Ten years ago, I was leading a daylong meditation workshop in Boston. After studying Buddhist teachings and talking about how to apply them to our lives, I encouraged the participants to write down something they were struggling with and submit it anonymously.
We put a dozen slips of paper in a bowl and, one by one, I pulled out these questions and read them aloud for the group to contemplate. It was a moment where I stepped back as teacher and let the group offer one another support. Then I came to a comment that stopped my heart. I’ll never forget the first time I saw it:
“My boyfriend has never said he loves me. I feel unworthy of love. What can I do?”
The group that day had many wise teachings to offer in regards to this situation. But the question haunted me for weeks afterward. I was traveling for one of my early books — to meditation centers, yoga communities, universities, bookstores, everywhere. And the more I traveled, the more I heard various forms of this sentiment:
“I don’t think I’ll ever find someone who will love me for me.”
“If I can’t love myself, how can I expect anyone else to?”
“Why am I single? Am I broken?”
In today’s consumer society we are often taught that we are broken. And then there’s the purported good news: there’s something we can buy or achieve that’s external to ourselves that will fix us. Instead of embracing who we are, we give in to societal whispers telling us we’re not good enough, lovable enough, or desirable enough. We are told we need products to scale higher rungs on the career ladder and then, when we attain that particular external factor, we will be happy. We are told we need to be different than who we actually are in this moment in order to free ourselves from this feeling of suffering. That is not the case.
From a Buddhist perspective, here is the real good news: You don’t need anything external to make you more lovable. You are perfect and inherently lovable just as you are.
When the Buddha sat down to meditate under the bodhi tree 2,600 years ago, he didn’t sit…