The Mastery of Self

This week, I was lucky enough to come across The Mastery of Self by Don Miguel Ruiz Jr. the author is the son of one of my favorite authors, who wrote, among other things, The Four Agreements and The Mastery of Love.

The main premise of the book is that we have been “domesticated” by those around us, in particular those that we love. This is done through the use of conditional love. Ruiz shares the example of a grandmother who tells her grandson that it is a sin to waste food and he must eat all of his lunch before he can get up from the table. The little boy resists; he is not hungry, and he would rather go out and play. But he is made to feel that the love and approval of his grandmother will be withdrawn if he does not comply.

And so he finishes all of his food, that day and for years afterwards. He adopts the value that wasting food is a sin, and he still now eats past the point where he is full, even though he knows it’s not healthy for him. When he internalizes this value, he is domesticating himself. (Foucault would probably say that this is the process of discipline is action.)

This conditional love is used to control others, as well as ourselves. This conditional love is in contrast to unconditional love.

Unconditional love is not given to us because of who we are and what we do. When we love unconditionally, it is not because of who we are or what we have done. It is based is simply on the fact that we exist, that we are children of and co-creators with God (or the universe/the infinite/whatever you prefer).

We can all choose to love ourselves unconditionally. Through this brave act, we are freed from our domestication, and we becomes true masters of ourselves.

This book came at just the right time for me.

Just a few weeks ago, I did a small candle magic ritual where I “married” myself. It sounds a little funny, but when I say that, I mean that I finally made a serious commitment to love, respect, and honor my self above all else. I even bought myself an expensive ring to remind myself of my commitment!

It might seem silly, but I was very serious about it. I’ve spent most of my life doubting myself, wondering if I was good enough, looking to others to tell me what was right, and disrespecting my self in order to gain others approval.

At 29 years old, I have finally learned to trust myself. And after my ritual, I began learning how to love myself. I began honoring my feelings, trusting my intuition, and respecting my wants and needs. I learned how to decisively say “No” to what wasn’t right for me.

“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” -Oscar Wilde

I can finally say, at almost 30 years old, that I have embarked on this romance with my self.

It has been the greatest thing I’ve ever done. I never really believed all those people who said you needed to love yourself before anyone else will love you. I was trying to do it the other way around! I desperately sought someone who would love me, hoping that would finally convince me I was worthy of love and my own approval.

Then one day I got tired of waiting for someone else to love me. I’d been trying for years, and hadn’t even gotten close. I decided I would be the one to love myself, as sad and weird and uncomfortable as it felt at the time.

Slowly, I started to appreciate the small things about myself that no one noticed. I started to thank myself for the actions I took to take care of myself. And I spoke to myself with compassion instead of self-reproach.

As much as I hate to say it, “they” were right. The more I loved myself, the more others were drawn to me. I wasn’t demanding anything from them anymore; instead, I just sat back and allowed my own self-acceptance and care to radiate outwards.

Today was a turning point for me. I truly feel that I’m getting the hang of this whole “mastery of self” thing. I no longer get caught up in this search for love and approval, because now I know how to give myself all I need.

Yet, just as I stopped “needing” it, the world has surprised me and given me more love than I can handle. I almost feel overwhelmed, it’s like I’ve just eaten an entire cake by myself, the experience is so sweet but even a bit nauseating! I don’t know what to do with all this love now, it scares me to be so happy… But I’m also convinced that this is natural, these are just growing pains I’m experiencing, I’m being forced to stretch to let all this joy in.

I’m grateful. A little sorry it took me so long, but I’m glad I finally looked in the mirror to see that I am “the One” I have always been waiting for.

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