Why aren't we worthy?
I want to say a bit about unworthiness. I've noticed that so much of our pain stems from some kind of fear that we're not worthy of love - of connection and belonging. This is not universal. It seems particularly common in our western societies.
Let me rewind a bit....
So Steph and I are working away on getting the website re-arranged and setting up on social media before we get going with the good stuff. In the process of this, Steph was researching hashtags for Instagram. This gives us a broad read on what topics people are posting about.
She looked at 72 different topics of interest to Flourish. Our realm of interest is quite large - how to flourish as a human being - so when I saw that three of the top five were centred on a clear theme, it was quite striking. Here are the top 5 along with the number of people following them (millions):
Three out of the top five post topics are about loving and caring for ourselves. The other two are about being well and happy, arguably also about caring for ourselves. It suggests this is something we're struggling with or we wouldn't need to talk about it so much.
Over the 20 years I've been practicing the dharma (Buddha's teachings), I've heard several Buddhist teachers say that doubt about our worthiness of love is a very western thing. When they teach or practice across Asia, they find people are often perplexed as to why we struggle with this.
In one sense I find this hopeful. If other societies aren't plagued by this, then it means there's something about our societies that's causing it.
I wonder if the recent lockdown protests give us a clue here. Here's a map from February this year, showing where anti-lockdown protests had occurred. (Of course we now need to add a few black dots in Australia!)
What do you notice?
I see that the black dots are almost all in western democracies where cultures tend more towards individualism than collectivism.
Anti-lockdown protests are, arguably, resistance to giving up a little bit of individual choice for a collective good. I wonder, does this emphasis on individualism have something to do with our doubts about being worthy of love, of our disconnection, and the loneliness epidemic that is also with us, if a little overshadowed right now by a different kind of -demic?
Is the constant curating of our image on social media, and comparison of our selves with others, a misguided attempt at meeting our needs for connection and belonging? If only I can impress them enough, they'll like me. Then I'll be connected. Then I'll belong. Because I'm not sure I do.
This is a hungry ghost. Always starving for more, never able to consume enough to be satisfied.
Could it be because the pendulum has swung too far the other way? We've gone from being controlled by the tribe, by culture, by family, by 'the group', to being disconnected from it.
Being embedded in a community reminds us regularly that we belong, that we have a place with others, and that place reminds us that we're worthy. I wonder if the Asian cultures that are perplexed by our lack of worthiness, provide people with a greater sense of having a place in the scheme of things - a place that's connected to others, to the tribe. To be part of it, they give up a little of their freedom.
On a scale of 1-10, how worthy of love do you feel? And on a scale of 1 to 10, how firmly embedded are you in community? Of course there are other factors too, but do you think there's a link? If you've got some thoughts, leave a comment below.