I heard this sentence in yoga class at age 21. From what I can remember, the yoga instructor started the conversation by explaining the root of a Sanskrit word, and that somehow led into revealing this nugget of knowledge: “You are whole, not perfect, but whole.”
I was born into a religious community that believed in “original sin.” Confession was a regular sacrament. This inherent “badness” needed to be cleansed from the soul. Yet no amount of confession would ever clear it away. Cleanliness is next to godliness?
But what if I was enough? Wholly, uniquely myself, without looking for forgiveness or reasons to legitimize my worth?
We all grow up with societal pressures. Even with the most emotionally supportive parents, you can’t help but begin to hear, “you’re too fat, not tall enough, skinny enough, black enough.”
They say at age nine, girls reach their peak of self-esteem and then it begins to submerge into the murky waters of self-doubt.
Over happy hour, I recently spoke about this self-esteem epidemic with a friend.
She abruptly broke out into reciting a Beyoncé song, Pretty Hurts:
“Perfection is a disease of a nation, pretty hurts, pretty hurts/Pretty hurts, we shine the light on whatever’s worst/We try to fix something but you can’t fix what you can’t see/It’s the soul that needs the surgery.”
I wouldn’t call myself a knowledgeable Beyoncé fan. If I hear her music on the radio, I always do turn it up, but I had no idea about this song. As my friend sat across from me, uttering the last line, we both had glimmers of tears in our eyes as the last word, “surgery,” dropped heavy on the bar top.
The tears weren’t necessarily sad tears; they represented the realization of how delusional we are when it comes to doubting our self-worth.
The idea that you are enough, just the way you are, is an empowering concept—if one allows oneself to believe it. Once you believe that all your flaws make you flawless and that you are not good or bad, but simply you—the whole, limber body, beating heart, breathing you—an undeniable spring is put in your step.
Your sulk becomes a strut.
Some people already know their true worth. They hold their heads high and do not question those silly, negative, self-hating thoughts, or believe people that make them feel small. But others need more practice. Case in point, yours truly.
How am I no longer continuing to be my own worst enemy? How am I reversing the unhealthy habit of negative self-thought? What was the first step in my healing?
One afternoon, I looked into the mirror in my bathroom. No makeup or shower fog stood between me and my reflection. I had to face my whole self. I stared straight into my eyes and asked, “Do you think you’re worthwhile?”
Whether or not a tear rolls down your cheek doesn’t matter.
Let the tears pour, let the words fall out of your mouth, feel the powerful step you just took. By taking this first step you’re beginning to disable and throw away the shitty, cheap, plastic toy block foundation of self-hate you’ve built within yourself. You are now setting the first stone of a formidable marble masterpiece: a foundation of self-love and acceptance.
Like any significant change, this will take time, patience and practice. Don’t expect an overnight fix. Don’t get mad at yourself. Some days, it will seem impossible to love yourself. But most days, the smallest effort of self-love will contribute to yielding a bed of roses for your whole soul to lie in.
Here are some ways I cultivate self-love and appreciate my whole, flawlessly flawed self:
- I pamper myself: Mani/Pedi, Restorative yoga class, haircut, new dress, whatever makes you feel taken care of and comfortable.
- I eat healthy and exercise on the regular: “Your body is a temple.” Treat it with the respect it deserves. Working out to lose weight is fine, but more importantly, you loving yourself by keeping your mind and body healthy.
- I do not compare myself to others: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” There is only one you. If you are going to be brave enough to be your authentic self, go all out. Be true to your winning characteristics and improve upon the ones you think you can master more.
- I embrace my talents and discover new ones: Do what makes you feel alive as often as possible. If you have a creative spirit, create. Following a passion is the sure way to success. If you have no idea what you’re good at, take a class and see if you uncover a hidden talent.
- I find a space to just be: Claim a park bench, library, coffee house, or a bedroom and just be. Prioritize taking at least 10-15 minutes every day to just be and connect with yourself. Meditation can help this.
Ok, no go on with your whole self.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Amanda Fleming Taylor/Editor: Travis May