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Your Essential Goodness

January 23, 2015
Give up the internal battle! It's ALL good.

Give up the internal battle! It’s ALL good.

Perhaps everything terrible is, in its deepest being, something that needs our love. – Rainer Maria Rilke

It’s often around this time of January each year that our Solstice intentions or New Year’s Resolutions start to unravel, and we find ourselves plunged into old feelings of letdown, inadequacy, or unworthiness. Discouragement and negative self-talk creep in, with familiar refrains of ‘I knew I couldn’t do it’, ‘It’s always like this’,  or ‘Maybe later, it’s too hard right now.’ Winter doldrums don’t help matters; while for those of us in the northern hemisphere the Solstice marked the return of the light, it’s pretty slow in coming, and the cold in most places is in full swing. A heaviness and weight can settle over us, and a sense that we can’t prevail.

Even if you aren’t feeling this way right now, I’m sure you can relate to these feelings, and to the self-doubt and unworthiness that are often at the heart of our deepest emotional wounds. Unworthiness is really at the heart of so much of our pain. If I could grant everyone in the world one thing, it would be an innate sense of their own self-worth – a sense of worthiness as a birthright, not something that has to be earned in the eyes of the world.

But alas, this isn’t the way it is for most of us, and instead our sense of worthiness is linked to so many different things – accomplishments, appearance, relationships, financial status, religion, nationality, race, gender  – all of the aspects humans have come to judge others by, and so we come to judge ourselves by. Our sense of lack or failure in any one of these areas is often what causes us pain, or if not lack then the stress and anxiety of attaining or maintaining that which we’ve gained. Either way we are trapped in a constant cycle of up and down, feeling good when that which our own self-worth is based upon is going well for us, and feeling bad when it’s not.

The only way to break this cycle is to unlink our sense of self-worth from the worldly attributes it’s usually linked to. For this, we often turn to personal development and spirituality. We hope to heal that part of ourself that is dependent on these measures of worth. And yet unfortunately, what often happens is that we just adopt a new yardstick to measure ourselves by – now we want to be a ‘good’ person. We want to be more compassionate, more faith-filled, more generous, more patient, more mindful, more aware, more ethical, more disciplined. These are wonderful goals! The world certainly needs more of these qualities manifested. Yet too often what happens is that we simply carry over our old patterns of self-judgement, while changing our goals. We may be judging ourselves against a different standard, but we are still judging, still succeeding and failing, and still linking our sense of self-worth to how we do.

This focus on changing ourselves presupposes there is something wrong with us, something that needs to be fixed or destroyed. It assumes there is a ‘good’ part of us and a ‘bad’ part, and that the good part is fighting the good fight, trying to overcome our worst qualities – whether this is anger, greed, jealousy, laziness, or whatever. When our good part wins, we feel good. When it loses, we feel bad. The battle rages on and on, and our sense of worthiness goes up and down with it.

To really liberate ourselves from feelings of unworthiness, we need to unhook our worthiness from this cycle entirely. We need to recognize our natural worthiness – our essential, innate goodness – and heal from there. This is 100% more powerful than change. When our assumption is that we are naturally good, our entire worldview changes. We see mistakes as mistakes, not as signs that we are failures or terrible people. We see successes as cause for joy, not arrogance, because we don’t need to feel superior to others in order to compensate for insecurity. We can truly be present for our lives, riding the ups and downs of experience, without being consumed by any of it, because we have our solid foundation within.

So whatever change you have been focused on, take a moment right now to truly feel and own your innate goodness. You might try some self-talk along these lines:

I am innately good. In my heart, my intentions are pure, and all the goodness present in the world is also present in me.

This is a pretty seismic shift really. From a cultural and spiritual perspective, the idea of ‘original sin’ is embedded pretty deeply in the Western psyche. We are conditioned to think of spiritual growth as an atoning or overcoming of our naturally sinful nature. Part of the reason I was originally drawn to Eastern spiritual paths is that they are based on the opposite assumption – that we are innately enlightened, that we are all composed of Buddha nature, reflections of the same Source. But in these traditions too, it is easy to be pulled into the self-judgment cycle – “I’m not meditating enough”, “I’m still eating meat (or caffeine, or sugar)”, “I’m still getting angry (or impatient, or jealous, or depressed.)” Our path can become just another internal mechanism for judging ourselves ‘not good enough.’

I was recently reminded of how subtly this can function when at a yoga class, listening to two women talk about the cleanses they were about to embark upon. These were two slender, beautiful, healthy yoginis. Yet their discussions of cleanses were filled with self-criticism – “I ate soooo much sugar over the holidays, it was disgusting”, “I know, I can’t believe how many carbs I absorbed, I completely lost it.” Of course, cleanses can be a wonderful, healing practice, and too much sugar and carbs isn’t good for us. But in this instance what I really felt coming off of these two women was shame. They felt ashamed of having indulged, and their talk about their cleanses was filled with a desire for self-punishment.

Although there are plenty of men walking around struggling with self-worth, women often have an even bigger problem with it, because of the cultural devaluation of girls, and feminine energy. And within all of the world’s dominant spiritual paths (Eastern included) women and their sexual energy have often been portrayed as shameful, or even dangerous. We absorb these cultural messages when growing up, even if we ourselves had a functional childhood. If our childhood was less than functional, if it involved abuse or assault, as it does for so many children, and especially if it involved sexual abuse or assault, we may so deeply internalize shame that it is difficult to feel any sense of self-worth at all. We can never be ‘clean’ enough, or good enough.

It’s for these reasons that working to own our innate goodness, and cultivating a sense of natural self-worth, is the single best thing we can do for ourself, and the single best thing we can do to help us attain our goals too. Having goals and striving to change ourself and our life are good things when we don’t build our sense of self-worth upon them. When we are free of the up and down worthiness cycle, our fear and anxiety naturally subside, and we are able to act with more freedom, more power. We don’t spin into downward spirals of discouragement and despair when we make a mistake. We just move on.

Affirmations such as that above can help, and meditating on your heart chakra too. Gently let go of the habit of judging yourself as good and bad in every moment. Send that part of you you feel is ‘bad’ some love. Send the part of you judging some love! Take a deep breath and send every part of you unconditional love. Let go of the past. Own your goodness – it’s your birthright.

 May all beings recognize their essential goodness in 2015.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. Joanne M permalink
    January 23, 2015 10:17 pm

    So just what I needed right now Lisa, thank you…Definitely have been spinning down into spiritual self-judgement…ironic how these things we turn to to help us can just get caught up in the same old patterns…
    I do agree about the judeo-Christian model of original sin being at the heart of so many cultural patterns, but don’t you think many modern Christians, at least us ‘new age’ ones lol, are reinterpreting this? I think the heart of all spiritual traditions is our own innate goodness…
    May all beings come to know their innate goodness- and the goodness of all beings-indeed!

  2. Anonymous permalink
    January 23, 2015 10:21 pm

    How do you account for evil in the world then if we are all good. Look at all the killing and fighting. I’d like to believe what you say but it’s hard to feel that way looking at the world.

  3. January 23, 2015 11:38 pm

    Hi Joanne, I’m glad this spoke to you. Yes I absolutely agree, many people are reinterpreting Genesis and the idea of original sin and realizing there’s a more loving interpretation that can be gleaned from the story of humanity’s ‘exile’ from the Garden of Eden. And I would say many mystics throughout the ages did so as well, so my comment was more relevant to the more traditional interpretations, and the ways this has fed into our cultural conditioning (especially puritanism in the U.S..) My own way of viewing it as Eden as symbolic of our inner essential goodness, and exile is about our separation from this. The Garden is within us, and our spiritual path is one of rediscovering this. Eve – and the feminine within all of us – is not a dangerous temptress but our own curousity and free will, and only through this can we experience the joy of rediscovering our own nature on our own. This is the gift and potential of human life.
    Thanks for commenting!

  4. January 23, 2015 11:51 pm

    Hi Anon, yes I struggle with this too, and you’ve gotten to the heart of the matter. It’s hard to look at the harm done in the world, (and for me I think especially of children, especially since I work with many survivors or sexual abuse and assault) and not feel that humanity, or at least some people, are simply essentially bad. But my inner experience leads me in a different direction (and I really believe in testing spiritual truths inwardly, not adopting them based on faith.) When I have acted in a harmful way towards others, through anger or jealousy or whatever, I find looking inward that the lashing out was a mask for hurt or fear, or something else like that. And I feel in working with others, that this is true too (I recently read Jarvis Jay Masters work, a death row inmate converted to Buddhism, he is able to portray very well his own discovery of how this developed and functioned in him, and led him to his more destructive acts.) In short, I really believe we are all essentially good and when we become separated from this goodness, when it is not fed by love but buried under layers of hurt and anger and fear, our hurtful and violent natures erupt. I don’t pretend to believe that this accounts for all of the harm done in the world, and there are many layers to this (mental illness/biochemical imbalances, cultural forces, etc.) but at root, I deeply feel this is the truth. This doesn’t absolve personal responsibility, or mean that everyone can be rehabilitated (sometimes in one lifetime, the path is just too embedded to shift…), but it does offer a way of looking at the world that resonates for me, and offers a way to feel compassion for all beings.

  5. Brenda (Betaphi) permalink
    January 24, 2015 5:37 am

    “When we are free of the up and down worthiness cycle, our fear and anxiety naturally subside, and we are able to act with more freedom, more power.”

    “I am innately good. In my heart, my intentions are pure, and all the goodness present in the world is also present in me.”

    Such a great article. I love these two lines especially. And the Rilke quote. I kid you not ,.. this morning when I got out of bed and went to the bathroom, the name Rainer Marie Wilke kept repeating itself in my head. I told myself to look it up but forgot. I had the middle and last names wrong, I see. This has to be some sort of synchronicity, don’t you think?.That name is just so off the wall obscure, I thought it was a woman but couldn’t remember what she was famous for. Turns out Mr. Rilke is a famous German poet. So weird but I love it when these things happen!.

    If you put this on fb I would share it.

  6. January 25, 2015 6:23 pm

    Hi Brenda, good to see you here and I love the Rilke synchronicity! I think you will find a lot in his work you like. I haven’t been on Facebook much lately so feel funny so just going in to share my own post! I’ll get back in there shortly, just needed some offline time. Feel free to share it using the Facebook button at the end of the post though…Thank you! Lisa

  7. Heidi permalink
    January 26, 2015 7:07 pm

    Dear Lisa, I love this post – it resonates especially deeply for me, and I wanted to send you my heartfelt appreciation. Self-acceptance and self-love has always been a struggle for me, but lately I’ve had a number of “pointers”, such as your post, showing me that this is absolutely what my work is, right now – to open to self-love on a fundamental level. I wonder, if I’m totally honest, if I can ever truly heal this tendency, because self-abuse is so ingrained in my experience. I have always known about this pattern to some degree, but think I am only now seeing how huge it is, and how binding it is, and how damaging it is…yet I’m also seeing, for the first time, glimpses of something new on the other side of it, if that makes sense.🙂 Thanks again for a great post!

  8. January 27, 2015 7:16 pm

    Heidi – so good to hear from you. I think I am having similar experiences lately – seeing the deeper layer under patterns I thought I already knew so well – and had worked through. The spiraling journey. I can feel your goodness so clearly though – sometimes easier in others, isn’t it? Sending your love as you find your way through…Lisa

  9. Heidi permalink
    January 28, 2015 6:13 pm

    It sure is easier to see in others. I’m sorry I dropped off the map…so much happening internally, and externally, it put me in a kind of hibernation state. I really appreciated the individual session and the coursework, both were really fantastic.

  10. Heidi permalink
    January 29, 2015 1:49 am

    And, I feel YOUR goodness so clearly, too!

  11. January 29, 2015 6:43 pm

    Happy hibernating, we all need retreat time:-)

  12. February 1, 2015 4:19 pm

    I always judge my self in good or bad moments of my life. Also I give 1-2 hour for meditation.

    ~Dr. Diana

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