[This message was delivered on January 21, 2018 at The Feast Trece as a testimony in relation to Talk 2 (Self-love and Selflessness) of the Series “Fullness.”]
My Story Of Learning How To Love Myself
Growing up, my older sisters somehow felt that I was the favorite child. We would have the usual squabbles. I won’t get into the details anymore, but it was crazy! Now, of course, we’re past all of that already, but what they didn’t know was that I had a self-esteem issue. I felt that I was not good enough. I knew they were smarter than me because they got higher grades in school.
On hindsight, I believe my feeling of not being good enough was tied to how, as a young child, I hero-worshipped my dad. Don’t get me wrong. I felt loved growing up. I was not the subject of verbal abuse or anything like that, but it was the little things I picked up as a child that brought it about. Growing up, I somehow picked up on the disappointment of my dad whenever I didn’t perform up to par. Since I hero-worshipped him, you can imagine how picking up on those disappointments affected my self-esteem.
One concrete example was when I took the entrance exams for law school. I took the LAE of UP College of Law and the exam for Ateneo Law School. When my dad found out I only took two exams, he said “Bakit hindi ka nag-take sa UST (his alma mater)?” (Why did you not take the exams of UST?) So the obedient child that I was, I took the UST Law Entrance Exam.. and when I passed only the UST exam, my dad went “oh, bakit UST lang ang ipinasa mo?” (“How come you only passed the exam of UST?”) I share this without any bitterness in my heart. In fact, every time I tell this story, I always say it with amusement. Because I know deep down that I wasn’t loved less by my dad – he just wasn’t shy about verbalizing his disappointments. However, for someone whose love language is Words of Affirmation, that was devastating to the self-esteem.
I don’t take it against my dad because I know that parents try to do the best they can, the way they know how. And now, being a parent myself, I know that I already did a number with our eldest (our beautiful, kind, loving, smart 8-year old) so I’m striving to correct the damage I have caused this early.
I know that in our imperfect human state, we can only hope to emulate the perfect love of the God the Father.. How? By striving to be the face of Jesus to our children – every day, at every moment.. and we look to our Spiritual Mother, Mama Mary, and her profound love, to lead us and show us the way.
Learning to love myself
So how did I overcome my self-esteem issue? How did I learn to love myself?
In 2006, my boyfriend then (who is now my husband) convinced me to take the PSI (Purposeful Stewardship Institute) Leadership Success Seminar (I think it was a week or two before the bar exams). It was truly a life-changing experience that I just knew I had to take the 2 other programs as well – the Starshooters Program, and the Heroic Leadership Course. I didn’t attend with the goal of working on my self-esteem issue (in fact, I don’t think I was aware of its existence then until the program helped reveal it to me and helped me to actually get rid of it). It’s like each program started peeling away the thick layer around my being labeled “I’m not good enough” and replaced it with “I am beautiful” and “I believe in myself” – not because of who I am (on my own), but because of whose I am. It was in the Heroic Course that I came to have a deeper appreciation of Genesis 1:27 (NIV)–
27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
This biblical passage addressed my internal struggle, as discussed in Riches Within Your Reach by Robert Collier. We were given a copy of this book during the Course, and in the Chapter entitled “The God In You,” the verse from Genesis was elucidated in this manner:
“There is a Spark of Divinity in YOU. What are you doing to fan it into flame? Are you giving it a chance to grow, to express itself, to become an all-consuming fire? Are you giving it work to do? Are you making it seek out ever greater worlds to conquer? Or are you letting it slumber neglected, or perhaps even smothering it with doubt and fear?”
To give you a better appreciation of the message, here’s a short video about the Heroic Leadership Course (this video is of another class, not my own, but it still resonates with me):
I just love how we can experience God in various ways (like in the celebration of the Holy Mass which is an integral part of The Feast gatherings). At Heroic, I experienced God and the God In Me connecting in different and in intense ways. In the very last part of the video, there’s a hint on one of our activities for the ropes course that was extra special for me. Unlike my details-oriented, predominantly Analyst husband, I had no exact idea as to how high up from the ground we were supposed to be. All I knew was when I was down below, I could still see my classmates way up there so it should be alright. When it was my turn, all throughout the climb, I kept telling myself “I can do this.” By the time I got to the rope and looked down at the ground and at the tiny specks that were my classmates, I knew ignorance truly was bliss! It took some time, but the moment I jumped was a moment of complete surrender. I surrendered my fears, my feeling of unworthiness, of not being good enough. I surrendered to the great I Am.. and at that moment, the last chain came off. I was free – free from the self-doubt that kept killing the Spark of Divinity in me! I believed in Myself and it was invigorating! I believe in Myself! How can I not, when I am created in God’s own image and likeness?
You don’t need to attend expensive seminars and personal development programs IF you are able to get this.. But in my case, I was a bit slow. I was a big work in progress (I still am – we all are – continuously).
The message of today’s Talk is spot on. Self-love IS essential to Selflessness. As I was preparing for this sharing and recounting my Heroic Leadership Course experience, it dawned on me that that is what being a hero is all about. It’s about being selfless. And one of the most important tools I was given in the discovery of how to become a heroic leader – of how to become selfless – was that of self-love.
So join the party! Love yourself today – the way God loves and forgives you… and be the selfless hero you were designed by your Creator to be.