A dear friend I’ve known for years called me this week, sobbing. Between gulps of air and lots of tears, she cried “I feel like I’m failing at life! How did I even get here?” Oh, sweet pea. Here she was, this beautiful, kind, creative, world traveler–smart, with a warm home, loving parents–shaken up, hit by a giant lightning bolt of fear and anxiety. Once she calmed down, she told me about how everything had been coming along fine but then this week she found out that her youngest sibling is buying a house–a whole, big, expensive house– and her other friend from grad school just got a job making three times as much money as she makes, and THEN her best friend just announced she was pregnant.
Still in hysterics, she went on to say that she couldn’t even get a loan to buy a car, let alone a mortgage to buy a condo on her little teacher’s salary. And why did she ever think she could even make ends meet on this job she spent most of her life going to school for? She can hardly pay her rent and she has a roommate and she’s over thirty.
Tears. And questions about how she got there, where she was going. She was sinking deep, drowning with jealousy, comparison, attachment, fear, and other people’s ideas of success.
We all know how this feels. Try as we might, comparison to others sneaks in like a snake and suddenly there we are, comparing our lives to people we love. Or to strangers. Or even reality TV characters. In these moments, we wonder why we can’t be more like “them,” why life hasn’t blessed us in the same way, why our bank account seems always empty even though we spend all of our time working and have somehow managed to accumulate six figures worth of student debt. The crowd of critics and judges–mostly in our heads–can be so loud sometimes.
Comparison is poison to our joy. It dims, or even hides, our Radiance.
Deep inside, we all know that there is just no comparing anyone to anyone else. We are all beautiful and sacred with unique divine gifts to share with the world. Nevertheless, in our moments of imperfection, when we are going through a breakup or depression or illness or maybe we didn’t sit for our morning meditation or have our afternoon snack, we can cave into feelings of insecurity, comparison, and fear.
Meditation and prayer and yoga and cardio have been absolutely essential tools to help me step back from the I-have-failed edge, but there are still deeper questions that must be asked. This is where the Law of Radiance stretches us–beyond the breath and stillness, and into progress and action.
Here, in these lonely moments of fear of imperfection, the Law of Radiance guides us to take the next two courageous steps: (1) have serious gratitude for all that we already are, and (2) ask the hard questions.
Gratitude. When we are all wrapped up about the things we are lacking, we are missing the big picture. And we are unable to function from our strengths. Rather than having our energy grounded in the gifts we have inside us and our assets around us in this very moment, we feel small and inadequate, filled with anxiety about the future and regret from the past. It is impossible to be loving and joyful and motivated from this place of lack. We cannot be loving to ourselves, because we are focused on berating ourselves for our alleged mistakes and limitations. We cannot be as loving as we should be to the people who we love because we are focused on what their joy means in comparison to our perceived lack of joy.
The Law of Radiance reminds us to stop and, as Ram Dass would say, BE HERE NOW. Be exactly where you are, with all of your glorious choices, strengths, and the path on which you actually stride. For it is here in this moment that we are able to shift from a focus on what we lack to gratitude for all that we have.
For my friend, she can focus on all of the gifts she has within and all of those moments in her life when she was clearly acting from her Highest Self, her Radiance. Her unique sense of humor, that strength that had her move abroad without knowing anyone, her generosity that inspired her to teach, that moment when she had the courage to leave her partner for mistreating her. She can be grateful for her life as it is in this moment. She can tap into her own Radiance. Indeed, she already has all that she needs.
It’s not that we ignore what we are feeling. But we have the ability to accept our feelings while staying grounded in what is real: our Radiance in the here and now. Radiant beings step off that emotional rollercoaster of lacking/wishing and failing/blaming.
When we sit in that space of our Radiance and our gratitude, we tap into our true power. This power enables us to love ourselves and others. We change if we want to change. This is the space of our Highest Self, our ‘not afraid’ self, our most Loving self. From here, we can see and accept the world exactly as it is from a place of grounded peace. From here, and only from here, we can have the courage to really focus on the hard questions.
Hard questions. Feelings of not being successful and inadequacy are important. First, they are an opportunity to question the things that matter to us. This is a gift, because when we know what we really desire for our lives, we can focus our limited energy on those things. Do we really want that which we seem to lack? Or, do we already have something that, with effort and attention, can shine even brighter in our life? Knowing what we want can enable us to figure out how to get there.
Do I really want a house? Do I really want to change jobs to have a higher income? Do I really want to be a writer? Do I really want to be married? Do I really want to travel? Do I really want a new car?
The questions and answers should be different for each of us. Dig deep to get clear on all of your Radiant gifts and then be brave enough to look the questions and answers in the face. Don’t compare yourselves to others; compare yourself to your highest self. That is the best path for YOU. With your Radiance, your answers, and your gratitude, you have the ability to take action.
Second, asking ourselves these hard questions give us an opportunity to explore why we are freaking out so much because someone we love is doing something awesome with their lives. Ask the hard questions here:
Why am I so attached to all of these outside things that are supposed to be markers of my so-called success? Why isn’t it enough to just be healthy and happy and thriving and enjoying myself? Why am I so afraid of dying poor and alone?
Ask these questions and recognize that the present moment is the perfect moment to embrace the truth that we are already enough. By doing this, we reconnect to our Radiance to live in our place of peace.
Third, we have the priceless opportunity to explore the source of these challenging feelings. At the root of our fears and insecurities is very often the fear that we are not lovable, that we are not enough, that we are not worthy. Those fears are like an exposed nerve ending– ready to jolt us at the slightest mishap.
But can it really be true that I am unworthy of love? How did this debilitating idea get into our heads? What is needed here for this wound to heal?
The Law of Radiance says that we get what we want by being our Highest Self. This means understanding what is true, embracing that we are made of Love, surrounded by Love, worthy of Love, no exceptions. We can look back at our nerve endings and scars and see the real strength that has been required to overcome such challenges. In this strength lies our Radiance. The path to real success starts with ourselves.
Feelings of jealousy, rage, sadness, anger, fear are inevitable. Having a daily Radiance practice to push ourselves beyond those feelings and back into our own Light and path is our strategy to contain them. These challenges that arise are opportunities to:
- dig deeper into ourselves to find the love and gratitude that lives within,
- have the courage to see clearly where we really want to go, and then
- use our Radiance to get us there.
May you always have the courage and strength to face your challenges knowing that nothing compares to your most Radiant Self.