“Loving yourself […] does not mean being self-absorbed or narcissistic, or disregarding others. Rather it means welcoming yourself as the most honored guest in your own heart, a guest worthy of respect, a lovable companion.”
– Margo Anand
I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and ran across a post that my badass cousin had shared. I’d never have guessed that a simple Facebook post could impact me so deeply. The post was vulnerable and authentic, which I found all the more poignant as it was being shared by a woman I knew to be incredibly grounded and strong. I so resonated with the truth of it all that I decided to repost it in my feed. Within minutes my page was blowing up! I think many thought that I had written the post, which I did not. I wish I knew who did so I could give them credit.
This is the post:
I’ve H A T E D this woman…
Actually, I’ve not loved her at all most of her life.
I’ve fed her lies and told her she wasn’t good enough and have allowed others to tell her she isn’t good enough.
I’ve allowed her to be broken. I’ve allowed others to treat her disrespectfully. I’ve allowed her to run through brick walls and battle for others who won’t even stand for her.
I couldn’t stop others from abandoning her, but I’ve seen her stand up and be a light for the world and love others despite all that.
I have stood paralyzed by fear while she fought battles in her mind, heart and soul.
This woman has screwed up many times as a partner, as a daughter, as a mother and as a friend because she didn’t think she was worthy of self love or the love of others.
She has a smart mouth, a stubborn streak, and she has secrets. She has scars because she has a history. She has so, so many scars…
Some people love this woman, some like her, and some don’t care for her at all… But she is beginning to love herself.
She has done good in her life, she has done not so good in her life.
Every mistake, failure, trial, disappointment, success, joy and achievement has made her into who she is today.
You can love her or not—but if she loves you she will do it with her whole heart.
She is dramatic and sometimes she is scatter-brained. She will not pretend to be who she is not. She will make no apologies for who she is. Never will she again.
This woman is a WARRIOR.
She’s not perfect, but she has a lot of WORTH.
Gracefully broken, but beautifully standing.
She is LOVE.
She is LIFE.
She is TRANSFORMATION.
She is GRACE.
She is BRAVE.
… and she will never stop learning or moving forward…
She is me ……
What strikes me is that this message resonates with so many, particularly women. Maybe my age makes me more willing to reflect and be vulnerable with these feelings of self-doubt and honesty about a life lived, not always well.
In my TEDx talk, I speak about the illusion of perfection. I say, “there is no such thing as perfection. It is an illusion, a story we make up or something someone told us about how things, including ourselves, ‘should’ be.” I call BS on living in the land of made-up stories, in fact I call it MSU: Making Shit Up.
When we live in the land of MSU, we leave our present moment. Then we live the delusion that something or someone out there will make us happy or fulfill our needs. The story is not real, in my experience “he ain’t coming.” It is up to us to find and live our own stories, to be the author, producer, and actors in our own movies.
Not only do we make shit up, we live in a culture of comparison. We compare ourselves to others, and in the comparison we rob ourselves of joy.
In her Psychology Today article, Is Comparison the Thief of Joy?, Amy Summerville Ph.D. writes, “more than 10% of daily thoughts involve making a comparison of some kind.” We compare, and we believe that others are living perfect lives.
In high school, I had this friend who was cute, a cheerleader, dating the best-looking guy, and I thought she had it all. In college, I commuted to school with a young woman who was dating a medical student and living in a really hip part of town. I thought she had it all. Early in my career, I had a friend from a very wealthy family, and we used to go to her parents house to party and hang out. I thought she had it all. Guess what, in hindsight, knowing what I know now, these women did not have it all. They had family traumas, self-doubts, made mistakes, and just like me they got up and went on. No one has it all. The grass is not always greener, and we all suffer.
Learning to love and accept ourselves, just as we are, is one of life’s greatest challenges, at least for me. On a recent coaching call, I discussed authenticity with a group of female executives—authenticity as it relates to speaking up and being ourselves even if it is uncomfortable. One of the women said she felt like this is easier to do the older we get. Unfortunately, I think there is truth in that for many of us. So what would it take for us to “get this” earlier in our lives? Tara Brach, author of Radical Self Acceptance, says, “The way out of our cage begins with accepting absolutely everything we are feeling about ourselves and our lives, by embracing with wakefulness and care our moment-to-moment experience.”
Staying present to what we are feeling, allowing “what is” to just be, is the key. But it is so freakin’ hard! I have spent the last 15 years teaching clients this in my Empowerment practice. And……. I still struggle!
Leon F Seltzer Ph.D wrote in Psychology Today: “We must ask ourselves specifically what it is we don’t accept about ourselves and, as agents of our own healing, bring compassion and understanding to each aspect of self-rejection or denial. By doing so, we can begin to dissolve exaggerated feelings of guilt and shame, based on standards that simply didn’t mirror what could realistically be expected of us at the time.” The key to improving our self-esteem is to develop awareness of the parts of ourselves that we do not as yet accept. When we stop judging ourselves, we are able to learn to love ourselves unconditionally.
Learning to love ourselves must include self-compassion. It is one of the most powerful things we can give ourselves. Self-compassion includes the realization that we are not alone, that we all suffer, and that we can be our very own best friends. I’ll leave you with the work of Kristen Neff, an associate professor at the University of Texas Austin’s department of educational psychology. She is one of the world’s leading experts on self-compassion, and she offers insights and a quiz on self-compassion on her website. I encourage you to visit her website and take the quiz. It is powerful!
As we move into this new year, may we all do our best to unconditionally accept ourselves and others. We do not serve our higher selves with self-judgement or comparisons to others. We are all unique, our own divine seed, waiting to be bathed in self-acceptance, love and compassion.
May we honor ourselves and others in this awareness.
Happy New Year!
Further Reading: The Path to Unconditional Self-Acceptance