Try to accept yourself and your feelings; don't compare yourself with others; use your particular talents and do what comes naturally; don't suppress emotions but act them out with awareness; try not to feel guilty about past events.
Almost everyone finds it difficult, if not impossible, to accept himself or herself. The mind is tormented by guilt, feelings of inferiority and inadequacy. One is unable to forget past events and feels dissatisfied with his role in life, all the time wishing for something more, with higher status, which will bring greater respect from other people. There is nothing wrong with ambition to succeed; it is a natural part of human nature but one should try to accept oneself, one's fallibilities and limitations. At the same time, some dissatisfaction is necessary, for this is the driving force that prompts each person to seek and aspire to higher levels of awareness. But you must be realistic in the assessment of your shortcomings.
People always compare themselves with others. They possibly feel inferior because they don't have what other people possess. They see a rich neighbour with three cars and television sets in every room of his palatial mansion and feel overwhelming envy. They compare and condemn themselves for not being equally prosperous.
Other people look at famous movie stars, wishing that they also had the talent to be so successful and popular. This comparison results in dissatisfaction and general unhap-piness. People refuse to accept themselves and their limitations. They fail to realize that though the neighbour and actor outwardly display success, the less desirable aspects of their lives are likely to be hidden or disguised. Though the neighbour and actor may radiate success on a material level, they may be totally unhappy and depressed on a personal level. From a distance, and as outsiders, other people only see success and happiness; and it is with this superficial exterior that most people compare themselves. It is from this external display that most of us develop outer feelings of inadequacy and inferiority in relation to others. Try to accept yourself and not condemn yourself on the basis of unjustified comparison with others.
We all have specific talents, but with some people these attributes are more obvious. Furthermore, society at different times places more values on some talents than others. If you are a good football player, or a good musician or speaker, then this is easily recognizable by other people and society in general. But, if you are able to work with children and inspire them, or to create a beautiful garden, or repair a car, or if you are a good parent, or able to understand the problems of others with compassion, then these qualities are still talents. They are less obvious talents at first glance, but nevertheless they are as substantial as any other. Therefore, try to realize that it is not only those who gain fame who have talent. You also have talent, perhaps less tangible, such as understanding and kindness, or the ability to be a good homemaker, but these are not so rapidly accepted as talents.
Try to do the work that suits your nature. Don't worry about what other people do, for they must also follow the dictates of their particular personalities. In recent times much status and respect is given to people who perform certain roles in life - actors, executives, academics, etc. For this reason, many people try to succeed in one of these desirable, high status spheres, even when the personality is unsuitable. This leads to unhappiness. Accept yourself and do that which comes naturally according to your personality. Do those things which come spontaneously, without excessive effort and which suit your temperament. In yoga, this is called dharma, and is regarded as an essential part of everyone's path to happiness and higher awareness. In the Bhagavad Gita, the subject of dharma, one's natural duty, is discussed over and over again. Ignore status, for this is a social concept with little basis. A person's occupation does not matter, it is one's attitude that is important. A road sweeper who does his work with interest and awareness is further along the yogic path than a scientist who does his work half-heartedly and without awareness. Don't worry too much about what other people think. Remember, they are judging you from a viewpoint limited by their own prejudices and mental problems. Try to perform your dharma, work, actions, play or any other activity in accordance with your personality2.
Learn to accept your feelings and emotions without guilt. If, for example, you have a tendency to become angry at the slightest provocation, accept that this is part of your personality. Don't feel guilty. But next time you are angry try to be aware and witness your anger. Don't suppress anger, for this will only accumulate in your subconscious mind and eventually manifest as mental or physical illness. Don't be afraid to express your emotions, but at the same time maintain awareness of them. This applies to all emotions, not only anger. Of course, it is not always socially convenient to express these emotions (perhaps against one's employer), but as one progressively cleans out the mind through yoga, the emotions become more positive and cause less friction with others. There will be no nee d to suppress emotions under any circumstances for they will cease to exist in a negative sense.
Many people find it difficult to accept the basic human drives that are part of our makeup. We have sexual drives, food desires and so on. Many people develop complexes about these drives and feel that these urges or instincts are dirty or animalistic, usually after having been convinced of this by people whom they respect, but who have their own mental problems. Try to accept your drives as being a natural facet of human life. Recognize that they are not totally separate from, or antagonistic to life. The more you accept your drives the less you will be bothered or disturbed by them.
Try not to feel guilty about past events. Many people are continually overwhelmed by feelings of regret and guilt for past actions and experiences. Forget the past - it is finished. Live in the present. That which has happened is finished, so why worry about it? Use it only as a reference. Shakespeare with such simplicity vet depth of understanding summed up this attitude when he said: "What's gone and what's past, should be past grief." This also applies to mistreatment that you have received. If you feel continual resentment, then this is a disturbing factor which makes your life unhappy and tension-ridden. Try to drop this resentment - let bygones be bygones. If you don't, then it will continue to disrupt your life and the lives of those around you. Although this may seem easier said than done, at least consider dropping these grudges. If past resentments have taken a hold on your life and are deeply imprinted on your memory, then of course they are more difficult to remove. But they can, and will be removed if you persevere with meditational practices. It is only a matter of time. This conscious consideration of your grudges is the first step.
Practise the suggestions that we have given, and you are on the path to total self-acceptance. At first it may be on a superficial level, but this is the beginning of self-acceptance in a much deeper sense. Automatically, you will find that as you come to accept yourself, you will start to accept others, regardless of their faults. You will begin to realize that most people act in the way they do only in order to be acceptable and worthwhile both to themselves and others. This applies to people who behave in the most bizarre manner; though their actions seem totally unrealistic, it is merely their way, however inadequate and strange, of coming to terms with themselves and their surroundings. Increasingly you will realize this and learn to accept others for what they are, and this will help others to accept you. This increased awareness is a positive approach to bringing about harmony in your life, both in the internal and external worlds.
Total self-acceptance comes with the advent of higher knowledge and understanding. It is possible to totally accept one's personality without the slightest qualification or reservation. When one lives in a state of meditation it is impossible not to accept oneselfand others. But to attain this experience, and to continually live it, you must make a positive attempt now. The first step is to apply consciously what we have just discussed. This should be supplemented by meditational and other yoga practices, which we will discuss in the following lesson1. In this way, one will gradually eradicate mental problems and become more tolerant of oneself and others.
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