Sunday, July 14, 2013

Believing in Yourself

I have had a number of people recently respond to some of my "questioning religion" blogs with the question, "what DO you believe in?".  It is a very good question, and I hope they don't think me TOO egotistical when I respond "I believe in myself". Or should it be "my self"?  I have come to think that the most important faith to have is that of self belief.  After all, it is about the only sure thing we can experience and know without question...that being what WE think, what WE feel, what WE hope for or want. For me this is the fundamental goal of living in this world. Know yourself, be true to yourself and reach your personal potential to the greatest degree possible.

The problem with this "faith" of course is that religious people tend to call this thinking "Humanist" and self centered...man at the center of the universe. Our religions and institutions continually try to contradict this normal state of human existence... and yes, self gratification... with heavy criticism, rules and regulations of society. We are controlled almost from birth by guilt manipulation so as to "clip our wings" of self focus and pursuit of our own happiness. The longer I live, the more I see these attitudes and controls as hogwash and a form of institutionalized mediocrity.

You don't live very long in this life before you start feeling the pull of your peers to keep you down to their level or agreeing with what THEY think. I always love to see the innocence of infants and the spirit of young children...their eyes full of wonder and exploration as they day by day start making sense of both the world around them and their own bodies and self reflection.  Some of the first games parents tend to play with their babies is to look in the mirror and make faces or try and get your baby to smile or laugh.  There is nothing more pleasurable than the laughter of a child...and on the other side for some of us, nothing more painful than to be around screaming, crying babies. If babies are crying it usually means they are hungry, sleepy or even feeling a reaction to the limitations being put on them to be free to roam and explore.  It is rational that adults are not going to let children have so much freedom as to harm themselves because of their ignorance...but I do think it healthy to let children be as free as possible to explore and stay active in their explorations of self and otherness.  To constantly and unnecessarily limit them can actually produce some of these lifelong feelings of limitation and guilt for doing what one wants to do.

It is usually interesting for me to watch young parents interact with their children.  In some cases you see very humane, gifted parents who know how to deal with their children...to understand them, know how to patiently instruct or help them. Unfortunately, most of the time I see parents helpless and out of touch with their children...letting their children run wild over their own lives and environment, missing many opportunities to explain and raise a child to be free to be themselves, yet have that in balance with respecting and understanding others as well. Its like people who also love dogs...but don't know how to raise or control them.  As the "Dog Whisperer" always says, dogs (and kids) are looking to be part of the "pack" or a sense of belonging and they want a leader, but they are smart enough to know if you truly ARE that leader or not. If you do not have self belief and confidence...everyone will know it, including children and dogs.

I think before one can be a good parent, leader, boss or lover...one has to have a strong sense of self belief. I think normal people are attracted to people that are confident within themselves...AND about others.  Until we feel good and in control of ourselves, we will probably not feel good in relationship to others. It is just human nature in my experience. I think there is an innate sense to feel uncomfortable around insecure people. Yet, the paradox is that we have all learned behaviors that perpetuates the continuation of people feeling insecure, inadequate and/or unattractive.

People that don't believe in themselves tend not to believe in anyone else either. They are self critical...and also critical of others.  People with low self esteem over compensate to get attention and/or positive reinforcement from others. We all have had people in our lives who are always calling attention to themselves, their successes, their "things" that supposedly represent success. At the same time, it doesn't take long to discover the emptiness of their souls...a life of self doubt and false bravado. Many of these people are those who fall for "leap of faith" religions...to fill that empty hole that religions teach "only God" can fill.  All the while these people never deal with the real issues of their faulty upbringing, their disappointing childhoods, abusive/manipulative parents or peers and a lifelong lack of self belief. Instead of doing the hard work of changing what you don't like in yourself...it is easier to fall for "loving our miserable selves as we are". We fall for the line that this life doesn't matter...so neither do our self doubts, our being error prone or simply failures.  "God forgives us, so we must forgive ourselves".  This to me is some of the most debilitating thinking an individual can fall for, yet it is so easy to do so.

I guess I prefer the humanist model though I don't really call myself one.  I don't Deify man or think we all are just great and anybody can be an Einstein or Bill Gates. That is just not likely, but I do think most of us are better and have more potential than we think we have. Most of us have relented to the limiting views of our societies or institutions. Most of us have compromised ourselves in order to please others...or a perception of "pleasing God and others" by being self sacrificing. It seems holy for some to just accept being a nothing or nobody in this world. There is no sadder observation in life than to observe someone who has lost total value of themselves and their potential...the drive to succeed or excel...in exchange for mystical, apocryphal beliefs.

My personal thinking is that it is never too late to change or improve ourselves.  It is never too late to examine our thinking and reason.  It is never too late to control how we look or how much we weigh. It is never too late to START pursuing what we always wanted to do in life. Yes, we all make mistakes and fall short of our goals or potentials...but when that happens I think we need to just recognize our fallibility, deal with our failures, and then start again as a more educated, experienced person.  To live in the past of our failures or dashed dreams accomplishes nothing good...accept for maybe the succor of self pity.

I have always been a competitive person.  Some people in my life have probably thought me too much so.  I like to win at any competition I enter. Of course...I have lost many more times than I have won.  But, I see that as a good thing. Someone has said, "if you never fail, you are not really pursuing your potential".  If we always play it safe so that we will not "lose", we will never find out what our limitations are. If we only compete or befriend people weaker than us, we will never be pushed to new levels of strength and competence.

I have always repeated something a coach once told me..."show me a good loser, and I'll show you a loser". I don't think he meant we should be bitter or disrespectful to opponents who are better than us...but I take it more to mean we should never be content to lose.  When I show disgust or emotion in sports or business competition...it is hardly ever directed at another person.  It is almost always directed at myself...for not performing to my potential. For not concentrating.  For not preparing for whatever business or competition I took on. I only have myself to blame for those things. If someone beats me because they are better...that is respectable. If I beat myself, that is despicable...unacceptable.

One of the aspects of knowing and believing in ourselves is to know our limits. We must chose our goals and ambitions within the light of reality. The hardest thing for me as I age is to realize that MANY of my lifelong goals and dreams will never be realized. So far we are finite beings with a limited lifespan.  We tend to lose certain capabilities as we age...whether that is physical endurance or mental quickness. Lets face it...we wear out in certain ways.  Part of our life lesson is to know ourselves well enough to be rational about what we can or can't do.  It doesn't make sense to over reach against our human condition anymore than it is acceptable to UNDER achieve. We need to be wiser as we age to choose our battles and prioritize our pursuits based on what is most important to us, and most likely to be realized.  This will bring more happiness than always striving for the impossible or unrealistic.

To a degree, I think the humanists are on to something.  IF there is a God who was the origin of all things including humans...I have always thought it makes sense that he/she/it would want us to become all we can be. To lift our human spirits to the greatest heights we can...and even if we don't get to where we wanted to be...to die trying.  That to me is real living. That to me is real faith and spirit...the creative spirit of man. The most import belief that can change your life is...SELF belief.  Love yourself...and then you will be able to love and understand others better without fear, judgement or rejection.

Give yourself a hug now...

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