Each week, spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra responds to Oprah.com users' questions with enlightening advice to help them live their best lives.
Q: How do I get over the feeling of not being "good" enough? Why do I sometimes feel sorry for myself because I don't get what I think I need or want? How can I expand my mind and grow into a better person? How can I learn to "stay in the moment" and take responsibility for all the choices in my life to this point? I've read several books and meditate, yet sometimes I "slip" back. Do you have any suggestions or insights? Thanks for your time.
— Diane K., Camarillo, California
You've posed several questions, all seemingly different, yet connected to a central issue. The issue is dependency. Self-pity is the opposite of self-esteem. It arises because you feel no one will lift you out of your difficulties. With no one stronger, older, wiser and kinder to help you, there's a tremendous sense of lack. You cannot find the same strength that these rescuers have—or you imagine them to have—and the ache of not being enough is felt as self-pity or "poor me."
The answer to feeling poor inside is to gather some riches. I don't know about your past, but somehow you maintain a childlike wish to be dependent, and this is keeping you bereft. It is also denying you a world of inner riches. A person who is rich inside feels as if she is enough. She is strong enough and good enough. She can trust her instincts and feel secure in her choices. She takes responsibility for every victory, as well as for any failures along the way.
You may not feel you have these inner riches, but you can begin to accumulate them. Write down each quality and consider how to gain it. Your list might look something like this:
Trusting my choices
Handling a difficult situation
Finding a way to shine
Being understood and appreciated
Standing up for myself
The next time you feel sorry for yourself, lapse into self-pity or in any way feel inadequate, take out your list. Feelings arise out of specific situations. Look at your situation and analyze where it came from. Was it from not being enough, not trusting your choices, feeling misunderstood or unappreciated?
Be specific. Once you have analyzed the lack, write down a way to fill it. Hopefully, you will find a way to act immediately. Your remedy should be active and positive in any case. For example, you might write down:
Go back in and speak my mind.
Point out that I have made my choice and will live with it.
Look at more options than the one that didn't succeed, and then follow one of them.
Show that I am really good at this.
Go back into a tough situation and try again.
I know these are a bit general, but you get the point. Your enemy is apathy. Being dependent, you wish someone will take you by the scruff of the neck and carry you like a baby kitten to safe ground. But even if that wish comes true, you will still feel poor inside. Only action can fill your sense of lack, and that action must be based on who you are and what you stand for.