These are some of the lyrics in one of my favorite songs, That I Would Be Good by Alanis Morrisette, which exposes her deepest fears about not being lovable or good enough. It’s an incredibly brave song to sing and to have written. It gives voice to the shadow present in all of us; that dark, fear-laden place that’s terrified and quite sure that we’re definitely not worth loving.
I cried the first time I heard that song – I think I was 22 – because it was the first time I realized that it wasn’t just me playing that self-defeating track on repeat in my mind all my life.
Today in my weekly group coaching program, one of the women in the group spoke about how she had been working so hard for many years to make herself better and overcome her challenges. She had spent so much time reading all the self-help books she could, earnestly and diligently working to improve herself. But she eventually realized that there was no book out there about how to be happy while walking with a limp and feeling unattractive and like no one would ever want her again.
It hurt me to hear her say this because she’s such a beautiful person. Even though I’ve never met her in person, her gentle and strong warrior spirit comes through the phone line lucidly.
I suggested that perhaps it was time to ask a different question. Perhaps the question she should be asking instead is: How can I allow myself to fully accept and experience that I am valid and worthy of love simply because I exist?
Isn’t that the ultimate question? Isn’t that what Alanis was singing about? That I would be good even if I did nothing? That I would be good if I got and stayed sick?
Of course, in talking to this woman in my coaching program, it seemed so incredibly obvious that she was deserving of love and happiness, of being wanted, limp or no limp. But later, when I reflected on the call, it was with painful irony that I had to acknowledge that the conviction I hold for her I’ve never deemed worthy for myself.
No wonder I’ve always resonated with that song so much. It’s a lament for a way of being that Alanis wants but doesn’t have (or at least she didn’t have it when she wrote it). The song captures a state of aching and reaching for, not having. She can sense that it might be possible to fully accept herself, but she doesn’t know how to get there, so all she can do is sing about the longing.
So…how can we allow ourselves to fully accept and experience that we are valid and worthy of love simply because we exist? Now that’s the question that places us right at enlightenment’s doorstep.
That’s the gateway question that – if successfully answered – can create instant liberation.
Yet I suspect the answer isn’t the right set of words but rather a fundamental and profound shift in state – an entirely different way of being in which asking that question would be completely nonsensical. Like a fish asking itself if it’s worthy of swimming in the ocean.
Why would we even contemplate the question of being worthy of love if we could see clear through all the illusion of separateness and form and recognize that we are all made of the same stuff? That every single one of us is the unconditionally loved child of some divine force greater than us? That we are swimming in a sea of love?
Is that too much for you? The whole “sea of love” thing? Yeah, it’s a little much for me too, but I think that’s just because I suspect it’s true but haven’t experienced it.
I’ve heard it’s like standing in front of one of those pictures where it just looks like a bunch of dots until you space out for a second and suddenly you see an image that was there all along but previously invisible to you. Either you see the image or you don’t. There’s no in between.
I can’t say that I’ve seen the image hidden in the chaos of the dots. But when I still myself, I can feel the faint inklings that it’s there, and that, for me, is enough to draw me forward, forward, ever forward…
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