Most people are willing to talk about what external violence does to us or the world. We are all horrified to hear about another war, about another sexual abuse, about another incident of bullying. When is the world finally going to change, to evolve into something better and more peaceful? Very few talk about internal violence.
Here I refer to the way we feel about ourselves, how we judge ourselves, the stress we put on our minds and bodies, how violent we are to ourselves. Here I refer to an epidemic on a global scale - rarely acknowledged and discussed – our internal conflict and obsessive search for power, recognition or affection. When are we, as individuals finally going to change, to evolve into a better and more peaceful version of ourselves?
At the end of the day, what hope do we have in creating social evolution if we do not first attend to inner evolution?
In today’s culture, as communicated to us through media, advertising and pop-culture, great importance is placed on being perfect and successful in every way. We photoshop our bodies and personalities, display the best of ourselves and hide anything that doesn’t measure up to perfection. On the outside, we maintain a smile on our face as we continue to march forward to win the battle of perfection.
On the inside we might feel like we are not being pretty enough, smart enough, talented enough, lovable enough. On the inside we feel shame, guilt, anger.
On the inside we hurt.
Millions today battle with low self-esteem - characterized by a lack of confidence, insecurity and general negative outlook on life.
Did you know that children with low self-esteem are likely to act aggressively and antisocially ? You see, to protect themselves against unwanted feelings they act aggressively as this gives them sense of power as well as the opportunity to blame others for their problems and failures .
On the opposite side, individuals with unrealistically high levels of self-esteem also have a tendency to be violent . We have seen over and over again what feelings of pride, self-centredness and superiority can do in the world. Our history and presence caries legacy of wars, abuse, physical violence, sexual violence, and all sorts of atrocities – all in the name of power and superiority.
The fact is that acting out of fear, low or unrealistically high self-esteem is a form of violence to self.
We inflict violence daily in subtle ways - through the way we feel about and talk to ourselves, how we behave, through stress we put on our minds and bodies, through addictions to substances, social media, gossip. Whatever it is - it is simply an outward expression of the war that goes on inside.
Ahimsa is a Sanskrit word for nonviolence. It is not just a pretty word. It is not just absence of violence or a theory to be learned. It is an active state of love based on compassion, truth, and courage. In other words – love in action.
Ahimsa starts with us. Being courageous enough to speak our truth, accept and embrace our inner fears, and cultivate self-compassion and love is the first step towards healing ourselves and the world.
Because it is only when we embrace our own fears, we can understand and accept the fears of others. It is only when we learn how to be gentle and compassionate with ourselves, we can be compassionate for others.
One of the most important things we need to realize - whenever we attempt to do something for others - is that we cannot give what we do not have. If we cannot love, accept or have compassion for ourselves, we cannot give love. If we are not at peace with ourselves, we cannot bring peace to the world.
Creating collective change must begin with individual change. With freedom from negative states of mind, with self-acceptance, love and compassion.
It is only when we commit to inner evolution that social evolution will follow.
/ Ivana Busljeta, Global Director of Education, NVPF