I have a handwritten note taped to my bathroom mirror that says, "I accept myself unconditionally right now. I love myself. I am safe".
I've been on a mission to cultivate more self love in my life.
With all the tapes I have running in my head that add up to feeling insecure, inadequate, or simply not enough, I use this reminder and say it out loud as I look at myself in the mirror. It's a way to help create new brain pathways that help me believe I am actually lovable, good enough, and that I'm worth accepting just as I am in each moment. (Special thanks for the inspiration, Louise Hay and Dr. Christiane Northrup).
I do it to validate myself so that it doesn't matter what people think of me, I will know I am good enough.
Living in a world where some people or organizations would like me to believe I am a bad person, not good enough, or am defective, cultivating self love is essential for me.
Sometimes I forget that external validation, while nice, is not essential to believing or living like I am good enough.
I can't hide away all day from anyone who I think might hurt me or offend me. (If I did, I'd be locked in my bedroom). However, I also have decided I am not required to continually subject myself to people or situations that make me feel badly about myself. Additionally, I don't think the social climate will change to one of inclusion or acceptance if people who live 'outside the mainstream' don't ever interact or lovingly live as an example to others of who they are and what they stand for.
I want to contribute to making our society a more accepting and inclusive culture.
This is mostly a direct result of the feelings I've about being a sexual minority in a homophobic society, as well as witnessing the pain of others who have also experienced this. While there are many safe and wonderful places for the LGBTQ community, there is also outright discrimination, hate, misunderstanding, and abuse. Sometimes you don't know if you are walking into a mine field of hatred. It's frustrating to not be able to be fully who you are without near-constant fear of rejection, judgement, or misunderstanding.
I've had times where I felt angry and lonely and I just wanted to retreat into my small circle of accepting friends and family. It's also been on my mind that this group of people who I think of as my safe place haven't always been "on the inside" with me and have, through me lovingly stand in my truth, come to accept and understand me. (See my post about my relationship with my mom.)
As a result of this desire to cultivate a culture for myself that is grounded in self love, and also a desire to balance my interactions with the world around me, I've created some personal guideposts to follow. I'd like to share them with you.
My guideposts for balancing self love and stepping into the world:
1. Know Your Safe Place: It's imperative to identify where and with whom you feel safe to be your full self. This is your "home base" so to speak. These people and places are essential for fostering a community and supporting you in your journey in this life. Your Safe Place may be one person; it may be a group of people. If you don't yet have a Safe Place, I suggest trying to find communities who will accept you for exactly who you are (think PFLAG, local GSA, etc. ). This is a place or community where you can always return, be yourself, and breathe easily.
2. Self Care is Essential: Understanding what brings you back to center or makes you feel nurtured is also just as important as with whom and where. For me, self care (that helps my transformation into self love) includes: sunshine, driving my car in the country, listening to music, writing, reading, naps, crying, sharing ideas with people I trust, and spending time in my Safe Place (see above). What brings you back to your center is what fuels you and recharges your battery. It also helps you create a safe place within yourself.
3. Pick Your Battles: One thing that was clear to me right away was that it's not good for my soul to be walking around making a big stink every time someone does something or says something that is personally hurtful or goes against my fundamental beliefs. Conversely, it's important for me to speak up when I see an injustice, or if there is an irresistible opportunity to stand in my truth. The gauge that works for me is this (and it's a work in progress): I evaluate how important it is for me to take action by my emotional reaction to the thought of speaking up/doing something versus staying quiet/removing myself from the situation. And sometimes I don't know the answer until after it's over, but this helps inform me for the future.
For example, I've learned I feel really shitty if I don't speak up when someone makes a disparaging comment about the LGBTQ community. Specifically, if someone is using insensitive language (see my interview with "That's So Gay" speaker and activist Ash Beckham here). Conversely, it bothers me when someone says something about politics that I vehemently disagree with, but sometimes not speaking up in those cases feels like a better decision than making a stink.
So, if not saying anything feels shittier to me than saying something would, I say something. If it's just not that important, I let it go.
The other important consideration besides what is being said or done is who is saying it or doing it. If it's someone I would prefer to have as a part of my Safe Place and someone with whom I want to cultivate a meaningful relationship, it's more important that I speak up. If it's someone who is on the periphery of my life and whoseopinion ultimately doesn't matter much to me, I'll let it slide (unless it's about an item on my Battles I Am Willing To Fight list.)
4. Letting Go of the Need for External Validation: This one is a biggie for me. We all have a desire to be liked and validated for who we are. However, things can get ugly when we rely on the approval of others for our self-worth. That's why cultivating self love and self care is of utmost importance. I don't want to stand up for my beliefs (i.e. fight my battles) in the hopes that I will change another person, but rather, I must do it because I love myself, regardless of what someone else thinks. Again, if it feels shitty when I don't speak up, it's because I feel as if I've betrayed myself. And I'm learning I am no willing longer to betray myself.
Enjoy external validation when it comes. But if you treat it like the icing on the cake, instead of one of the essential ingredients for a happy life, it won't matter so much if it's present or not.
5." Don't Shrink, Don't Puff Up, Stand Your Sacred Ground":Thanks to Brene Brown for coining this expression. This idea dovetails with the idea of "picking your battles," but it refers more to staying grounded in who you are. Brene Brown uses this expression in her own life to remind her who she is, and I think it's a beautiful mantra when facing someone or something that feels threatening or shaming. Don't be less than who you are. I have spent a lot of my life doing this. Being less than who you are looks differently for different people. For me, it's allowing myself to feel small when I feel insecure, afraid, or not good enough. I go into "people pleasing" mode, which doesn't please me at all. Don't let your ego take control. It's also easy for some people to "puff up" when they feel insecure or shameful. This also looks different for all of us, but for me, it's traditionally been putting people down, gossiping, or acting "better than" to validate my own self-worth (this doesn't work for shit, by the way.) Lastly, standing your sacred ground means exactly that: be you. Nothing more, nothing less.
I'm beginning to learn that who I am, standing in my point of view and standing my sacred ground, is exactly enough.
I invite you to think about what you can do to provide self care and cultivate self love for yourself. I also invite you put a handwritten note on your bathroom mirror. It may change your world.