I’m Bridget Owens and you're listening to the Waxing Soul podcast where we're adventuring into the world of mindful modern magic and authentic spiritual practice. It's January 20, 2022, and today's topic is validation and self worth as a magical practitioner. Are you ready to grow your soul?
I think I’ve mentioned before that I’ve noticed a pattern not just in my own practice but in seeing kind of the progression in other people’s practices where the longer we practice, the more established we get in our own particular way of practicing, the less we actually, like, actively practice.
And that makes a certain amount of sense, I think. Right? Like, when we start out in this kind of pursuit, there’s lots to learn, lots of information, lots of things to explore and try out and there’s also just a level of excitement. It’s new. It’s… Anytime we get into something new, there’s a different level of engagement with it. So because of all those things, it makes sense that as time goes on in our practices, several natural things happen just by virtue of getting into a comfortable routine, finding our groove, that kind of thing.
And this is something I think a lot about when I see new practitioners struggling to figure out what they’re doing, where they fit, seeking validation that they’re doing things right or on the right path or whatever. Because, like, the need for validation decreases over time in our practices as well. That’s just… I mean, that’s kind of a natural process.
But I got to thinking recently about how the need for validation and, if we dig a bit deeper, just general feelings of self worth in our practices are actually a huge force when it comes to shaping our spiritual paths. And I know for the history of my own practice, it’s been a really significant issue, something that has literally formed some of the foundation of the way my path has gone. And it’s something that a lot of new practitioners don’t just struggle with but don’t really have a good resource or set of examples or guides through some of these issues.
Not to mention that, like, even experienced practitioners still… You know, the whole concept of self worth in spirituality is a big chunk of shadow work to wade through.
So let’s start off with the easy part, the whole question of the need for validation and feeling like a worthy practitioner, especially when starting out but also just throughout our practices. Because it can be hugely intimidating, right? Coming into a magical practice which you know ties into some kind of deep historical tradition throughout human history, and yet not having, at least most of the time, not having a really clear guide for where to start, what to do, what it means to do things well or not well within whatever traditions or paths each of us chooses to follow.
The thing is, what makes magical practice in general really challenging in terms of feeling confident, feeling validated, is that magical practice itself is a path of self-empowerment. I’ve said before that doing magic is literally empowering in the sense that you’re literally taking your own natural innate power in your own hands and doing what you choose with it. And the culture we live in is not that. It teaches us to value expertise. It teaches us that power and legitimacy comes through external validation and that things we learn from being taught are more valid than things we learn on our own.
And a whole lot of the magical community, the world of magical practice works on a very different system. It’s deeply personal and subjective and centered on not just our internal, inherent energies and intentions but also on our own deeply personal vision for what our practice is meant to do and be. Which means that unless we do the work to kind of unlearn, undo our conditioning in the context of our practice and our spirituality, we’re going to struggle, and probably all of us have.
And as much as I like to talk about how there is no separation, really, between mundane and spiritual, there is absolutely a separation between internal and external when it comes to our spiritual and magical practices. The parts of our practice which connects us to a community, to a culture, to a tradition with structure? Yeah, there are elements of… Like, if you’re going to practice an established tradition or within a culture or religion, it absolutely makes sense that there are things which need to be passed on to you, taught to you by others, by leaders and experts, and there’s a certain amount of need for external validation at play there because it’s involving you in a larger system, a larger established structure.
But even when we practice within that kind of religion or culture or tradition, there’s an element of our inner spirituality, our inner practice, which doesn’t fall within that. So the validation for our inner work, our personal vision, I think that really has to come from within us. It has to be inner validation, which is something we’re not really taught how to give ourselves.
A lot of people are really uncomfortable with the idea of trusting our own thought processes, our own discernment, especially in a spiritual context because we’ve mixed spirituality and religion so thoroughly together. But for most of us, our magical practices aren’t conducted in a context where there are doctrines and rules and authorities to report to, right? I would actually… If you think about the nature of magical practice, the nature of tapping into individual power on an individual basis, that doesn’t mesh well with systems in which there’s a huge authoritarian power over everything.
Like, there’s a logical doctrinal reason why in christianity, a monotheistic religion based on obedience and deference to an all-powerful singular deity, the only powers and abilities held on an individual basis are the ones expressly permitted and bestowed by that deity within defined parameters and with clearly expressed punishments for doing the wrong thing. Magic isn’t that. Magic doesn’t… The idea of holding individual power the way we hold it in magical practice is completely different than that. It’s a process of, like, trial and error. Not obedience and punishment. Not structured learning and external reward.
So it becomes our responsibility to find a way to trust ourselves, to validate ourselves, to become comfortable with setting our own parameters. Which is what I want to dig into next.
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Now back to the episode!
Now, I want to separate the concept of self-esteem from self-worth when we’re having this discussion, because I think they’re different in important ways when it comes to what those things enable us to do.
Self-esteem as a concept comes do our personal assessment of self as compared to other people. It’s an assessment. It’s really about our opinion of ourselves, so it’s essentially subjective. And when it comes to validating ourselves, it’s definitely not very healthy to hold our validation hostage to whatever internal comparisons we make between ourselves and our perception of others.
If there’s any message I want to get across and have you really internalize, it’s that none of us have to prove ourselves or reach some kind of standard to gain the right to take the reins on our own spiritual journey. It’s not a case of some people, the ones who are enlightened or super smart or who have read the most or achieved some level of whatever, being granted the ability or having gotten some special thing where they get to be pioneers or get to forge their own path.
So it’s not a matter of self-esteem in our work, it’s not about getting to a point where we feel that we’re special enough or that we’ve achieved enough that we feel like… See, when I think about self-esteem, what tends to come to mind for me is that feeling of confidence that is, like, based on our perceived likelihood that we’ve met whatever outside, whatever exterior standards there are. That’s entirely different from self-worth.
Self-worth is an acknowledgment of value regardless of and separate from whatever external standards there are. In terms of our practices, our spiritual paths, it’s an internal recognition that we have the ability to choose our own paths and build our own practices regardless of how we compare to others. That our value as practitioners, the value of our practices themselves, is the same no matter where we are on our path.
But if that’s something new, if that’s a new idea and if it’s a difficult one to kind of internalize and wrap your head around, how do we get there?
So the first thing I would recommend is to sit down and do some introspection, some journaling, some meditation, whatever form it needs to take for you, and think about what validation looks like to you. If there was someone else who needed to give their approval or whatever for you to feel worthy, what would that look like? What would they say to you? What would they do for you? And then do those things for yourself. Say them to yourself. Print them out and hang them up, repeat them as mantras, turn them into rituals, whatever makes sense for your practice. But literally practice giving yourself the validation that you need.
Because here’s what I realized along my own path. I’m… I know I’m not the only one who thinks the things I think, I know I’m not blazing a trail into entirely new ideas, but I don’t know anyone in my real life who has exactly the same way of looking at things, the same way of practicing. And for a long time that was a struggle for me. There was the voice in my head that said, you know, you’re not a certified expert in anything, so just because your ideas and the stuff you’ve researched and whatever makes sense to you doesn’t mean anyone else is going to take you seriously. There was the part of me who searched for some kind of existing label to fit into, some way to fit my own spiritual path into what was already established so that I didn’t have to try and explain my practice to people. There was that, you know, constant awareness that what others generally thought of when it comes to spirituality or witchcraft or whatever, that they expected me to know or do certain things and that I actively chose not to do some of those things and therefore if I tried to explain why it might come across like me criticizing their practices. That was me for a long time.
But the reality is that my practice isn’t going to be anyone else’s. I’m not starting my own religion. I’m not starting a cult. It’s mine. So even if nobody else practices or believes the way I do, that literally doesn’t impact my ability to practice and believe that way. And I realized that giving those opinions or, I mean, a lot of them weren’t even things that others had said, it was just my own inner thoughts about what might happen, what might be thought, and giving those thoughts and opinions a place in my practice was letting other people become, like, a particular kind of spirit guide within my practice where they didn’t belong.
So if that’s the case, if you’ve got those outside voices butting in and setting up a place in your practice where they’re, you know, not being particularly helpful, treat those voices the same way you would treat any other unwanted entity in your practice, whether that means spirits and that kind of entity or whether that means people who you want to keep out of your spiritual life. Whatever it is in your practice.
I talk a lot about how our houses, our living spaces are our sacred spaces and we should set them up to be whatever we need them to be so they’re safe, so we feel free to be our authentic selves, so they really feel like our space that we have domain over, you know? And the same goes for our spiritual space in a mental and emotional sense. When we’re practicing, that’s our domain. Those thoughts and feelings and communications are something we get to draw our own boundaries around, so we have to set them up to allow our voice and energy to be primary and for us to have control over what other voices and energies are allowed in or kept out.
So along with literally giving ourselves validation, being mindful of what does and doesn’t get a spot in our practice and being active in either bringing in or pushing out those things, and especially in giving ourselves permission to change our minds, is a good step towards reinforcing our own spiritual self-worth and feeling more comfortable in the drivers seat on our spiritual journey.
But where does that leave us in terms of our connection to our communities and how we interact with whatever is outside our spiritual sphere?
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So one of the big problems with encouraging everyone to be their own guide, to validate themselves, to navigate their own path is that it, on the surface at least, it can seem to divorce everyone’s individual opinions and ideas from all criticism and context. So when there is problematic behavior, when there are conflicts between one person’s… uh, I’ve heard the term UPG floating around lately and I have to admit it’s not something I’d heard before, but it’s a good term for what a some of this is, and it stands for unverified personal gnosis… So when one person’s understanding of their own spiritual path, what arises from them taking that leadership position in their own spirituality and practice and actually self-validating and self-affirming their worth, when that conflicts with other individuals or group members, if we rest everything in spirituality on our individual right to assert our own authority, we… It doesn’t work.
Complete spiritual anarchy is extremely problematic once it spills over the bounds of the individual’s internal spiritual experience. Once a thought is expressed, once a belief prompts a behavior, once someone’s unverified personal gnosis gets taught to others as revealed knowledge, then the game has changed. And this is also when the feeling of self-validation and self-worth, when that nice little bubble can get popped and we end up back in that position of trying to get external validation for our path and feeling really crappy about our practice.
So here’s the thing. Part of that authority we have over our own practice includes the ability to determine whose opinions we value, who we listen to as guides, teachers, whatever and who we don’t. That’s absolutely part of our spiritual life because spirituality connects us to others. So part of this process of self-validation and really stepping into the leadership position in our individual spirituality is determining for ourselves whether we want or need guidance or teaching, who is going to give it and in what context, what we do with that information or input when we get it, how much we’re interested in sharing our own internal spiritual processes and experiences with others, all of that.
It’s like… If we go back to the example where I compared having our own sacred spaces, our own private places where we are safe being ourselves to having our own internal mental and emotional spaces where we’re spiritually safe to be authentic, where it’s our protected internal spiritual space, I think it’s good to think about it in terms of whose ideas and voices are welcome in that space and whose are not at any given moment. That’s what it means to build an individually authentic spiritual life. It means being the one who gets to choose how that boundary works, what stays out and what comes in.
And also what we, you know, what we put out. How our knowledge, how our insight, how our UPG expresses itself in what we say, what we do, what we share, the choices we make. Because ultimately we are never in control of other people, right? If what comes from our own internal personal spiritual practice or magical practice gets us in hot water with other people, we don’t control those people. We don’t control their reactions. They’re as entitled to their perception as we are to ours.
So ultimately this is… It’s not about getting validation or invalidation, but it is still part of our learning path, part of our process of maturing and growing within our personal path. Those interactions with others, whether they’re good or they’re contentious, those are part of the flow of spirit and it’s part of our spiritual responsibility, our spiritual autonomy to develop the ability to direct that flow in our lives.
Now, when it comes to how we can develop and hone the ability to discern and direct these interactions, these exchanges around our spiritual practice and all of that, I think the most foundational thing goes right back to our, you know, our spiritual autonomy and authority within our private spiritual life, our personal spirituality, because it means determining those parameters for interacting and taking responsibility for our spiritual worldview.
And what I mean by that is that it’s up to each of us to decide things like, you know, how important is it to express disagreement when we disagree with someone? Or what are the things which qualify someone as a good source for information or opinions and what are your personal red flags? Having an understanding of what you think of the context around you.
Like, for instance, for me, as someone who believes that it’s important for everyone to form and build their own spiritual practice to fill their own needs, and as someone whose personal spiritual practice is really centered on thinking things through, working out philosophical puzzles, all of that, I will engage in discussion and debate, I’ll offer my own thoughts when I think the context calls for it, but I consider it a waste of time to call people out and try to change people’s minds because it doesn’t have an impact on my own spirituality for other people to have different beliefs.
And understanding if that’s how you approach things or if you have different standards, different outlook, is how we all establish and maintain that, you know, that grip on the steering wheel in our spiritual lives. Which is why it’s important to do what is necessary to own your authority within your personal spirituality, to practice self-validation and find that feeling of self-worth in your practice.
Thank you so much for listening. New episodes of the Waxing Soul drop every Thursday. All materials and resources except the music are copyright Bridget Owens. Many thanks to my readers, listeners, friends, mentors, inspirations, and my framily for riding with me into season two. Until next week, blessed be and be good to yourself.