While growing up, I don’t think I even realized that one of my biggest fears was that people wouldn’t like me.
Now, after having done plenty of inner work, I realize I experienced this fear simply because I didn’t deeply love, accept, and even know who I was, and how to care for myself, let alone know what my own needs were, or how to practice the Art of Extreme Self Care.
Growing older has its advantages. Over the years, I’ve learned to pay attention to, and take care of what I need. So that rather than looking for the approval of my friends and loved ones, I can simply be with them and we can delight in each other’s company.
I am human though, and I still have moments of insecurity. I want them to like me. Perhaps what’s different now, is that I don’t need them to like me. I’m practicing being present, and simply being who I truly am, with all my gifts and my muck— knowing that like the lotus flower, I blossom not in spite of my muck, but because of my muck.
I write above “practicing being present,” as I know that in my human experience I have a life-long opportunity to practice. There’s no one quick answer, or one quick “fix’”to all the challenges I face in my humanity. As “a spiritual being having a human experience,’” I get ample opportunity to practice many challenging lessons. I believe that’s why we’re here, having this human experience. And we may as well enjoy, and have fun with our practice too, while we’re still here. It won’t last forever.
I wrote the above short essay for a writing class I was taking on the Art of the Personal Essay— this particular exercise was to “Write about a topic that you’ve been afraid to approach until now.” I received feedback from my fellow writers and readers that they were interested in seeing this essay expanded. The first idea readers wanted to know more about was what kind of inner work I’d been doing. A fully expanded version of my inner work can be read here. But in a nutshell, for the past two years, I have been reading, writing, and learning about the world’s religions in a two-year interfaith seminary class, where I have learned to cultivate a daily spiritual practice, or “Sādhanā,” that is the crucible of my inner work. When issues trigger me in my daily life, I sit with those issues in my Sādhanā, looking within for answers, and what may be my part in the situation where I’m being triggered.
My fellow writers and readers also wanted to know more about The Art of Extreme Self Care. This is a concept I learned about from Cheryl Richardson’s book of the same name. Just the title itself says so much, and has been another element of my ongoing daily practice.
There was also interest in hearing about how, as the narrator, I moved from the person I was, to the person I am now. I could write a book on this. In fact I am writing a book on this (written with a smile.) It’s been a long process, and one of the key elements has been the last two years of interfaith seminary studies, where I have been inspired:
• to have the courage to be true to who I authentically am— knowing I need both my gifts and my muck;
• to strengthen my connection with my own soul;
• to reinvigorate my connection with my own inner divinity, inner knowing, intuition and creativity; and
• to practice the art of extreme self-care, radical self-acceptance, deep compassion, and infinite impersonal love.
How does this translate into my day-to-day living? I feel my life is filled with meaning and purpose, and I’m feeling joyfully liberated and free.
And while I still enjoy being liked, I am no longer so fearful of others not liking me.
There was also interest from my classmates in living “life as practice, no right or wrong, no perfection.” This is akin to many Buddhist ideas I have learned over the years. It’s also akin to what I’m reading in Brené Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection. Another book in the same vein is Arielle Ford’s Wabi Sabi Love: The Ancient Art of Finding Perfect Love in Imperfect Relationships, which discusses the simple tenants of Wabi Sabi—to find the perfection and beauty of imperfection in both ourselves and our beloved.
My husband and beloved partner-in-life of more than twenty years has a tendency to resist things that I may suggest. It’s a huge opportunity for me to practice simply accepting his resistance as part of who he is. I can’t say that I’m always successful with doing this (sometimes it will still piss me off), but I’m aware of it, and we even manage to laugh at it sometimes. It’s an ongoing practice.
On his side— he has come to accept, laugh at, and even love my propensity to not fully screw lids back on jars, and leave cupboard doors and drawers open. It’s easy to fall into the trap of “what you’re doing makes me crazy” but it’s these little things about ourselves and our loved ones that make each of us who we are.
Over the years I’ve realized I want to be loved for who I am, not who someone else thinks I should be.
More recently I’ve learned to give that love and acceptance to myself, and what’s interesting, is that as I give this gift to myself, I’ve also realized that I love being “seen” by others. When my husband recognizes not only my muck, but when he sees and values one of my gifts, it’s one of the most beautiful feelings in my human experience.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editorial Assistant: Kim Haas/Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo credits: Dennis Brekke on Flickr