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There was a time in my life when a harsh word from a loved one would have been enough to reduce me to tears, and leave me a mess for days.
It would trigger an anxiety deep inside me, and the cycle would begin. The people pleaser in me would spring into action. I would jump through hoops of fire to restore peace with that person. At least, that’s what I thought I was doing.
I was younger then, and insecure. Mostly, I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t love and respect myself. I didn’t know how powerful I was. I needed the approval of those around me to help me feel secure. That was then.
I now see that I was a door mat in many relationships in my life. It wasn’t that anyone forced me into that role. I went there willingly, out of my own insecurity and self-loathing. I thought that love was something I must earn. I believed that I was flawed, unworthy, and broken. I know better now.
It has taken three years of unraveling my life to find this peaceful place. Much has happened in those three years. I ended a 13-year marriage. I went to therapy. I battled addictions. I walked away from toxic relationships. I learned to love my body again through dance and yoga. I learned to quiet my mind with meditation. I began to see myself in a completely new way. I became empowered.
The unfortunate part of all of this is that as I have grown, others around me have not. Relationships that once felt supportive and loving now feel stifling and dysfunctional. This was very confusing to me at first. That little people pleaser voice inside would tell me that I should do whatever necessary to restore peace. I now know that it is perfectly acceptable to silence that voice.
Sometimes peace is restored by allowing relationships to end.
I don’t negotiate with terrorists anymore. People who come at me with harsh tones and disrespectful words do not have any power over me. I don’t bend to the whims of spoiled children masquerading in grown up bodies. Guilt, manipulation, insults, and the like do not affect me the way they used to. The fear response that once controlled me has vanished almost completely. But, how?
The answer is so simple.
I love myself now.
Deep to my soul, I love the person I am. I respect myself and honor myself in ways I never imagined. A wise spiritual teacher once told me that everything we do is a direct reflection of how much we love ourselves. (Or don’t.) This is every decision we make, every relationship we foster, everything we put into our bodies, how we spend our time. Literally, everything we do is an expression of self-love.
The most challenging part in this for me, was learning to decipher what is loving to me, versus what is gratifying. My guru said, “If it feels good right now, that is fine. If it still feels good in three days, that’s even better. If you’ll regret it three days from now, don’t do it.” But, how can we predict how something will feel in three days? Aren’t we were supposed to focus on the present moment?
To make these predictions, we need to tap into our internal guidance system. The heart is not a reliable guide, because she is easily led astray by emotions. The head just over analyzes and creates stress. The most reliable guide we have is in our gut. Our manipura, or solar plexus, cannot be swayed by the heart or the head. It always knows what is best.
The solar plexus is our third chakra, located at or just above the navel. It is our personal power center. Our internal fire burns there. Our assertiveness, passion, and self-esteem all live there. When we begin to focus on our solar plexus, we can tap into that fire for guidance and strength. It is an infallible intuitive guide.
I started by checking in with my body more often. I experience two sensations in my solar plexus. One feels good. The other feels bad. I know that when I experience the good feeling, I am on the right track. When I experience the bad one, I am heading for trouble. I began to meditate on that part of my body. I would imagine a scenario, or ask a question, and then wait for the physical sensation. With practice, this process becomes almost instant. We need only be mindful and listen when our body speaks.
Now, when bullies come at me with their non-sense, expecting me to roll over like I used to, I am able to stand up for myself. I can say no without explaining myself. I can silence the little people pleaser voice. I can trust that my decisions are best for me, based on the way they resonate with my body, no matter what anyone says. Guilt, fear, blame, and shame no longer have power over me, because I know where my true power is.
Author: Renee Dubeau
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Jeronimo Sans