Juxtaposed between the struggle and uncertainty of life lies it’s very meaning. In order to accept that as long as we live there will be conflicts and challenges and the ride is not going to be always smooth, the fundamental prerequisite is to accept ourselves because at an individual level, each one of us is undertaking this journey. Since our beliefs frame our perceptions and our perception colors our reality, embracing life can only happen when we first learn to embrace ourselves.
Growing up, the invalidation from my parents had led to a sense of inner fragmentation. There was a perpetual undercurrent of restlessness to alter something in myself and I always felt incomplete at a deep undefinable level. A faulty self-image, guilt, self-rejection, imbalanced self-esteem and a sense of unworthiness were my most woeful partners.
On the outside, I had set high goals for myself in academics and theatre. Excelling as a student and actor, I would come alive in the classroom and on stage. These were my grabbing grounds of validation. The rest of the time I lived in armour as the outside world felt unsafe. Little did I realize that the isolation was stunting my growth and limiting my ability to experience my own freedom.
The childhood baggage I carried, spilled over into my marriage in the form of mood swings, angry outbursts, panic attacks and intolerance of any interference from my in-laws. This had a corrosive effect on my relationship with my husband who was otherwise a good person.
Then “down came the rain” in the form of one authentic friendship. She pierced all the barriers I had erected and always seemed more interested to know what was happening inside me rather than around me. Nothing had embraced me in such an all-encompassing way and I could not offer any resistance. My defenses dissolved and my friend became my mirror to everything that was beautiful in me and the demons within which needed confrontation.
It was these powerful forces of gratitude – my marriage, true friendship and finally the birth of my children that woke me up and initiated me into my journey of self-acceptance. My desire to touch my potential, to sustain the good in my life and give it back my best was going to only become possible if I was in touch with every part of myself.
Acceptance of self-involved many aspects like-kind compassion towards myself, learning to like and love myself unconditionally and working on regaining my confidence and self-esteem. However, none of this was possible without first acknowledging all my rejected parts …the pain, anger, neglect, bruise, rage, shame and guilt. It was crucial to open the lock to this dungeon where a huge part of me had been imprisoned and to become aware that I had been living only half a life.
The invitation to reveal my darkness to myself and to allow my shadow to be seen as a powerful turning point in my life and an act of deep courage. The process didn’t happen overnight. I had to consistently engage in a dialogue with my repressed parts. I slowly became aware of the broken bits and pieces within that had been waiting to be seen, heard and understood. They had persisted only because I had resisted. I had projected my skills and concealed my flaws and while I was focused on all the hurt caused to me by people outside, the truth was that I had turned my back on myself and that was the gravest abandonment on my part. Learning to accept my discarded parts slowly released the power they had been exerting on me in the form of a heavyweight that I had become used to lugging around wherever I went.
I understood that my anger was just an expression of my pain; my guilt had been a wasted emotion keeping me stuck in the past. My self-esteem was fractured only because I had been focused on the outcome of my actions and not on the real intention behind it and my playing the victim had robbed me of a chance of being the creator of a life that I had envisioned for myself.
As human beings, we are a delicate balance of strengths and weaknesses. To look at these as two polarities or as enemies of each other is our biggest folly. We live in chaos and create our own confusion by condemning ourselves.
Today, I accept that I am a paradox. I am strong in some places and weak in others; I am adventurous and open-minded, yet enmeshed in my roots; I am fiercely independent and I have a deep need to connect. In fact I am defined by all the people who chose to love me and even by those who chose not to because life is not only what I make with my understanding and love, it is also decided by intangible and unseen forces like inexplicable defeats and tremendous grace. I am learning to bow down to both.
A parable that sums it all with profound depth…
There was a man
who was so disturbed
by the sight of his own shadow
and so displeased with his own footsteps
that he was determined to get rid of both.
The method he hit upon was to run away from them.
So he got up and ran.
But every time he put his foot down
there was another step,
while his shadow kept up with him without the slightest difficulty.
He attributed his failure
to the fact that he was not running fast enough.
So he ran faster and faster, without stopping,
until he finally dropped dead.
He failed to realize
that if he merely stepped into the shade,
his shadow would vanish,
and if he sat down and stayed still,
there would be no more footsteps.
Ms. Kiran Multani