from negative feelings already in me, and that eating to escape just kicked the can down the road a little. I would end up with more negative feelings plus feeling unwell and being overweight.

I see the same dynamic at play when I cling to manifestations. I cling to manifestations to escape from negative feelings already in me.

The diet analogy

For my diet to work I focused on my body’s signs of genuine hunger, and treated everything else as “fake hunger”.

When I felt the desire to eat but without genuine hunger, I paid attention to the feelings that were motivating me. Just by feeling those feelings my desire to escape into food diminished.

But I also began looking for more healthy sources of enjoyment. I started to ask “what would I like to do?”, rather than just indulging in food.

I began to appreciate how clear and light I felt when I wasn’t escaping into food. Although it was daunting to live without the comfort of extra eating, it was also new and different for me, and this brought me hope of a better way of living and relating to food.

Everything is like this

When I cling to manifestations, that means I focus on manifest reality with an expectation that it make me feel better (escape) followed by disappointment and frustration when it fails.

Just like my old eating habits: eating to escape didn’t bring lasting escape at all. It was a failing strategy, and when I became aware of it I gradually grew unwilling to persevere with the same flawed approach.

If I approached all of reality with the same insight, I would have to see the whole dynamic: chasing manifestations to escape feeling bad, feeling bad anyway because manifestations refused to do what I wanted, feeling disenchanted and cynical until a new escapist idea emerged.

Chasing manifestations

Every mystic, including the Abraham-Hicks teachings, says that we need to find a place of happiness and satisfaction in God, our inner being, rather than chasing conditions and circumstances.

For us that might sound like giving up on our dreams and desires and worldly conditions. But the whole point is that we can’t really use these things to make us happy anyway.

Using food as an escape from feeling bad is no different from using manifestations as an escape. Later, when we’re feeling frustrated and disappointed and sad, that’s the manifestation equivalent of feeling bad about your weight or your eating habits.

But what about genuine hunger?

What is the manifestation equivalent of genuine hunger? I think it is inspiration. When an idea inspires you, you just enjoy that inspired feeling. You don’t need to do anything or make anything happen.

Inspiration arises spontaneously, and it may be prompted by manifestations but it is independent.

The more aligned with God we are, the more we feel inspiration calling us and uplifting us. We also become less and less willing to take uninspired actions.

Open to inspiration

The best we can do therefore is to be open to inspiration in our daily lives, while resisting the urge to use action and manifestation to escape negative feelings.

Learn to recognise the negative feelings that come before our escape attempts. Understand with compassion that we have been running from these feelings, but can now look for a better response.

The better response is to look for inspiration instead, knowing that the more we look for and tune into it, the more we will find.

Inspired or desperate?

Do you know the difference between inspiration and desperation?

Some days I’d open a book and be blown away by the love and wisdom flowing from its page.

Other days I’d go grinding page by page searching through the same book or others for that elusive gem.

I’d tie myself in knots trying to love God, trying on a hundred different methods one after another.

That’s the difference between inspiration and desperation.

Whenever you feel as if taking action, gaining knowledge, or exerting effort will “fix” everything for you, you are being tempted by desperation, and only disappointment will come of it.

But if you can feel good without acting, relish the feeling without doing anything to grasp it, revel in the energy flowing through you regardless of circumstances, then you are inspired.

Sometimes it’s not entirely clear. I can write a blog post and the act of sitting down to write allows that energy to flow.

But I can go searching for the perfect quote, and be lost in frustration within minutes, lost in the searching for an answer “over there”.

Don’t worry about making mistakes. The mistakes will awaken your sensitivity and inform your awareness. The more you care about inspiration the quicker you will sense it’s path.

The power of inspiration

I’ve been learning martial arts for 23 years, and in the beginning I was inspired by the thought of mastering these arts.

But as a beginner I tempered my inspiration, mindful of the gap between reality and expectations.

Inspiration kept me going but “realism” held me in check. As years passed I ceased to be a beginner, but I felt further than ever from the mastery that inspired me.

Disappointment crept in, and I grew embarrassed and then ashamed at my lack of skill.

Why was I not progressing? Why did I feel like a perpetual beginner? How could I have so little to show for my years of effort?

Realism and self-sabotage

When we pit inspiration and realism against each other we unwittingly bind and sabotage ourselves.

The more inspired I was, the more harshly I criticised myself for falling short of my ideals. I didn’t know how to draw on inspiration without then beating myself up.

I thought inspiration was about realistic hopes and goals and measurable progress, and in a sense that is true; but inspiration is also the fuel and the transformative power and the inner knowing that makes the goal achievable.

Inspiration is not motivation

I’m now learning the difference between inspiration and motivation. Motivation is what moves you into action. My goal of mastering Kungfu motivated me to practice.

But inspiration is much more than just movement into action. Inspiration informs and guides action with greater insight and wisdom than we could deduce on our own.

Motivation can set you on a path but inspiration creates a path all of its own.

Rediscover inspiration

Inspiration itself is ultimately about feeling good.

When I’m inspired I feel excited and satisfied, enthused and revitalised. My body feels more energetic and alive. My mind is clearer and more alert.

And when we feel this good it means we are in tune with our desires, our own inner being, and our “God’s-eye-view” of life.

So find your inspiration, revel in it, and feel it renew and guide you on your journey.