This is a drum I’m beating right now—compassion for the self…So much of the start of finding your way in the world begins with resolving to treat yourself with care, and resolving to protect yourself, and just deciding, once and for all, that it’s less like, ‘I’m a princess and I deserve to be adored,’ and it’s more like, ‘I deserve to respect myself, and consider my own feelings, and care for myself first in order to care for other people second. I don’t have to come last all the time to be a good person. I actually need to consider myself and give myself some space in order to put other people before me.’
Commitment to truth telling lays the groundwork for the openness and honesty that is the heartbeat of love. When we can see ourselves as we truly are and accept ourselves, we build the necessary foundation for self-love. We have all heard the maxim “If you do not love yourself, you will be unable to love anyone else.” It sounds good. Yet more often than not we feel some degree of confusion when we hear this statement. The confusion arises because most people who think they are not lovable have this perception because at some point in their lives they were socialized to see themselves as unlovable by forces outside their control. We are not born knowing how to love anyone, either ourselves or somebody else. However, we are born able to respond to care. As we grow we can give and receive attention, affection, and joy. Whether we learn how to love ourselves and others will depend on the presence of a loving environment.
Self-love cannot flourish in isolation. It is no easy task to be self-loving. Simple axioms that make self-love sound easy only make matters worse. It leaves many people wondering why, if it is so easy, they continue to be trapped by feelings of low self-esteem or self-hatred. Using a working definition of love that tells us it is the action we take on behalf of our own or another’s spiritual growth provides us with a beginning blueprint for working on the issue of self-love. When we see love as a combination of trust, commitment, care, respect, knowledge, and responsibility, we can work on developing these qualities or, if they are already a part of who we are, we can learn to extend them to ourselves.
–bell hooks, All About Love: New Visions
(via Molten Soul)
that if i
myself i will not
stop pouring. (why do i fear
becoming a river. what mountain
gave me such shame.)
All of these parts of myself coexist in my body, a representation of evolution and migration and truth. My body carries within its frame beauty and agony, certainty and murkiness, loathing and love. And I’ve learned to accept it, as is. For so much of my life, I wished into the dark to be someone else, some elusive ideal that represented possibility and contentment. I was steadily reaching in the dark across a chasm that separated who I was and who I thought I should be. Somewhere along the way, I grew weary of grasping at possible selves, just out of reach. So I put my arms down and wrapped them around me.
—Janet Mock, Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More (Pg. 258)
(via Molten Soul)
“I can do nothing for you but work on myself.
You can do nothing for me but work on yourself.”
Remember, Be Here Now (1971)
(via Hey Fran Hey)
For the sake of argument, let’s make it super sticky. Imagine you’re dating someone new, and you’re really into that person. Then the object of your affection asks you to share what you want and need in that relationship.
So you get brave and make yourself vulnerable. You tell the object of your affection that, although you understand the relationship is new, you’re enjoying that person’s company so much you’d be happy to get together… well, not every day (‘cause jeez, that might seem needy), but maybe every other day. And wow, it sure would be great if you could count on Saturday nights together. And really, you’d love it if neither of you were dating other people. And it would fill your cup if you could spend Valentine’s Day together. And just so you know, you like your coffee with sugar but no cream.
Then you finally look up from the floor and notice that the object of your affection looks totally freaked out. Said object then mutters, “Hmm… well, I’m busy this Saturday, but maybe the third Saturday of next month.”
And suddenly, as Brené Brown would say in her book Daring Greatly, you’ve just lost a lot of marbles from the trust jar.
I think we fail to express our wants and needs because we’re terrified of getting rejected or being judged or being perceived as needy. I had an experience like this recently.
I had gotten very close to a friend, and we had a lot of marbles in our jar. But then a point of conflict came up, and it left me feeling vulnerable and insecure and threatened, and I was craving reassurance, so I expressed a desire that we get together to talk about what had happened. Only my friend was feeling overwhelmed, not just because of our conflict, but because of other personal issues. My friend needed time alone, time to digest, and with great kindness, my friend rejected my request to process.
I felt devastated. Here I had made myself vulnerable, made my desire known, made it clear how insecure I felt, and my friend had chosen to prioritize a personal need for space above meeting my need for reassurance.
The more my friend pulled away, the more insecure and graspy I felt and behaved. Until I finally woke up from my self-absorbed state of neediness to realize that my friend had every right to prioritize a personal need for space over my need for reassurance. As much as we care for others and want to meet their needs, we all have the right to meet our own needs first (file under “I fill myself first”).
I apologized. My friend met my need two days later. I got the reassurance I needed. And our jar of marbles is safe and overflowing.
The true vulnerability comes in being courageous enough to make your want or need known, knowing that the person you’re sharing with might choose not to meet your need because it comes into conflict with their own – and that’s okay. Can you sit with the excruciating vulnerability of having your need sitting out there – exposed and raw – knowing that the person you’ve made yourself vulnerable to has every right not to meet it?
I get queasy just writing this.
None of us want to come across as needy, and yet we all have needs, whether we like to admit it or not. Even the strongest and most independent among us have moments when our childhood wounds get triggered or we feel scared or we feel unloved. How often have you suppressed the desire to ask someone to just drop everything and give you a hug because you’re feeling lonely or insecure?
We live in a culture that values independence. We scorn those who appear clingy or dependent. It’s a John Wayne/Marlboro man culture, but the truth is, sometimes we just want to curl up on someone’s lap, have them run their fingers through our hair, and get rocked to sleep. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that.
So it leaves me back with my original question. It’s good to be vulnerable. As Brené teaches in her TEDx talk The Power of Vulnerability, vulnerability is the gateway to intimacy. When we express a need and the person we’re vulnerable with chooses to meet that need (hopefully because it doesn’t conflict with their own needs, otherwise, they may be at risk of overgiving), we get marbles in the jar. Trust and intimacy grows, and we feel seen, heard, loved, nurtured.
But in order to gain the intimacy we desire, we need to risk having our needs not met, and we need to learn to soothe ourselves so we’re not making our happiness dependent upon someone else…
So it’s a fine line. Be vulnerable. Make your wants and needs known with those you can trust. But be willing to sit in that place of excruciating vulnerability when your wants and needs can’t be met, at least not at that moment. Learn to soothe yourself in those moments. Go for a hike in nature. Pray or meditate and let the Universe give you a hug. Do something you love – like dance or paint or read or take a hot bath. Let yourself just feel what you feel, and in time, you will find your own sunshine.
If someone perpetually chooses not to meet your wants and needs, you’ll lose marbles in the jar. I was fortunate with my friend because we had so much trust that one incident didn’t threaten the marbles in our jar. But I have another friend with whom I made myself vulnerable, and every time, my wants and needs were not met. This eroded the trust, and now, the friendship is only a superficial one.
In order to keep me available to myself, and able to concentrate my energies upon the challenges of those worlds through which I move, I must consider what my body means to me. I must also separate those external demands about how I look and feel to others, from what I really want for my own body, and how I feel to my selves.
Another important way in which the erotic connection functions is the open and fearless underlining of my capacity for joy, in the way my body stretches to music and opens into response, harkening to its deepest rhythms so every level upon which I sense also opens to the erotically satisfying experience whether it is dancing, building a bookcase, writing a poem, or examining an idea.
That self-connection shared is a measure of the joy which I know myself to be capable of feeling, a reminder of my capacity for feeling. And that deep and irreplaceable knowledge of my capacity for joy comes to demand from all of my life that it be lived within the knowledge that such satisfaction is possible, and does not have to be called marriage, nor god, nor an afterlife.
This is one reason why the erotic is so feared, and so often relegated to the bedroom alone, when it is recognized at all. For once we begin to feel deeply all the aspects of our lives, we begin to demand from ourselves and from our life-pursuits that they feel in accordance with that joy which we know ourselves to be capable of. Our erotic knowledge empowers us, becomes a lens through which we scrutinize all aspects of our existence, forcing us to evaluate those aspects honestly in terms of their relative meaning within our lives. And this is a grave responsibility, projected from within each of us, not to settle for the convenient, the shoddy, the conventionally expected, nor the merely safe.
—Audre Lorde, The Uses of the Erotic
(via Things I’ve Learned from Being Open)
Do the things you used to talk about doing but never did. Know when to let go and when to hold on tight. Stop rushing. Don’t be intimidated to say it like it is. Stop apologizing all the time. Learn to say no, so your yes has some oomph. Spend time with the friends who lift you up, and cut loose the ones who bring you down. Stop giving your power away. Be more concerned with being interested than being interesting. Be old enough to appreciate your freedom, and young enough to enjoy it. Finally know who you are.
(via Circassian Beauty)