Within the illusion we experience progress, sometimes in leaps and bounds, and then suddenly, things start to go backward again, and we re-experience what we struggled so hard to change outside of us. This pattern occurs because of our programming, because of the way we are always looking externally and trying to change others and how they view or treat us.

As human beings we insist on all of these outward changes without actually transforming our own internal programming, without changing the biases and prejudices we carry around within us right here in our heads. These ideas and beliefs about ourselves can’t actually evolve until we learn to release the deep-rooted emotional charge that supports them. Unconsciously, we are fighting against our own belief systems; hence, the progress we think we’ve acquired on the outside diminishes after a while, because deep down we agree with our prejudices.

Recently, I was listening to a group of women talking about women’s rights, and they were commenting on the women in their village and on all the truly inspirational work they’d done to support change there. As an Australian woman in the midst of all this talk, I was surprised to hear the sudden proclamation, “And we even got them married,” as if now that these women were married, they could finally be complete. These words came from a highly intelligent graduate from a renowned American university, and still she had the belief that a woman must marry in order to be complete.

Why? Because on an unconscious level she is still identifying with her deeply-rooted, internalised cultural beliefs. I am not complete until I find a man that validates me. It’s obvious that this belief, shared in the middle of such an incredible discussion, has nothing to do with women’s rights. Rather, it has to do with what is happening deep within. Below the surface, it is so easy for us to align with our inner prejudices, and this unconscious alignment is why external progress can be so slow, why it takes so long for things to truly change. We move forward and then our inner prejudice dilutes things and draws us back into the program.

Really, I don’t know if people can ever truly change; without deep personal work, I don’t think they can. What I think they can do is go beyond their programming to the point of no longer listening to it, but the program will still be there, just ignored. Until we can find our own internal experience of peace and our inner greatness based in unconditional love, we don’t really have anything at all; we are simply looking at our own prejudices reflected back to us from the outside. This fact is easy to observe: If you ever have to fight to validate yourself, you can be sure that you have a judgment within.

On a personal level, it never even occurred to me that I was limited by being a woman, so I have always felt free to do the same jobs as men. I’ve never thought: they are not going to let me do something because I am a woman. I didn’t think I’m a woman; I was just determined. At the same time, I often noticed how my mother, a successful academic, had a way of trying to keep me small and feminine, less athletically talented, less outspoken, not so progressive, ambitious or focused. She wanted me to fit in and not “make others feel bad,” as if all these positive qualities, so applauded in men, were somehow disagreeable in a woman.

But being our greatness always comes back to healing ourselves, to going beyond the thoughts and prejudices that limit us internally. If my success depends on me being twice as good as a man, or on overcoming the circumstances of my sex or gender, I have to look deep within and shine a light on the thoughts and beliefs inside of me that condemn me to struggle. Why do I, as a woman, put my needs last? Why do I, as a woman, eat the burnt toast or do all the catering? Why do I, as a woman, abandon myself in the search for approval? Is it to be seen as a good girl, or as someone who has worth? But how can this self-abandonment give value to my humanity? It can’t, because I am agreeing unconsciously with the very beliefs that limit me.

Will things ever change? I don’t really know. On some level maybe they will, but the truth is that we are having a human experience, so to some degree we are meant to feel this limitation, we are meant to use it to challenge us toward more by using each aspect that we perceive as flawed as a way to experience more love, more acceptance and more self-awakening. In the end, these limitations are the very thing that make us evolve.

The real question we need to ask ourselves is this: Do I want to be a victim of my seemingly limited circumstances, whether they be my sex, colour, race, preference or financial situation, or do I want to be a masterful creator who takes full responsibility for my own life, who goes beyond all the odds to heal myself profoundly and inspire others to do the same?

The moment I am being the best of myself I have already succeeded in being a creator. Do I wish to let go of my own internal prejudices so I can lovingly demonstrate to others how to live compassionately from a place of unity and understanding? Fundamentally, this is the question I am asking: Do I wish to be a vessel of love through my own self-realization?