I was raised in a religious Roman Catholic family in the Czech Republic. My family struggled during communism due to their religion. They had their real estate taken away from them and were sent to work in factories and pig farms despite their high education (my grandfather had a Ph.D. in chemistry). But they never gave up their faith as it was their way to fight communism (my father refused an offer to work for the Czech secret police in Austria because he would have to give up his religion).
All these family stories made me a proud roman catholic when I was a little kid. I too wanted to do my part and rebel against the system. The communism was over though and there was no need to fight anymore. But I was still in the Catholic church and later Catholic high school. With that came the teaching of feeling guilty for all worldly pleasures and going for confession multiple times a year to feel even more guilty in front of a priest. I did not want to end up in Hell, so I kept feeling guilty and suppressed my lust for pleasures. That became extremely hard when I reached my teenage years.
Despite a lot of good and fun community experiences from my Catholic past, I feel like the Church teachings made me an occasional self-loathing pessimist and a perfectionist. There were never any teachings about accepting myself for who I am and being kind to myself. Or if they were there, I must have been sick and missed them ;-). My perfectionism brought me to an eating disorder and the need to excel academically under all circumstances. I graduated every school with highest honors but fell unhappy and guilty inside.
My self-guilt rose even more after I left a very well paid legal job in Prague to follow my adventurous heart to Canada. This time it was fueled directly from my family as I set their expectations on me too high due to my academical perfectionism earlier. Even in Canada, I kept oscillating between my “prudish and egocentric Me” which always wanted to be a successful and renowned lawyer and “happy go lucky I” which wants to make people smile, have fun and live simply.
I AND ME CONCEPT
“Prudish and perfect Me” knows only two measures of success – money, and status. While “happy go lucky I” has multiple layers. “Happy go lucky I” recognizes the need for financial stability and independence. It understands the idea of hard work but without the need to destroy itself healthwise. Success for “happy go lucky I” means personal growth, building and enhancing community and making a difference in this world.
That is not enough for the “prudish and perfect Me” so it keeps criticizing the “happy go lucky I” at times and makes it feel bad. When the “prudish and perfect Me” gets on it the “happy go lucky I” feels like s***- not good enough, underachiever, useless, waste of human material…
I tried multiple things to balance the Me and the I, nurturing the I and suppressing the Me. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it did not. I read and heard a lot of recommendations to try meditation to become more at peace with myself. But sitting down and doing nothing sounded like the worst idea ever. Being alone with my mind where the Me is self-loathing the I for not keeping up sounded like a very bad idea. And then my friend asked me if I ever did vipassana. To which I replied no and wondered why he asked. He said that he felt he should ask. That was a sign for me that maybe I should do it.
In case you never heard about it, vipassana is a ten-day silent meditation. You meditate for about 10 hours a day with small breaks. You are not allowed to talk or look in anybody’s eyes. You give away your phone and are not allowed to read books or write. Group of volunteers cooks vegetarian meals for you so that you can focus just on yourself. Teachers provide you with a meditation technique. The entire course is free and you decide how much was that experience worth for you at the end of it. That way you prepay for the next student.
I had a really hard time in the beginning as I always struggle with rules. First four days “prudish and perfect Me” was so angry and hated everything. But then the “happy go lucky I” took over and enjoyed the experience fully. The technique helped me to calm my mind and make the self-loathing voice to stop. I was fully present, fully in my body enjoying every little part of it.
MEDITATION IN MY EVERYDAY LIFE
Away from the society, social media and hustle and bustle of everyday life, it was easy to achieve a quiet mind. Unfortunately, it is never about the course but rather about the integration of its teaching in daily life. I keep meditating for 10 + minutes every morning and any time the “prudish and perfect Me” starts criticizing. When the self-guilt voice is really strong then my each inhale is “love, self-love, and trust” and my each exhale is “fear, hate, and anger”.
Meditation has become a great tool for me to decrease the self-loathing chatter in my mind. It grounds me and energizes me. Sending loving energy to each and all parts of my body warms me up like a motherly embrace. It also helps me to focus better. And the best thing – it is free 🙂
My dear reader, thank you that you made it to the end and hopefully enjoyed this article which is one of many describing my journey to saving and investing money in one of the most expensive city on the planet to reach my dream of retiring earlier than at 65, staying healthy and youthful as long as possible, living in Nicaragua in winter and up here on the West Coast in summer, spending more time with my family in Europe, traveling more and making more people smile. Feel free to share it with your friends. Thank you, I like you already!