we carry collected pain from so many moments. like the time during high school when you were first made fun of or when you didn’t get a high enough score to be placed in advanced classes. maybe you lost yourself in the transition to adulthood, parenthood, or somewhere else along the way. or perhaps you are experiencing pain from the present moment as life is unfolding in a way that is different from what you had planned. we all have these moments. some we continue to know because the wounds remain scabbed, fresh, and open; others are faint scars that have healed over the years. and i believe that like the outside of our bodies that serve as life maps covered with scars from a fishing trip, the first fall on a bike, or stretch-marks after a growth spurt or having your first child; the inside of our bodies carry memories of the experiences we have endured and the emotions we have attached to these moments.
we hold on to the words that hurt us and the disappointments we experienced when the outcome didn’t match our expectations. some people might carry pain, discomfort, insecurities and challenging emotions that come from enduring significant trauma in their life. others might carry the heaviness that accompanies feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, loneliness, or a lost sense of purpose. perhaps you are familiar with the sting of shame that presents itself in a wave of heat that takes over your body or knots in your stomach from feeling unworthy or never enough. and we all carry the pain from the heartache of lost love- whether that loss be from an imagined life dream, intimate relationship, friendship, goal, pet, or family member. our bodies store the emotions we experience and our minds collect all of the words that we consciously or unconsciously think. the sum of all of these experiences equate into who we are in this moment.
and sometimes the present moment is messy. sometimes we have mascara running down our face or we push back tears of frustration that we’ve been fighting with for far too long. and while the present moment can feel like too much to endure, endless, or unbearable, we often feel forced to pull it all together with a smile on our face because showing up honestly and openly feels too revealing and uncomfortable. so we show up in altered versions of ourselves and we act in ways that we do not fully understand; perhaps through increased alcohol consumption, restrictive eating habits, self-harming behaviors, or spending time with people who only pull you farther from your goals. we cover up insecurities through mistaken gestures of love or lose ourselves in misguided attempts to find happiness through busyness, people pleasing, productivity, or materialism. we search for reassurance, validation, and self-worth through other people’s approval, the numbers on a scale, or they way our clothes fit us. and still, something remains missing.
whether it be in large or small ways, these little bits of darkness that accumulate along the way begin to cloud our hearts and chip away at our self-worth, self-love, and inner light.
but the truth is, the world needs your brightness.
you need your brightness.
i know this because i know what it feels like when we go dim. our insides start to feel like a deserted, musty old attic room that aches for a little sunlight and fresh air. you start closing doors and boxing yourself in. you begin to feel like you’re living in a way that’s smaller than you actually are. maybe you’ve heard the little whisper in your heart or ringing softly in your ears reminding you that you are so much more than the present moment. that your life, your deepest radiance, is one of greatness and eternal love.
and if any of this holds true for you, you haven’t lost who you are, you’re just finding your way.
there is a deep calling to self-love within each of us, if only we would get quiet enough to listen, patient enough to try, and enduring enough to persevere. self-love is a fluid process that ebb and flows and because it is ever changing, it’s something we must work on daily. if you aren’t familiar with the shift from inner criticism to celebrating your worth, there are many ways to start:
1.. you can start by honoring who and where you are. begin to learn about the messages you tell yourself and gently consider where it is you find your worth- perhaps it comes from the attention you receive from the people around you, in your productivity, accomplishments, or ability to please others. get curious about your sadness, internal pressures, or constant worrying and perfectionism. maybe it is about making a decision to stop allowing your past to dictate your future while still honoring where it is you come from. you can start by allowing yourself to be exactly who you are in this moment without calling for a need to change or be anything different than you are. and begin to know that who you are is enough and that you have everything within you to become everything you aspire to be.
2.. you get curious about who you are and who you pretend to be in order to meet other people’s expectations. you start observing the comparisons you make or the put-downs you mutter about yourself or others. you watch your unkind judgments and assumptions of strangers and recognize that your perception of others is often a reflection of yourself and the way you are feeling. and during this process, you give yourself permission to gently exit people from your life and make peace with the fact that some relationships and people are not meant for you. you recognize that perhaps inner growth will take place in the letting go, the moving on. it means you lean into the guilt you experience when saying no to others so that you can start to say yes to yourself.
3. you improve yourself through kindness. kindness towards your body and love to your soul. self-love is a practice that includes the way you view yourself when you look into the mirror, the way you talk to yourself in the secrecy of your mind, and the way you nourish yourself throughout your days. the movement towards self love is showing yourself the same compassion, understanding, and kindness that you would treat your dearest friend. its a process of forgiving flaws and owning up to mistakes. so maybe you are kind to yourself by taking a nap in the middle of a sunday afternoon when the sun is shining into your window just right even though you have a million other things that need to be done. or for you, it might be about increasing your awareness of the background noise of anxiety that attempts to drown out your sense of enjoyment and play. it’s recognizing that you are worthy and deserving of the happiness that comes your way and not allowing your mind to rob you of the joy, gratitude, and contentment of the present moment out of fear of future what-if’s, anxieties, and catastrophes.
4. you practice things that bring you joy, calmness, and energy. you start listening to the quiet inner voice that knows your heart and the sweetness that you need. maybe you need a day full of pajamas and blankets or an afternoon of laughter with friends. you begin prioritizing your well-being and understand that you’re most capable of offering the purest love to others when you develop that same love for yourself. i journal. drink tea. read. exercise. i practice yoga and meditate, and sometimes i eat five chewy chocolate chip cookies in a row. i honor my need for personal time and get curious about times when i feel anxious, incompetent, or upset. i share my insecurities and ease in to vulnerability. and when you practice self-love you become selective of the way you spend and give of your time. you stop collecting other people’s negativity and make a decision to be soft and patient with yourself.
5. you allow yourself to heal. and healing can be uncomfortable. our individual experiences of healing will take different paths and different amounts of time, and all of it is necessary for our journey. you welcome the raw and truthful expression of emotion and you promise to be gentle with yourself as you grow. there is no time limit on healing and you allow yourself to take as long you need. it will be a long and windy road filled with detours of disappointments or a return to old behaviors, but you continue to try. sometimes self-love is about allowing yourself to face your sadness, to speak your hurts, and to sit with your feelings. sometimes self-love is recognizing all that you have endured. its looking for those little glimmers of hope that present themselves to us in the darkest of moments.
so i support you to grow in love towards yourself. i challenge you to ask yourself where it is that you hurt and why. talk if you need to or write if the words flow more easily that way. and if the tears come, let them. i encourage you to be a little more gentle, patient, and accepting of your best effort as you try.
you are wonderful and capable and kind.
and you are deserving of your love.