When you were a baby, you may have been aware of your own needs and desires and nothing beyond them. If you needed food or a dry diaper, you didn’t care whether your parents were asleep or needed time to finish their own meal; you simply demanded what you wanted. As you grew, confident that your survival needs would be met, you moved on to other aspects of the world around you. Have you ever watched a baby playing with its toes and fingers? There abides a fascinating exploration of a whole new world. You did that also as a child, and as you gained mastery over each little bit of your physical world, you continued your explorations.
During childhood years, you were perhaps mostly concerned with your parents’ expectations. When you started school, you also became concerned with the various teachers’ expectations. During adolescent years, you may have became preoccupied with what your peers thought about you. As an adult, you may have had many opportunities to experiment with creating a satisfying life. Each of these stages prepared you for the time when you could discover the deeper truth: what really makes the difference in the way you experience life is what you believe about yourself and what you believe is possible for yourself.
The love and approval we first seek from our parents and family, then from other authorities, such as teachers, then finally from our friends, can be felt and experienced more easily if we love and approve of ourselves. Adam Smith, writing on this subject, stated, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interests. We address ourselves, not to their humanity, but to their self-love.”
Can you remember an incident from your childhood when you worked very hard to accomplish something? You felt proud, good about yourself; and if your parents or someone else told you how well you did, you knew they were right. You felt affirmed. Do you also remember a time when you thought you got away with something? Maybe someone talked about you when you had not accomplished your work or hadn’t done the best you could. Can you recognize your feelings at the time as confusing, embarrassing, or deceitful?
Can you now see that in the first incident, what happened was that someone merely affirmed what was true about you? Your feeling of value did not come from them but was merely confirmed by them.
If you are fortunate, you have a teacher or a mentor whom you admire and from whom you want to learn. Sometimes you may feel you could never be like that admired person, but you can. The fact that you are attracted to that person can be proof you have the capacity to express some qualities you so admire in another. It works the other way as well. Sometimes we may feel repelled by or hateful toward another. Those feelings can be inner warnings that we, too, may be capable of behaving in that same unattractive manner. At such times, it becomes important to recognize that you can choose to express the loving, kind, caring qualities you possess.
One of the greatest gifts we have to give to humanity and the world can be our own growing consciousness of life. As we rejoice in the refreshing currents of life that flow through us mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, we can bless our world and everyone in it. “Work wonders from within” are the words to a song that encourages us to reach deeper and higher. But we are not likely to rise any higher than we believe we can. And we have such a wide variety of beliefs to choose from that we may sometimes get confused. However, if we believe we are made in the image and likeness of God, a life-giving spirit and therefore master of life, we can seek to develop those wonders within!
Because, as children, our needs are basic and are met by others, it may be easy to believe others always have the answers for us. As we grow and our needs change, we can come to recognize that we have within us the things we need to create lives of joy, usefulness, wonder, and value.