What does it take to grow/mature as a person emotionally and psychologically and intellectually?
One of the most important first steps is that we must be able to identify our feelings—especially our negative emotions and feelings—what feeling is driving us at this moment and what’s behind that feeling, what’s motivating it—what fear, what insecurity, what past transference, et cetera.
For example, when we’re out at a restaurant with our spouse/partner and children and we’re feeling overwhelmed and getting stressed out, are we able to identify in real-time what we’re feeling—stressed, overwhelmed—and are we able to identify in real-time or near-real-time why we’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed? Is it because our kids are driving us nuts and we sense our partner to be getting uptight or, just the opposite, that he or she is being too lackadaisical and uninvolved? Or is it because we’re out in public?—the kids are acting up, and we’re stressed out because we think everyone is looking at us and secretly thinking bad negative nasty things about us in their heads, and so what we’re really afraid of is the sense of shame and embarrassment and of being criticized by “all” of the restaurant’s other patrons that is lurking beneath the surface of our awareness and that we’re trying to stuff out of our awareness because what we really don’t want to have to deal with is feeling like we’re being invalidated or criticized or thought of poorly or thought of as a bad or incompetent parent. And so we get angry at our kids not because it’s necessarily the right thing to do or in our children’s best interest to get angry at them, but rather, we get angry because we’re so stressed out by and so afraid of a roomful of strangers thinking badly about us and or giving us condescending looks and sending us nasty-grams with their eyes, and we have great difficulty dealing with and tolerating and metabolizing feelings of shame and inadequacy and not-OK-ness because we haven’t yet learned to self-validate and self-soothe very proficiently, and we don’t yet realize that it’s not what other people think about us that really matters nearly as much as it is what we think about ourselves; and that the best way to think independently and well of ourselves is to live life nobly and honorably, which in part means consistently doing what is right for our children and correcting them lovingly and helping plant and nurture the seeds of good virtues and principles in them.
And so that moment is also about realizing that right now, at that very moment, we are reaping what we’ve been unknowingly been sowing—both in ourselves and our children—for years, and that what we’re reaping is the product of past unconscious seeding or past neglects—that we haven’t been planting and nurturing enough seeds of perspective and self-discipline and self-soothing in ourselves—we haven’t been reading enough decent books, writing, journaling, meditating—and we haven’t doing enough inner work. And we haven’t been practicing for eating out at restaurants by using mealtimes at homes as practice sessions for proper behavior, good manners, learning please and thank you.
Neglect costs. Neglect exacts its toll, one way or another. And if we try to play games of denial or postponing paying up or passing off the costs and consequences onto others of our neglect, we make matters even worse for ourself—our future self—and make the costs of our neglect even higher and more difficult to pay and manage.
A LARGE part of loving ourself means learning to love ourself not just right now, in the moment, but also learning how to love and be good to our future self and not saddle him or her with a bunch of debt incurred in the present moment because of our fears and denial and lust for comfort, escape, immediate gratification.
Whenever we give into irrational fears and or we opt for immediate gratification in the form of indulging our want of escape and denial, we are giving a big eff you and who cares to our future self. It’s a cry for help, really. Every time we opt to neglect thinking about our future self and refuse to be aware of why we’re really angry or feeling stressed out and instead indulge these emotions by acting out on them instead of investigating them mindfully and honestly, we are not loving ourself—either now, in the moment, or in the future—our future self. Instead, we are either hating or neglecting or being callous to ourself—for certain our future self, and in all likelihood, our present self and our present relationships as well.
To love ourself means to love our future self, to treat our future self like a child, and thus to parent ourself wisely right now, in the present moment, so that we can make that better life for ourself in the future by doing what is most necessary and required: making a better and wiser and more loving and courageous and honest self of ourself right now. That is how we love ourself—by loving ourself both now and in the future, and integrating those two selves, by making good choices now, by working harder on ourself right now than we do at our job or our schooling or our leisure (“Work harder on yourself than you do on your job”–Jim Rohn)—that is the indisputable way that we show our love for ourself—by how much we are willing to work on becoming a better version of our self—a more honest, courageous, noble, patient, virtuous, kind, trustworthy, giving, gracious self.