“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” – Maya Angelou
It might sound hokey if you announced, “This week, I’m going to love myself!”
But the older I get, the less I care about appearing “hokey” and the more I care about things like authenticity, tenderness, and gentleness. And fun. Yes, I care about fun.
These days, I give myself space to not get it perfect. I’ve taken myself off the hook (which is where none of us should have been in the first place). And I believe in the incredibly fierce power of “softening.”
And you know what? I’m a lot happier – the kind of “happier” that isn’t based on circumstances but is unearthed by honoring one’s heart.
Over the past few years, I’ve noticed that as I’ve eased up on myself, I’ve eased up on my family. As I’ve accepted my mess ups, imperfections, and even stopped going for perfection, I’ve created breathing space in my family.
In his book, True Love, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh writes that one of the fundamentals of loving someone is to recognize their presence.
Love is SEEING the other person.
Love starts with three words: Not just “I love you,” but also… “I see you.”
I see you.
I see you – with your stretch marks, lack of patience, and own kind of crazy.
I see you – with your hopes, insecurities, quirks, and funny ways.
I see you — with your fears, your doubts, your dreams, and your passions.
…and you love them.
What?! Yes, you love them.
The other night, my daughter and I were lying in bed, and she said to me, “Mom, when I try to push away my anger or frustration, it doesn’t work.” She demonstrated on a pillow – she tried pushing it away, but her hands were still gripping the pillow and it kept “coming back to her.”
(I was in heaven! HELLO! My seven year old daughter wants to talk mindfulness and compassion-focused practices?! We can stay up later!)
“That’s wise of you to notice, Love,” I started, “You are right on. When we try to get rid of a feeling by pushing it away, it just keeps coming back. Try this instead.” And I took the pillow we had pushed away and snuggled it close to my heart, saying, “There you are, (anger, frustration, hurt). I see you.” And then I said, “And you hold it close. Rather than trying to puuuuuush it away” as I demonstrated with my arms, “You draw it closer to you” and I began “petting my pillow.”
(It sounds really cheesy as I write this, but it was so fun and such a body-centered demo spoke to her! And I had fun doing it, too!).
She LOVED this!
“Ahhh, nice pillow!” she said with a smile as she mirrored me and drew her pillow close to her.
I see you.
We can love those parts of ourselves that we often want to push away (with no luck. They keep coming back. Dammit. I mean, “Ahhh, nice pillow!!”)
And dear readers, hear this: the parts of us that we push away the farthest are the ones that have the greatest lessons to teach us.
Like fear. We hear all the time about conquering our fear. What a patriarchal and ineffective way of relating to fear!
Instead, those parts of us we push away — invite them to chat. Invite them closer. Say, “I see you.”
And what you’ll discover is that actually, those wounds, those “character flaws,” those fears, and those insecurities will show you what they need to show you, and then they will shift.
And here’s another thing about loving yourself:
We often try to hide the parts of us that are quirky, imperfect, different, “too fat, too skinny, too loud, too ambitious, too….. ”
“If you are always trying to be normal, you’ll never know how amazing you can be.” – Maya Angelou
This is what I am discovering, too: as my children get older, I want to give them the skills to LOVE THEMSELVES so that they know how to relate to the feelings and thoughts they have. And so then they can make an impact in this world with their love and presence.
I want to teach my children and teach myself that those parts of me that I often try to keep in that damn bushel (you know, that one we try to hide our light under?!) to LET THEM OUT! EMBRACE THEM!
As our children are more “out in the world” and facing bigger challenges…
as our our children are bombarded with messages about how they should look, what they should wear, what they should do with their attention, what choices they should make, and who they should be…
…let’s ensure they know how to honor their OWN inner voice. Let’s teach them how to deal with distractions. Let’s teach them how to effectively ride the waves of emotions and thoughts. Let’s teach them how to strategically relate to fear — so that they are their OWN kind of person and they SHINE.
Because what I am finding is this:
When we stop being someone else’s version of “normal,” and just start fully being ourselves – hokey, cheesy, corny – we begin to embody our true beauty…and that inspires those around us. We touch into the deeper calling within us that we must honor. We take things less personally. Fears just dissipate in the face of us being our own kind of leader. And we inspire others with our light shining!
I’ve seen this same process with people I accompany through coaching and psychotherapy. Over time, they embrace their own kind of “being who they are.” They take things less personally while honoring themselves with healthy boundaries. And they practice loving themselves – no matter the label someone else might put on them.
They are leaning into “self-love,” and recognizing that the depths to which they love themselves is the depths to which they let others be as they are. They are saying, “I see you — what others may call too skinny, too fat, too ambitious, too soft, too passionate — and I love you.”
It’s a true freedom. And a more joy-filled life.
And I hope the same for you. I hope you, too, are hearing a deeper calling within you that you must honor. And in doing so, your self-trust grows and the voices “out there” don’t even have a chance with voice IN HERE – your Heart. Your spirit.
“A woman in harmony with her spirit is like a river flowing. She goes where she will without pretense and arrives at her destination prepared to be herself and only herself.” – Maya Angelou
Below is a poem I wrote at the end of last year when I chose my Word for the Year: Risk.
It’s a risk to decide to love ourselves. It’s a risk to stop looking outside for approval and do what we know we need to do. It’s risk to let ourselves shine the particular kind of divine light we each have within us. It’s a risk to love the small moments that bring us joy. It’s a risk to honor our bodies and give up the pace the world would have us run (hyperventilate) at. It’s a risk to more deeply embody our sensuality. It’s a risk to find our own kind of peace. No matter when you find it, you can’t go back. Nor would you want to. Such peace feels like home.
I hope this nourishes you to say to yourself, “I love you!” and to all the parts that make you cheesy, funny, etc., “I see you….” And maybe I’ll add a few more words: “I see you AND you are beautiful.”
Yes, love starts and continues and deepens with those seven truth-speaking words!
A Woman’s Peace in Mid-Life
The older I get,
the less I want,
the less I look for approval,
the less I base my happiness on circumstances,
the less I try to change people,
the less I carry,
and the more I am aware of
the brevity of this life,
the more I trust in the Beloved’s guidance,
the more I love my body,
and the more I find delight in the
smallest of everyday moments, like
my children curled up next to me on the sofa,
my breath on a crisp winter day,
tea with a dear friend,
my puppy snoring,
the golden pinks of the sun setting,
and in the quiet of the evening,
taking my husband’s hand and saying,
“Come to bed, my Love.”
Lisa McCrohan, © 2021, Your Light is Rising
“2021 Update: Start your day with feeling focused, calm, and inspired. Check out my poetic meditation series, Calm in the Chaos. Each meditation is a poetic experience to help you drop into your center and start your day with calm and hope.
Also check out my books: Your Light is Rising offers poetic sacred pauses throughout the day to help you feel grounded, connected, and inspired. Gems of Delight offers moms reflections, stories, and practices that they can follow throughout the year.
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Grab a free 1:1 consult to consider my revised Personal Coaching offering. Clear out the distractions, drop the old habits that no longer serve you, and embrace life (and work) based on what is most sacred to you. Coaching a place to honor the new soul story that wants to be expressed through your life. It’s body-nourishing, soul-igniting, and well, just beautiful. I’d love to chat with you about the possibility of working together.