There’s something to be said about the way we look at weakness in ourselves. This train of thought is often from a place of judgment and being hard on ourselves about self-perceived weaknesses, vulnerabilities, or some “alleged flaw,” which starts the comparison to others. With social media, this can take place every few minutes as we scroll. To be clear, I’m not just talking about external appearance, but I also want to be clear that I’m not excluding it from the conversation.
I think we’re often quick to disavow our relationship to comparison as it concerns the way we look because of the societal culture of being “snatched” or learning to “love ourselves as we are” and the fact remains that many of us struggle with insecurity with our appearance at some time or another.
But that’s not all this convo is about.
I’d like you to take the opportunity, while you’re reading this, to open the door to the ways you may define yourself based on who you believed you were, and what you’ve been told you should be – that keeps you boxed in, rather than encouraged to grow.
I desire to move through life without unrealistic expectations and standards on myself, and I’m also trying to allow my mind the freedom to see how I still crave terribly to meet those expectations and standards, often, in ways that feel out of my control.
Self-love has been keeping me grounded through this particular space of self-discovery, and the way that I’ve been cultivating self-love is through intentionally taking care of myself in whatever way my body and mind are calling for at that moment. But it’s hard to manage because, in the thick of life, other things can seem more important. But fear is debilitating, so I’ve made the intention to dig deep even when all I want to do is pretend none of this exists.
I think it’s essential for you to understand that I do follow what I teach and more important than that, it’s just as scary and uncomfortable for me as it might be for you.
I try to be honest with myself and with people that I trust. But honestly, there’s a lot of shame, around having anxiety and around speaking truth, and even to this day, I’m unearthing layers of shame that exist in complex ways.
Shame that has been tightly woven for generations, to ensure that the fabric got stronger with each new branch of the family tree. And sometimes it’s important to honor the insecurities that come along with feeling chosen to plant, seed, and water a new tree. Not only within myself but within my children and their children.
All of this has brought me to redefine who I am again and again. Through each layer, I learn that it’s not that I don’t like or love who I am, but there are parts of me that have been given to me to help me weather the storm but are contributing to the storm itself. I keep discovering how we all continue to come back to this place of redefining ourselves and how the box we often place ourselves in can keep us from moving forward. And also, to define myself exclusively often feels like I’m saying I’ve reached some arrival point, and ultimately I like to leave my definition as one that’s ever-evolving and can start over if need be because I believe it will.
But with this consistent growth and redefinition is shifting and change. And this feels incredibly uncomfortable, can be lonely, and also brings tons of grief.
There’s this period of time where my focus is on trying to get back to who I was before I realize growth has already taken place, and I’ve shed that version of myself. I think we often believe there will be this exact line we’ll follow or steps that let us know we’ve shed another layer, and often it catches us by surprise.
We’ve most likely just got out of what may feel like a war or even a whirlwind of success and by the time we’re on the other side we have to walk ourselves back to discern what happened. Here is where awareness becomes a dear friend, highlighting things we missed. Ask yourself in this moment, how has this been hard for you?
For some of us, we’re in search of a sense of self we feel proud and happy being. And it causes us to get more degrees; to search for the perfect partner to validate us; to keep the weight down; to gossip; to over give, etc. Because we hope that in attaining the external desires, by participating in life the way we’ve been taught we should, by getting the things people say we should have, by getting the things that WE say we should have, that we’ll finally be seen, be cared for, be loved, and have value. And what I’m learning is that the value comes from self-belief, but when we haven’t been taught to believe in ourselves, we have to reprogram and unlearn what feels natural. And this is apart of our work.
The search for ourselves also brings up the insecurities, the fears, the anxiety, the overwhelming feeling of not belonging to any particular thing, family, person, place – even to self. And we work to overcome that in a world that isn’t particularly supportive of this.
So what’s the good news in all of this? Well if you’re reading this, then you’re trying to be present to what you need. And I believe that something that seems so small is one of the most critical parts of the work that we do. We’re learning to be there for ourselves and reach out to others when we need them.
We’re learning to reach out to those who can be there for us instead of reaching out to those who have shown us they can’t give what we need. We’re learning to be in the thick of what can feel so incredibly hard and gut-wrenching.
This work is HEALING, but it can get so tough that we sometimes choose projection over connection, judgment over joy, and we run away instead of staying present. And I don’t blame anyone that wants safety when it seems like the only available thing. But if we can learn to stretch past discomfort, love and acceptance is on the other side.
What I want you to get curious about are your patterns. What often brings you through your cycles? What starts your insecurity? When is it tougher to be intentional? When are you more likely to compare yourself?
And where do you feel you are at this moment?
I’d love for you to share what came up for you while reading this piece.
With love and compassion, be well x
Photo by Erika Layne Photography