The concept of a “self” can be tricky to define and understand. More difficult yet to live…because the self is not interested in what other people are doing, thinking, feeling, believing: it is interested in being itself.
“Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others.
Unfold your own myth, without complicated explanation.” – Rumi
Here’s a peek at my self and an evening in which it revealed a bit more of it’s color and shape.
As I left work the other day, I caught a glimpse of myself in the rear view mirror. What would normally be a quick look at my hair or critique of wrinkles and blemishes instead became an incredibly powerful encounter with my self. Without a conscious intention to do so, I spoke to myself:
I am so proud of you.
I am so proud of who you are.
The woman you have become
The mentor/boss/program maker and procedure shaper you are at work.
Who and how you are – I am so proud of you.
It’s taken so much hard work to get here. And I am so proud of you.
Guys. As a life-long perfectionist that has feared that I’m not _(everything)_ enough for most of my 11,843 days of life – this was a life shifting moment.
At the time, I expressed gratitude for this moment and the gift of self-acceptance…and then I drove home. I listened to NPR as I sat in traffic. I walked my dog. I tried to make dinner. But with each minute that passed, I realized that I was really struggling. My mind had gone blank, hazy, and anxious all at the same time. My heart was heavy and increasingly distraught. I stressed about how best to “use” the evening and pressured myself to do the “right things”….but everything felt out of reach. I sought refuge in a book, a helpful break from myself, but it only helped for a little while. I prayed. I journaled. I meditated. And then this happened.
First, it occurred to me that my mind doesn’t always have to be in order.
In my journal I wrote: My mind can be messy or off or strange…and I can still be safe and okay. Feeling so off feels familiar in a difficult way — reminiscent of those high school and college years. I really struggled. … Becoming was very difficult. Safety cannot lie in mental stability.
My point here was that my mind is not the only part of me– and if it is struggling, perhaps heart or body can lead the way for a while. For months now I’ve been getting more acquainted with heart. I intentionally don’t say “my” heart– because it doesn’t belong to me…it is me. Grappling with this concept hurts my brain, but is also a great relief…because living with mind in charge most of my life has brought a lot of pain. Mind and heart and body are all needed – each has a part to play.
Heart knows the way. Trust.
And I sat again for a while in quiet, messy mind and beating heart.
It’s seeing that proud strength – looking at myself in the eyes – it’s unnerved me. It’s caused me to remember the younger girl and woman who was way less proud and confident. Ashamed, afraid, confused: This is never who I was. These are experiences I had. Feelings. Beliefs…. none of which are me.
I’ve come so far. Become beautiful. Strong. Capable.
Memories swirled through my mind. Of times that I have struggled, been afraid, idolized others and judged myself. Things that I regret and that still pierce with sadness. Times when I felt lost. Alone. Depressed. Crazy. Anxious. Stuck. So incredibly sad.
And then the best gift of all:
I honor and respect all of me. All parts of me. All times of me. Each difficult time in life, each moment and choice. Each fear and regret. Each pleasure and joy. Each becoming and stumble. I honor each and every moment of these 32 years, 5 months and 2 days. All of these versions of me. Some feel like life times ago. So many me’s ago. Each one- I honor and respect.
I honor and respect others —> as other. Not me.
My worth doesn’t come from or depend upon them.
I am responsible only for myself.
I can be generous, loving, fair- with good boundaries. I will be me.
(For anyone that has struggled with codependency, tending to and respecting the self is particularly hard. You can see it here in the last paragraph– I can’t write “I am responsible only for myself” without also tacking on a reassurance that I will be considerate of others. It’s frankly stressful to declare that I will tend my own yard and allow others to tend theirs…even though that’s exactly what we are supposed to be doing as humans. There is no alternative– it’s just how things are. Even so, I have to end this paragraph before I include another caveat.)
What happened that evening felt mysterious and yet also simple. I looked in the mirror and spoke truth to my self – and the truth cast light on a part that was ready to come out of shadow. It was unsettling and weird and required that I watch and listen for what was happening.
Who we truly are – the self – is destined to become and grow. Supporting it to do so requires that we accept every iteration of self that has ever been or will be – however difficult or even ugly parts of your life have been. Every screw up, every shameful hiding, every hateful action, everything- you have to face and honor it all. This is not the same as condoning, nor is it saying that you want to do those things ever again. But if any part of you remains in the dark, cast aside because you are ashamed or embarrassed or afraid of it – this is a valuable part of you that is needed for your self to fully become. You need all of you.
Just trust yourself, then you will know how to live – Goethe
Don’t worry about the months or years you’ve been trying to be someone you are not, judging and fretting over your life choices to make sure you fit with the idea your family/culture/church/partner has given you. Or if your like me, all the years you’ve spent trying to emulate and please other people because you didn’t trust that being you was good enough.
No matter how covered up, shoved aside, slandered, or ignored it has been – your true self never stops trying to live in the light. Get quiet. Watch. Listen. Be brave.
Invite your heart to take the lead.