On Self-denial 

Dear quarter lives, 

Before we start talking about self-denial, let us first define what we mean by it. Self-denial is the act of foregoing oneself for the sake of another. It is the act of sacrificing one’s interests, one’s desires, and one’s pleasures to satisfy another. Self-denial isn’t always out of love. Sometimes self-denial arises out of a need to feel safe, to feel like we belong. Some people cannot bear to disappoint others. For some people, they cannot bear the guilt or shame of that disappointment. For some people, it is more bearable (at least in the short run) to deny themselves completely than to be rejected by society (people they don’t necessarily know but people they live amongst).

Self-denial is perhaps one of the worst actions we can take against ourselves, because we are suppressing our very essence. It might not seem like a huge thing if every time you go out with your family or friends, someone else gets to pick where to eat. And you just go along with it. Trying to avoid conflict. Telling yourself, it’s perfectly okay because you don’t really have a particular preference, but the truth is that if you just take a moment to check in with yourself, you will immediately see that you always have a preference. But you decided a long time ago that your preferences were not that important. That was part of your easy going vibe, always just going with the flow, pleasing everyone around you, being approved by everyone around you. But what about your approval of yourself? Is that not as important?

Perhaps when you were a child, your voice was lower than those around you. Perhaps you didn’t try to scream to be heard. Perhaps you just learned that those people around you louder than you were more fussy and demanding, so they had to get their way. You learnt that it was safer to just let others dominate sometimes. Perhaps perhaps perhaps. Let us not dwell too much on why we’ve denied ourselves, let us instead just acknowledge the fact, not that others have denied us, but that we have denied ourselves. WE must take responsibility for this action against ourselves, despite what motivated this habit, it is after all of our own doing. And this admission of responsibility need not be accompanied by guilt or regret. On the contrary, it is in fact crucial for us to have the deepest compassion for ourselves. For most acts of self-denial stem out as a survival strategy. And so the only way for us to be able to be is to feel it is safe for us to be. And the first person our self confronts when it is being, is ourselves. We must open the door to ourselves, we must welcome them in, we must see them for who they are and not what we had expected or hoped them to be. We must see all of us. All the goodness in the badness and all the badness in the goodness. All the annoyances and all the favourite things. We must allow ourselves to be. We must speak up. We need not laugh at jokes we find offensive. We need not meet up with someone if we would like to do something else with our time. We need not put our faith in things simply because everyone else does. We must allow our own values to come to the light. But be very careful, because it  is all a matter of balance. Beware not to make someone else feel unsafe because you feel the need to constantly take a stand.  A person who feels truly safe in themselves does not need to continuously justify themselves to another. Be kind to unfamiliar versions of familiar people. Make space for others to show their true selves to you. Make space for the truth in your life. And when you do, you will realise that all the hiding was far more exhausting. That freedom, relief, and peace with one’s self are absolutely worth the risk of some people not approving of you. That in fact when you’ve tasted your own liking of yourself, nothing else matters. 

May these moments of loving ourselves stretch out to a whole lifetime or two. 

Always with love and for peace, 

S.A. 

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