When I was asked this question ‘who are you’, I would normally answer it from the sense of my higher self – a Divine spark of God, a part of God’s plan, etc. When I did that, I would feel truthful, but empty at the same time. Recently, I was pushed further on this question, “Who is Seema (the flesh-and-blood person sitting in front of me)?”
I drew a complete blank. We just sat across from each other in silence for 2 minutes.
I could definitely have picked from a number of acceptable responses – mother, wife, friend, speaker, teacher, student, etc. – but I drew a blank.
And the reason for that, as I reflect on it, is that I have lost track of who I am if I ever knew who I was in the first place. Whether it is cultural (Indian girl from a conservative family growing up in Hong Kong) or my personality, I did not feel encouraged to nurture the true Seema. I did express what I deemed as positive parts of me, I did what I did to meet/exceed expectations, to fit it, to be accepted and ultimately to feel loved. I remember glimpses of certain parts of my personality and desires which I deemed as not being appropriate and denied them.
I believe that ‘not really knowing who we are’ and then subsequently knowing, fully loving and accepting who we are – the ‘good, bad and ugly’ — is part of our greatest lessons we learn while we are here.
And the way we learn it is to let all parts of ourselves into our awareness as they come up, with no judgment. I am a very kind, caring and compassionate person, but I also feel impatient, angry and jealous. When I was acting in a kind and compassionate way, I would feel good because that gelled with my positive self-image. When I became impatient or jealous, whether I acted on these emotions or not, I rejected them by intellectualizing them away (‘no, I am not jealous’ or ‘why did this make me jealous?’) and essentially trying to disown them.
I believe that I did not like to come to terms with the notion that I was flawed in some way because for me, being imperfect means being flawed and ultimately being unloveable. I know this is a harsh judgment and conclusion, but truly this is how I have felt and it is only recently that I am beginning to understand in a deep way that none of us are perfect and the search for perfection can be misguided. Don’t get me wrong, it does not mean that we don’t learn and grow aspects of ourselves. But it does mean that at any point in time to be completely OK with all aspects of who we are – feelings, weight, sexual orientation, ways we like to express ourselves, etc. – and be true to who we are.
Now, by rejecting and negatively judging my feelings did not make me feel loveable. We truly have to accept ourselves for all the aspects we have. Just because I can become jealous at times just means I am human and that the most loving thing I can do when I feel jealous is to become aware of it, let it pass (not try to suppress it) and try to not act on it and perhaps respond from the most loving aspects of my personality available to me at that time, which may be to just divert my attention away from the situation which is causing these feelings of jealousy to arise. But even if I acted on my jealousy, I am still loveable. I will have to face consequences of my choices, but I am still loveable.
For us to be truly comfortable in our own skin, the love we have for ourselves has to be unconditional. Start with unconditional self-love and acceptance and everything will take care of itself. I see this over and over again when I work with people on food and in my own journey with food. If it’s a mechanical ‘eat fruits and vegetables’ without the broader embrace of self-love, it’s very limiting. When we make good choices with eating, it’s very self-loving/soul-loving and vice versa.
Now, going back to the ‘who are you?’ question. I have a seven and a 1 year old whom I adore and yet, the word ‘Mommy’ did not spring forth from my lips because I truly don’t feel that fits my description. And I am releasing any guilt I feel, recognizing that it does not make me any less loving to my children.
Seema is just Seema, made up of many aspects which make her who she is – friend, wife, mother, teacher, student, speaker, coach, confidant, healer, independent thinker, writer, dancer, collector and sharer of information, facilitator, actress, leader, pioneer …who is funny, witty, good-natured, sassy, generous, sensitive, kind, loving, compassionate, powerful and creative, but can also feel jealous, angry, lonely (where do I fit?), impatient, moody, judgmental, too idealistic, too trusting and controlling.
My journey is learning to be OK that my definition of who I am does not fit with what I think it should be (by internalizing other people’s points of view) and to fully embrace all aspects of me – things I am happy with and that put me in a good place and things/aspects of me that I don’t think are as positive – I intend to accept everything about me, with no judgment and just know and trust that I am loveable and loved at my core. Only by being at that place will every aspect of me blossom to its fullest.
The practice of unconditional self-love and acceptance starts with an intention to want to do it. Some people can just get it and do it while others will be guided to the right resources and teachers to help them get there. There’s no right or wrong approach…and it all starts with having the core intention. And it’s not about chasing for love and going from healer to healer to find it; it’s setting the intention for yourself to live in a space of unconditional self-love and acceptance which will attract the right people into your life.
If I don’t fully love and accept all of myself, how can I feel other people’s love for and acceptance of me? How can I fully love and accept others? I cannot give to others what I don’t have for myself.
And the deepest lesson is to become aware of things about us which we try to hide and deny and still shower ourselves with unconditional love and acceptance for who and what we are. And when we do that, we can finally be comfortable in our own skin and not seek for love, acceptance and a sense of belonging from outside of us. We invite others, by how we live our truth and love ourselves, to do the same for themselves.