Facilitator Interview: Marissa Knox
Marissa Claire Knox
5 Unexpected Truths About Self-Love
Self-love is uncomfortable.
One afternoon when I heard myself telling a familiar story of how I’m not good enough, a moment of clarity struck me. I had felt this way many times before. On that particular day, I was complaining to my partner about how I wasn’t as productive as I wanted to be. I was so angry with myself for wasting time with distractions, and I was convinced I would never be able to get all my stuff done. I felt like a hopeless and unworthy failure. I was ashamed of myself for being so unproductive, judgmental, and angry. I was slipping into what Tara Brach calls the “trance of unworthiness.” Somewhere in the fog of my self-attack, I realized my evening didn’t have to turn into a shame spiral. I didn’t have to say, yet again, the same old stories to myself. I realized what I was doing was habitual, and that I needed to try something different. Some wise voice within me said, “Marissa, this is the comfortable route to discomfort. You will only feel worse if you believe these self-denigrating thoughts. Try taking the uncomfortable route to comfort.” It was then that I made the courageous choice to sit with the discomfort of how I was feeling and to look within for resources of patience, forgiveness, and self-compassion. It took all of my strength not to satisfy the part of me that wanted to punish myself. I put my hand on my heart, and listened to the quiet in the depth of my being. The prickly heat of shame, anger, and restlessness continued to ebb and flow. I was hurting, and I was also connecting to a loving presence. It was not comfortable to feel what I was feeling, but by opening my heart, I remembered something bigger than pain. I remembered the love that is always abundantly available and already within me.
Self-love is letting go and exploring the unknown.
When I started experiencing self-love, I had to re-learn how to relate to my whole life, including my relationships, my work, my self-care practices, and my ideas of self-love. I realized that my old ways of thinking and acting in the world didn’t function as well as they had anymore. My self-deprecating narratives weren’t serving my aspiration to embody love. I had to let go of my identity as someone defective and unlovable so I could discover the fullness of my being. My choice to change the way of relating to myself with more love, compassion, and acceptance required me to encounter the unknown. Who would I be without the belief that I’m not good enough? I didn’t know. And I’m still finding out. Beginning to identify myself as someone lovable and worthy of compassion has changed how I express myself, communicate my needs, and interact with my partner, friends, family, and colleagues. I’m still learning to navigate the terrain of my life from a place of self-love. I stumble a lot, and it can be complicated and messy, but there is love and honesty in what I say and how I am. In the mystery of not knowing, I return to trusting in the love of my heart.
Self-love is a compost pile.
Usually, when I experience difficult emotions like anger, jealousy, and shame, I judge myself harshly for feeling this way. My feelings feel bad, so I decide that I am bad. In these moments, I feel as though these emotions are undermining my intention to be a loving, kind, and joyful person. When I feel impatient or resentful, I also feel as though I am exposing myself as a fraud. I fear that people will know that I am not the compassionate person I desire to be. With my newfound self-love (and years of meditation and study with my beloved teachers), I now experience these shitty feelings as ideal ingredients for compost, which I can use as fertilizer. As Pema Chödrön teaches, our mental afflictions provide us with rich material for our growth. Our shit, so to speak, offers nourishment to the soil in which we can plant seeds of generosity, patience, and loving kindness. When we feel emotional tension, we can cultivate a more intimate awareness of ourselves with gentle curiosity. We can listen to the stories we are telling about what is right and wrong, good and bad, true and false. We can look for where we might be holding onto expectations or resisting what is happening. We can notice where we are getting stuck and how much we are “shoulding” on ourselves. Often the pain of our emotions comes from feeling separate from others and from our true nature. When we see clearly what is getting in the way of remembering who we are, we can then feel deeply the vulnerability and tenderness that it is to be human. This softens our rough edges and allows our hearts to open up and receive love. Already seeds are blossoming into self-compassion, acceptance, and peace with what is. And that is how the self-love compost system works.
Self-love is fierce, glorious power.
Growing up a people-pleaser, the word “no” was rarely in my vocabulary. I sought approval from others to validate my worth, so my greatest fear was disappointing friends and family. This meant I sacrificed my wellbeing to make sure others were satisfied, and I neglected to set healthy boundaries in my relationships to avoid conflict. When I started loving and respecting myself, I found myself faced with the uncomfortable reality that I would not be able to please everyone. If I were to honor my needs and take care of myself, then I would not be able to continue overextending myself to the point of exhaustion. It has been so edgy for me to say no to requests and to establish boundaries with my time and communication. Yet, now that I am not constantly concerning myself with what people think of me, there is a wealth of energy available. Instead of worrying if I’m doing enough, I know that being who I am is enough. With my own love, I can rest in the empowering freedom of being all that I am, just as I am. It is glorious! This freedom creates the space to discover our inner treasures and offer them joyfully to the world. The freedom of self-love is our birthright and is the birthplace of our collective awakening. When we love ourselves just as we are, then we remember that who we are is part of the divine, interconnected wholeness of all life. Every being contributes an integral part to the shimmering kaleidoscope of our shared humanity. To love ourselves is truly to love each other. When we recognize and appreciate our own strengths and wisdom, we can share our gifts and benefit all those around us.
Self-love is showing up to the here and now, just as you are, over and over again.
Self-love is not a box we check on our to-do list. Self-love is a way of being as we meet ourselves in any given moment. As we meet ourselves, there is nothing to fix, prove, defend, or deny. Love is not about getting rid of any part of ourselves. Love is not about earning our worthiness or our right to belong and to be seen, heard, and held. Love is letting go of everything we think we should be and resting in the sacred presence of who we already are and always were. Everything that we think takes us away from feeling love has the capacity to show us the way home. Love is remembering, in every moment, the possibility to awaken to our potential. Love is where we came from; Love is where we’re going; Love is who we are.
Marissa Knox is a PhD candidate at UT Austin with a research focus on how self-compassion relates to healthy body image and perfectionism. She completed the Embody Love Movement facilitator training with Dr. Melody Moore in 2014 and teaches yoga and meditation in Austin, TX. Her teaching is steeped in her studies of iRest Yoga Nidra, Mindful Self-Compassion, and Tibetan Buddhism. She sees Love as a remembrance of our wholeness, with every moment of life a sacred invitation to discover all we need within.