There are many days I feel pretty, days I feel successful, days I feel like my life matters.
Yesterday was not one of them.
It was a day when I listened to what other people thought was beautiful, and I heard all that I was not. I am not model-thin or curvy. I am too edgy for some and not anywhere near enough for others. The muscles I normally wear like the armor of a warrior felt more like an odd costume—one that separated me from what others think of as alluring.
I heard or read about the successes of others, and felt failure. Why wasn’t I doing better financially—in my impact and contribution? Normally, I am happy about the accomplishments of my fellow human beings, but yesterday I felt like their progress had somehow stolen mine.
I thought about my daughter turning 20 next week, and I felt suddenly old and jealous of people with such promise and hope before them—opportunities that they probably cannot even begin to appreciate. I know my gratitude only came with wisdom.
I held these images up like paper dolls next to mine and compared all the points I found to be different, lacking. Feeling uncomfortable in my own skin, I resisted the urge to numb—with alcohol, sugar, social media, and busyness. I sat in the discomfort, not trying to talk myself out of the feeling. No pep talks. Just true, raw emotion that would have scared me in the past.
I want to grow and expand. What if I don’t know how?
I want to contribute. What if I never find just the right path to reach others?
I want to have joy and hope. What if I don’t always find my way easily back to my light?
I want to be grateful. What if I inadvertently squander a gift I never could quite put my finger on?
As I asked myself these questions and searched for the answers, panic threatened to overwhelm me as no plan magically fell into place. For someone solution oriented and with a regular plan or strategy, issues that are not quickly “fixed” can cause me great anxiety. I work at sitting in the discomfort but not holding onto it, or, worse, building on it. After a few deep breaths and a little physical movement to burn off some of the illogical negative energy, I ask the most important question, “What happens if you don’t get all, or any of what you want?”
My heart answers, “Nothing. You want love and connection above all else, and you have it beyond measure. You do not have to do all the other things to keep it. It is a gift to you for who you are.”
A gift? A gift is something by its nature freely given, not earned. Love is a precious offering chosen by one heart for another. I have fallen back, however briefly, into that old echo of strategizing how to earn the support and affection of those around me instead of just living in my truth and trusting that love is there and more is coming. In fact, as I live authentically, this increases exponentially.
As I open myself further to receive the love around me, I make myself promises of specific action to keep this process more peaceful and productive for me and others.
1. I will practice the skill of awareness, even when it is rattling or painful: awareness of my triggers, awareness of how I can adjust in a healthy way, awareness that this is a never-ending but worthy journey. We come together with different damage, but we all can assist each other when we have blind spots in our consciousness. The waves get easier to navigate as we anticipate and master them, but they still come.
2. I will raze the old to make room for the new and improved. The checklist and timeline that I formulated to evaluate success when I was 18 should really not be my measurement now. I can remember thinking, “By the time I am 50, I will have accomplished and/or bought x, y and z.” As I get closer to this half-century mark, I have failed according to the tenets of the original plan. That does not mean that I am a failure. It may mean that I came to value different things or that time has not bent to my will. Some things take longer than expected.
3. I will communicate with those around me about what I want, value, and even fear. And have courage that my ability to be strong in vulnerability will allow them to do the same. This is still a somewhat foreign behavior for me, and it is often uncomfortable and messy. Just like any other skill, it gets easier with practice. I will take a deep breath, tell my truth—and then repeat.
Strangely, even as Wednesday turned into Thursday—not because of the sunrise but a time on the clock—I felt different.
Pretty. Successful. Of worth.
All the insecurities, fears, and challenges from just an hour ago faded from a scream to a softer, albeit persistent, whisper in the background. My perception changed, and this murmur sounds more to me like the excited, curious whispers of a child who is not quite sure what to expect—instead of the ones of merciless judgment of yesterday.
Author: Lisa Foreman
Image: Enrico Carcasci/Unsplash
Editor: Leah Sugerman