I am a male aged roughly in my mid 30’s. It was not until about two and a half years ago, however, that I received a startling wake up call, which made me begin to question and eventually re-evaluate almost everything I had thought, said, wanted and done in my life up to that point.
For the past two and a half years or so I have read, soul searched and consulted professional counselors, both psychological and spiritual, in an attempt to understand and reverse a life long pattern of dysfunctional self undermining behavior which I now realize had propelled me from one destructive set of circumstances to another, and which had by my mid 30’s, left me feeling empty, unwanted, worthless and alone.
Having come to terms with my past and my own dysfunctional ego, I have begun to rebuild my formerly shattered sense of self and now feel that it is finally time to tell this story. For whatever it is worth, I hope that others who have had similar experiences and feelings may be able to benefit in some way from what follows. My life story is in no way extraordinary. In fact it is quite ordinary, which I think is why it may strike a familiar ring with others whom may have traversed a similar common pathway.
On the surface, I do not think that anyone who knew me growing up would say that I had a particularly hard life. I grew up in a comfortable upper middle class family and like my siblings, was never the victim of any parental physical or verbal abuse. I never really wanted for anything and all my material needs were amply met. I went to expensive private schools and partook in fairly normal childhood weekend activities like riding skateboards with my friends. And I was not necessarily all that shy as a child.
Yet there was always something missing in my make-up, or something which seemed to set me apart from my peers and others generally. When I was very young, I don’t think these missing elements were very apparent, except for the obvious fact that I was always an overweight child. A condition which I predominantly grew out of by about age 16.
During my grammar school days, however, life was often difficult as I was an obvious target of school yard abuse, at least until I lost the majority of my weight. And as academia is the last thing on your mind when you’re contemplating your next escape or worrying about the next encounter with the resident bullies, I never quite had to the time to develop an interest in scholastic activities as a youngster.
I was still, however, able to maintain close friendships and even began to date seriously after about age 18. As it turned out, I was not bad looking underneath all that excess body fat. By the time I reached early adulthood, however, it was becoming fairly apparent (although not yet to myself) that I was not developing healthy relationships with other people.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, most of the friendships which I had developed in my adolescent years after finishing grammar school were not good ones. While my relationships with other people usually started out normally, they almost always eventually degenerated into relationships of co-dependence in which I was subconsciously afraid of rejection by those I considered my friends. A fact which I also now realize was the result of a life long sense of horrendously low self esteem, which by the time I was in my mid twenties, would develop into a chronic case of shyness and increased lack of self confidence.
One of the many adverse behavioral effects of low self esteem is that you almost always end up saying and doing things to either prop yourself up in the eyes of other people, or you end up patronizing and imitating others to the extent that you loose all sense of your own individuality, because you are always trying to emulate someone else or obtain their approval. At that end of the day, you end up behaving in ways that others rightly find offensive and eventually intolerable. And that’s just the people who know you.
People who don’t know you become immediately aware of your obvious lack of confidence which you carry around like a banner and which they interpret as being distrustful and stand offish. Another problem with low self esteem and shyness is the snowball effect it has on you, with each subsequent negative experience you encounter. Eventually, you become too afraid to do anything or go anywhere without feeling as though people can’t stand to be around you and that you are unwanted and unloved every where you go. For many, this becomes an extremely dark and viscous circle in which you continually return to the conclusion that people just don’t like you.
But deep inside you there is a spark of knowledge, something which tells you that there is an answer to this dilemma, and a way to move away from the darkness which you instinctively know you have created yourself and towards the light. When this spark of knowledge or instinct comes to you, it is a wake up call which tells you that there is a better way to live, a more peaceful and natural way. It could result from something that you read or something that someone says to you or does to you, or just a feeling you acquire. It might be all of these things.
About two and a half years ago I finally experienced such a wake up call. It was not a melodramatic experience and did not involve any visions or any particular spiritual awakenings. I simply walked away and quit a job which I had only commenced the day before. I quit because I felt so inadequate in not being able to deal with all the people there and because I had been unable to approach and speak with many of them. I also very quickly felt disliked and distrusted by my new workmates. After only the second day, I just could not stand it anymore, so I quit.
I then realized that my shyness and low self esteem which had impacted on my social and personnel life was now about to ruin my professional life as well. I then realized that I had to take a really good look at myself in the mirror. I knew I wasn’t crazy, but I also knew that I had to admit to myself that I was not relating to others in a normal healthy way, and that I had a serious problem on my hands.
Following this realization, I decided to seek some professional counseling from a highly recommended psychologist. She was a very nice lady who concluded that I was suffering from some form of social phobia, however, was not extremely concerned as I seemed to be able to relate to her without any great difficulty. To be honest, its not very scary talking to a shrink who you know is trying to help you and is not going to judge you.
Anyway, we talked a lot about my family life and she taught me some basic relaxation exercises. After about half a dozen sessions, however, I had to stop seeing her as I found another job in another town and had to move. I continued to practice my relaxation exercises, however, little changed for me, and I found subsequent social encounters as difficult as ever.
Nevertheless, something told me that there must be a way to tackle this problem. It was then that I started browsing through the new age section of the local bookshops where I lived and began perusing the “self-help” books. I was totally unfamiliar with any new age philosophy or spiritual philosophy and although curious about after life theories, I had basically considered myself to be an atheist.
I was totally unprepared for the enlightening lessons I was to experience and the intelligent gentle and worldly wisdom of these wonderful authors whom seemed to understand more about people and the human condition than any text book psychologist. Over the next several months I digested about half a dozen books on spiritual philosophy which for me became the catalyst for an entirely new and different perspective on life, culminating in a completely new vision of myself and a new perspective of the world and other people around me.
Apart from general spiritual theory, of the many things I have learned which have inspired me to change my burdensome negative thinking to positive, I think the most significant has been learning about the difference between the personality or ego with all its opinions, beliefs, prejudices and fears, which is programmed into us as we grow up, and other higher levels of awareness which exist within our consciousness, but which are not judgmental or fearful, and are not adversely affected by the life experiences of growing up.
Following on from this comes an understanding of how the human mind actually works, and the differences between those various levels of conscious awareness, and how it is possible for all of us to manipulate our own level of conscious awareness, and in doing so, to manipulate our own emotional state. Ordinarily, we think of ourselves as being our thoughts, our emotional states and our personalities. But we are not. In reality, your thoughts and even your personality are merely tools which can be manipulated by you from higher levels of awareness to create the kind of emotional state that you require in order to achieve your goals.
As it turns out, we humans have an amazing ability to control our own minds through manipulating our own level of conscious awareness. In its simplest most practical terms, this merely means learning how to look to the positive side of life when your natural tendency has always been to look at the negative. Unfortunately, however, many of us allow our minds to control us and we tend to dwell on the negative.
Negative thinking and feelings we have about ourselves can become naturally reinforced within us by our minds which ordinarily operate in similar fashion to a tape recorder, continually playing back negative past experiences to us which we then use to evaluate present and future circumstances. For example, when you anticipate having to meet a new person, your mind tells you that you have had negative experiences meeting new people in the past, therefore the correct response to this scenario is fear and avoidance. So if you listen to what your mind dishes up to you, you’re reaction to meeting the new person or people is a foregone conclusion, and you’re piped at the post before you even get out the gate.
The good news, however, is that all these negative thoughts and feelings we have about ourselves can be challenged. I finally realized that my shyness and lack of self confidence emanated from my sense of low self esteem which I now realize I have carried around all my life. That in turn emanated from my unwillingness to attribute any sense of value to myself as a person. And that unwillingness to value or to love myself was a choice that I made a long time ago, probably when I was too young to remember making it. And that unwillingness to love myself meant that I was unwilling to be loved.
It is true that there might be many reasons why I decided not to attribute any value to myself or to not love myself. It might be easy to blame family, the school system or my peers, but at the end of the day, it was still a choice I made. My choice was to not value or love myself and to believe that I was unworthy of being valued or loved. And if you are unwilling to be loved, then you cannot receive love. After all, if you think about it, how can you receive something which you are unwilling to receive. Its like someone trying to leave a package at your front door. If you are not willing to open the door and receive the package, it just sits there while you go without. And if you are unwilling to receive love, then others obviously cannot give it to you, as you cannot receive what you are not willing to take.
This scenario then continues to play out in every facet of your life. And I think it continues to play out until you finally “get it.” What you have to “get” is that you can’t receive love from anybody else, until you are willing to give it to yourself and are willing to receive it from yourself. That’s why Whitney Houston says that learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all, and is also why nobody else can love you until you learn to love yourself.
The further good news is that, just as deciding to not love yourself was a choice that you made and a behavior that you learned and which your mind reinforced for you, deciding to positively love yourself is also a choice you can make and a behavior which you can learn, and which you can train your mind to reinforce for you. And when you make that conscious choice to love and value yourself, and to discontinue your prior downward spiral, you enter into a higher level of conscious awareness. It is a level of awareness in which you consciously realize, perhaps for the first time in your life, that you have the power to control of your thoughts and feelings. You begin to realize that you have the power to manipulate and control your own psychological environment and create your own experience.
You also realize that this is what you have been doing all along, its just that you have been focusing on the negative and creating negative experiences as a result. Once you realize that you have this power to create, you can then begin to create positive thoughts and experiences, and you begin a journey which you will find much more rewarding than the one you have been on. I’m not trying to tell you that its easy or quick. And like learning any new skill, it takes persistence and practice. But it is a wonderful experience to realize that you are the creator of your own destiny, and that in truth, you have been all along.
But now its time to use your power of creative thought to begin creating positive experiences. And it begins by telling your mind, that you are willing to be loved, that you are willing to love and to be loved, by yourself as well as others. All the negative crud you have been subjecting yourself to all these years is a sham. It is untrue and unnatural. The truth about you is that you are a wonderful and powerful living entity and that you have the power to create, and that it is time to start using that power positively.
When you finally come to this realization, it is the beginning of a life long journey of learning and progressing to higher levels of conscious awareness. I still have my occasional downward spirals if I allow my mind to re-hash negative crud from the past. But those occasions are much fewer than in days gone by, and I find I can recover very quickly now. I begin by remembering how lucky I am in so many ways, and then I remember my power and use it to create my own positive reality. So learn to start being the painter of your own canvass and the creator of your own positive reality. It begins with telling your mind that you are willing to love yourself, and continually reinforcing that feeling. Say it to yourself fifty times every hour if you have to.
Once you have practiced this for a while and have become proficient at it, just wait and see how you are able to walk down the street holding your head higher than you normally would. The reactions you get from people compared to what you are accustomed to are amazing. But you know that its really emanating from within you. You know that those positive reactions you start getting from other people are sourced from within yourself. And if you sense that someone doesn’t like you, then that’s ok, because you’re not looking for their approval anymore.
Chances are that those people are dealing with their own life issues as well, and they may not be as advanced in their ability to offer goodwill to others as you are. And by the way, not everyone is going to love you. But that’s ok too, because the love you now have for yourself is enough. Don’t harbor any resentment towards them. Simply wish those people well and continue on your journey. You are in control, you are the creator of your own experience. That is the gift which the creator has given to each of us.
If you are just starting out along this journey of discovery, I recommendInfinite Self 33 Steps to Reclaiming Your Inner Power by Stuart Wilde andThe Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav. Both books contain theory on how the mind functions from a spiritual perspective and provide amazing psychological insights to which people who suffer from shyness can relate.The Power Is Within You by Louise Hay is also an excellent read. Another excellent book on how to discipline and control your own mind isDiscovering Your Soul’s Purpose by Mark Thurston.
In addition, both Journey of Souls by Dr. Michael Newton and Many Lives Many Masters by Dr. Brian Weiss contain amazing case studies of life between life experiences which demonstrate the type of theory taught in the abovementioned works. However, I would recommend reading some of the theory before reading the case studies. This makes the case studies easier to relate to and more interesting to read.
Story Contributed by Luke on October 11, 1999.
From Luke: I have been reading your Shy and Free web site and am also extremely curious about this general condition (shyness), and agree that conscious awareness and acceptance, rather than resistance is the key to working through these issues.
As challenging and burdensome as it is living with a shy personality, it has occurred to me that there can be some advantages to all this. I agree with you that self-consciousness leads to consciousness. Through dealing with the problems of low self esteem and reading reasonably widely, I have been able to start developing quite an understanding of the nature of conscious awareness and what I call “mind mechanics” or how the mind works. I have also come to understand the differences between the waking conscious state that we call personality (with all its opinions, beliefs, fears and insecurities etc.) and other states of consciousness, including what is usually called soul.
As I mentioned before, I have traditionally been an atheist, however, no longer feel this is the case and feel that life after death or spiritual theory holds the key to understanding why we act the way we do in life. I have become resigned to the fact however, that I will have to rely on my intuitive senses to discover these ultimate truths, and don’t hold out a lot of hope for any intellectual confirmation of life everlasting or the purpose of being here in the living state. But something tells me that it has to do with achieving true self awareness, beyond the kind of human personality awareness that is programmed into us as we grow up. And somehow, just becoming consciously aware of the difference is a great help, even without having intellectual knowledge of the details. So who knows, maybe the soul chooses to experience a lifetime or series of lifetimes dealing with low self esteem, principally as a learning tool for coming to know the true nature and value of itself. Or maybe such a life experience is like a field exercise in learning about shaping and creating your own reality.
I think we really do create our own experiences. And having lived with low self-esteem and shyness has finally taught me this. And perhaps it is only by becoming consciously aware of this fact that the power to shape self-awareness and one’s own reality actually manifests… that seems to make some sense..