I've been immersed in working on self-care these last few months, as a result of some old "stuff" that has reared its head.
It's been an opportunity to really dive deep into what it means to take care of myself, love myself, be tender with myself, and look at myself from the perspective of my higher self. I've realized that along the way I've picked up messages about what it means to be me in context of the world, and what it means to be "good" and "right." Some of these messages go completely against what I know to be true about myself in the deepest and most profound way.
I'd like to share with you some of the things I wish I knew when I was younger.
If I had known them, I would have saved myself (and those I've hurt along the way by not being my authentic and beautiful self) a lot of heart ache. It's my hope in that sharing them, you will be able to see yourself reflected here, and somehow be able to love yourself a little more, too:
1. You were born perfectly imperfect. Everything about you: your true nature, your expressions, your core desires and dreams, your personality and person-hood is a gift. Please don't spend your life trying to change who you are in order to fit the mold of what you think the world (parents, friends, church) wants you to be. For me, a few examples of this means that I wouldn't have spent years shaming myself for being gay, apologizing for my desires/preferences, and hating my sensitivity.
2. Amazing things happen in your life when you love yourself. To ride on the heels of #1, this is so important it deserved its own point. I grew up feeling like it was selfish, against God/my church, and narcissistic to love myself. It was God's job to love me. It was also hard to love myself when I was gay and knew I was going to hell for it. Oh, how I got this one wrong. I've learned that loving yourself is the best gift you can give yourself as well as the best gift you can give the world. It is stepping into the truth of who you are, standing tall in that, and seeing the beauty of who you are in the light and in the shadows. It's an ongoing lesson, one I am deeply involved in right now. Your body, life, and heart are healed when you truly step into loving yourself.
One of the people who taught me this best is Louise Hay. Her book You Can Heal Your Life is one of my all-time favorites. From her teachings, I've learned that it feels good to love yourself, and that it brings miracles and helps you love other people in the world better as well. She's the reason I have affirmations taped all over my house and car. My current favorite is this:
"I am at peace with my own feelings. I am safe where I am. I create my own security. I love and approve of myself."
3. The church doesn't have all the answers and is dead wrong about a lot of things. This one may not resonate with you if you didn't grow up in a church that shamed you for being gay, but I was raised in a church that was central to my being for most of my life. It taught me some great things, but it also taught me that I was wrong and not normal, that God was not pleased with me, and that I needed to change who I was at my core. I bought this hook, line, and sinker. Until I realized there are many other ways of being that don't include me being flawed or wrong for who I am. To me, this was a huge misrepresentation of God a disservice to all my fellow LGBTQ people.
4. Your parents are doing the best they can, but don't have all the answers and are sometimes wrong. Most of us want the approval of our parents. Even at age 32, I am still desirous of my parents' approval. I have great parents, and even so, learning that they are simply human, with their own set of hurts and wounds, with their own filters and stories, helped me understand that they are just people doing the best they can. I didn't really learn this until recently, and it has helped to heal my childhood wounds. If I could have known when I was a child that they were just people, who made mistakes like everyone else, and that they were expressing their beliefs through their own filter/lens/culture, then perhaps I could have understood that their way isn't necessarily THE WAY for me.
5. Your creativity is beautiful. I think we are all born creative beings. I've learned from Brené Brown's teachings on shame that many of us turn off our creativity in grade school because we have been shamed for our creativity. Learning to embrace your creativity again as an important expression of who you are is healing to the soul and may help you mold your dreams. In the last few months, I am opening up to my creativity in new ways. I am writing love letters to myself, I am writing new articles, I am playing my violin, learning guitar, and singing. I have goals of writing lyrics for a song, and have been hearing lines of poems float by in my head as well.
Once I started allowing creativity in again, its expression and healing power multiplied. After all, since we are all inherently creative in one way or another, allowing it is all we need to do. We don't have to force it, or make it happen.
6. Your dreams matter, Dear One. I've been spending time exploring my dreams and like the idea of telling the little girl inside me that her dreams matter and are a big part of mine today. You matter; you have always mattered.
7. You know your body better than anyone, including your doctor. This may be controversial for some. I am not suggesting that you ignore the advice of health care providers. However, I am suggesting that you (1) know your body better than anyone at a core level, and (2) not take the advice of someone else when you have a knowing inside you about the truth of the situation. A classic example is when your doctor doesn't listen to you when you know something is wrong with your body. As a child, sometimes it's difficult to declare ownership of your body. So, I would like to tell my child-self, that your body is all yours, and when you take time to listen to it, you know your body better than anyone else.
8. Your choices or mistakes do not define who you are. Yes, your choices help shape the look and texture of your life. But no one choice or mistake defines who you are. You define who you are. Life is about choices, and you will make some that you later wish you would have not, but those choices do not define who you are.
9. Sometimes your life purpose is to simply show up. When you get caught up in trying to discover your life purpose (I'm talking to my 20-something self here . . . and my 32 year-old-self), remember this: If you just keep showing up as you, you will discover your purpose. This means you don't have to chase the ends of the world to find your calling. Your calling is just that: it will find you because it's YOURS.
10. Have fun. I would like to tell my childhood self to have more fun. Laugh. Play. Do things that make you happy. Life is meant to be enjoyed. Explore. Find things that make you smile, feel fulfilled, and peaceful, and do them.
I love you, Child.
In the comments, I'd love to hear from you: What would you like to share with your child-self? How would that have changed your life now?