So starts a poem that inspires profound self-reflection in the interest of revealing what is true, and discarding any distractions. It reveals the path to achieving peace by accepting what what we cannot control or change. It is attributed, with some dispute, to Charlie Chaplin, written on the occasion of his 70th birthday.
As I Began To Love Myself
As I began to love myself I found that anguish and emotional suffering are only warning signs that I was living against my own truth. Today, I know, this is “AUTHENTICITY”.
As I began to love myself I understood how much it can offend somebody if I try to force my desires on this person, even though I knew the time was not right and the person was not ready for it, and even though this person was me. Today I call it “RESPECT”.
As I began to love myself I stopped craving for a different life, and I could see that everything that surrounded me was inviting me to grow. Today I call it “MATURITY”.
As I began to love myself I understood that at any circumstance, I am in the right place at the right time, and everything happens at the exactly right moment. So I could be calm. Today I call it “SELF-CONFIDENCE”.
As I began to love myself I quit stealing my own time, and I stopped designing huge projects for the future. Today, I only do what brings me joy and happiness, things I love to do and that make my heart cheer, and I do them in my own way and in my own rhythm. Today I call it “SIMPLICITY”.
As I began to love myself I freed myself of anything that is no good for my health – food, people, things, situations, and everything that drew me down and away from myself. At first I called this attitude a healthy egoism. Today I know it is “LOVE OF ONESELF”.
As I began to love myself I quit trying to always be right, and ever since I was wrong less of the time. Today I discovered that is “MODESTY”.
As I began to love myself I refused to go on living in the past and worrying about the future. Now, I only live for the moment, where everything is happening. Today I live each day, day by day, and I call it “FULFILLMENT”.
As I began to love myself I recognized that my mind can disturb me and it can make me sick. But as I connected it to my heart, my mind became a valuable ally. Today I call this connection “WISDOM OF THE HEART”.
We no longer need to fear arguments, confrontations or any kind of problems with ourselves or others. Even stars collide, and out of their crashing new worlds are born. Today I know “THAT IS LIFE”!
Can you spot the lessons for your own life in this poem?
There are a few themes that truly speak out to me as I consider the life that Charlie Chaplin lived. Chaplin was often at the center of controversy, whether resulting from his earlier marriages or his political views. He was a great perfectionist who carefully cultivated his renown Tramp persona, as well as a plethora of films. This poem is written by someone who understands the necessity and inevitable nature of conflict.
His words focus on the importance of his own thoughts and actions, rather than the outside forces of the world, which were beyond his control. He makes peace with the past and the future by resolving himself to live in the present moment.
Changing others does not lie in our realm of control, but the decision to grow and evolve in response to life’s circumstances is our own. Maturity allows us to loosen our grasp in order to receive what is most important.
I return to this piece for ongoing reflection because I honestly find the themes difficult to apply in my own life. I still find myself clinging to the idea of control. I love to walk into a room and predict what people are going to do and say (you can imagine how often I am disappointed in real life when this does not go my way).
So, I still have a lot to learn. Reading this passage reminds me to take a step back and consider the factors that urge me towards control. I realize that it is a choice and not my default identity. I consider the wisdom in this poem to choose to engage in life as it is, in the present moment.
What truths about yourself do you find in this poem?