Do you ever feel less than? We’ve all felt that way at some point or another. But is it a transient feeling or a belief deeply ingrained in your psyche? In other words, do you really need self-love?
Why We Need Self-Love
A big reason you may need self-love could be that somewhere along the way, you’ve developed an inferiority complex. According to Merriam-Webster, an inferiority complex is “an acute sense of personal inferiority often resulting either in timidity or through overcompensation in exaggerated aggressiveness.”
I’m not sure why some good, capable people end up feeling inferior while others excel and thrive. I’d say it’s probably got a lot to do with luck and circumstances—both things we can’t control—as well as the simple fact that the outside world can be fickle. It’s understandably easier to feel good about yourself if you happen to seamlessly fit in with others’ expectations of who you should be.
But what if you’re different? Does that mean you’re inferior? By different, I don’t mean something dramatic (necessarily). I mean, what if you just happen to have goals that aren’t the same as the ones your peers or friends aspire to? Or what if you’re able to recognize the emptiness inherent in life or you have an unusual gift or skill that, while awesome (and valuable) is not popular?
If any of those things is the case, I’m sorry to say, you’ll face more challenges than you would if you were naturally endowed with more popular qualities. But that doesn’t mean you are inferior, and it certainly doesn’t mean you don’t need self-love. Don’t waste more time wondering how you got to this point. Learn to love yourself instead.
The self-love of yoga is not about the ego. It’s about taking your place as part of the whole. It’s about being in union with all that is.
There’s a Place for Everyone
Psychologists often teach people who need self-love to start treating themselves the way they would treat a child or a friend. It’s a good step in the right direction. If you can’t befriend yourself, how can you expect others to accept you?
The truth is, there’s a place for everyone. But when we feel inferior and need self-love, we tend to expect rejection. Oddly, this causes us to seek rejection instead of trusting the universe to bring us to the place we’re meant to be.
To find where we’re meant to be, we can practice mindfulness (more on this shortly).
For some, it takes time to find where we fit. I remember when I taught gifted and talented kids. My students were usually not popular in mainstream circles, but in our circle of humans who loved to explore and think and learn, they belonged. Sometimes, though, kids like that don’t find a place to belong. It happens because the educators and adults around them are too busy paying attention to the larger, louder groups. This isn’t fair, but it’s reality.
I grew up wondering why my friends were so obsessed with parties, boys, and shopping at the mall (I lived in New Jersey). I tried so hard to be part of that because I believed I was supposed to. But I honestly preferred other things. It wasn’t until I got to college that I discovered it was okay to love classical music, ponder existentialism, and prefer to spend my time with misfits (they’re usually more interesting).
Still, I couldn’t help but wonder if I was missing something. The world around me seemed to scream for me to be different. That is, until I started to become mindful of who I am and where I do belong.
With Yoga, Everyone Belongs Because We’re All One
When I found yoga, I finally became clear about what I’d been searching for all along: truth. Not the world’s truth but the truth. Yoga means union, and as yogis, we seek to internalize and embody the reality that we are all connected, all a part of the whole. That leaves no room for an inferiority complex.
No matter what the world tells you about what it means to succeed, what kind of personality you should have, what your interests or skills should be, or anything else, the only thing you need to do is be who you are.
We yogis like to say, “it’s all good.” (That’s not literal, though. In fact, I prefer to say, “there’s good in it all.”)
So, no, “it’s all good” doesn’t mean it’s okay to be a jackass or to be mean or to hide your light from the world. It means that once we recognize our true nature, everything clicks. We find where we fit in the puzzle, and we don’t need to be all things to all people.
Finding Your Way with Mindfulness
Unfortunately, many of us don’t find our way to truth easily or quickly. Some never find it. There’s a yogic tool, though, that can help get us there. That tool is mindfulness, specifically mindfulness meditation. You can also think of it as awareness, presence, acceptance, or peace.
Our true nature is peace, but we need to be present in our lives before we can realize that truth and live in peace. Intellectually, most of can accept the idea that we’re all valuable and no one is inferior to another. But deep within, we don’t live in truth when we have an inferiority complex. We don’t feel it. We don’t embody it.
Yoga teaches us to stop running from fear that we’re not good enough and face ourselves head on, imperfections and all. The eight limbs of yoga are all practices that force us to be present. (Thankfully, they “force” us gently.) In fact, the progression can be so subtle we don’t even realize it’s happening!
That’s the magic of yoga.
And it’s all yoga! That means you can come to the truth even if you don’t have a practice you label “yoga.” If you’re seeking truth, you’re doing yoga. At least, that’s how I like to think of it.
If all this talk about overcoming your inferiority complex seems like more of the same self-help mumbo jumbo you’ve always been told, it may be because you haven’t moved from reading the words to doing the practice. I promise you that once you begin to feel and embody your true nature, that will change. You may need to start by trusting the practice, because you won’t get there overnight.
Begin with Presence
A friend of mine recently pointed out how his reaction to rejection is usually to want to run from it or to lash out at the entity he believes rejected him. After decades of doing this, it’s hitting him that he will always feel inferior if he continues to fight.
This is understandable if you think about it. The mind can easily come to believe that fighting something—whether through denial, repression, or running away—is the best way to overcome it. It’s not.
The truth is the best way to overcome something is to accept it, allow it, embrace it. I don’t mean you have to like it, but acceptance truly allows it to shift. It’s sounds paradoxical, I know, but this is the practice of mindfulness!
How to Practice Mindfulness Meditation
If you’re new to mindfulness—if it’s not part of your life on and off your yoga mat—you can start with a short, meditation practice. Mindfulness meditation is about tuning in to whatever is happening. Don’t label or judge anything. And most importantly, don’t run!
Try this instead:
- Sit comfortably in a quiet place.
- Notice your breath. Feel whether it is shallow and rapid or slow and deep. Try to notice this without labeling it.
- Focus on your in and out breaths. They will probably slow down simply because of your attention to them.
- As thoughts come in, notice those as well. Again, don’t label them or try to change them. Don’t push negative thoughts away. Just let them be.
- Continue to be still and present for 10 minutes or so. Gradually increase the amount of time you do this meditation.
If you practice mindfulness meditation regularly, you’ll begin to see a shift in your outlook. This can include many positive changes, one of which is a boost in your ability to love yourself and recognize your inherent worth.
Be present, be you, and be at peace.