There's no doubt that I was brought into this life to learn big lessons about Love. Not the flowery Valentine notions (though I do adore a day to celebrate love in all its forms, having not by coincidence almost been born on this day), but the bigger universal questions of how love connects us, makes us who we are, shapes our world and the reality we live inside of. It's all, always, tumbling around in my heart and in my head.
A friend said to me the other day... there really is no happily-ever-after... and I thought to myself how this was confirmation of what I was already contemplating, and was both such a relief, yet also a heartbreaking (heart-opening?) revelation.
Truth: I am someone who has always always oriented my own worth from the outside-in.
It's a human thing, I think, growing up under the complete care and adoration of others and then trying to make the hard pivot to being our own center of our universe.
How it went down for me looked a lot like this: by way of how I performed for others; if I belonged (more accurately, was accepted by others); what I could accomplish; what praise I could earn; what accolades I could win; what brands I could adorn to externalize my value for the world to see; whose approval I could gain; how much I could be well thought of and liked; how easily I could conform; how much of my "other" I could keep quiet and hidden. You know, to name a few.
My core belief supporting this orientation is (was?) that I am fundamentally, as is, unworthy. I know now it's in-part a story placed upon me, a system that was created to oppress me, a human condition that will always existentially plague me. Despite all my effort to dismantle and disrupt and shift the narrative, the original tape still persists and plays its familiar tune every now and again. It's all part of the un-learning.
I haven't talked much about it, as most of the messy and unsexy work of it has been happening far beneath the surface, but my word this year has been WORTH. I chose it deliberately, knowing it would get at something so old, so vast, so impactful in my life, that it may be one of those words that stays with me for more than one go-around. It's almost November, and I'm still elbow deep in the work - we shall see.
Do you know what the single most influential factor that determines all of our actions is?
It is our BELIEFS.
What we believe drives everything. EVERYTHING.
I want, so badly, for the belief that I am unworthy to no longer drive the bus. It's an autopilot that is so ancient and familiar and shifts into gear so stealthily, that sometimes I don't notice it for days or even weeks, that I am operating under the influence of you-are-not-worthy. It used to be that I never noticed it all - it was simply the air I breathed. Me, trying to earn my next breath, my place in my family, in the world. It was exhausting and devestatingly unhealthy.
I have real, deep and abiding faith and gratitude for seeing how far that I've come. I also accept that this is a never ending, winding path toward safety in my own skin, right along side the undeniable truth that much of it is outside of my control (see, systems of oppression, and what I now know are not my beliefs, but someone else's). I do know I am in it for the long haul, in this lifetime and beyond, to sort through these lessons of the heart.
With WORTH as my 2019 guiding word, here's how my awareness has shifted after months of delving into the underbelly, which really has been nothing more than a commitment to noticing how the beliefs about my own worthiness show up and operate in my life, down to the smallest minutia.
I'm aware of how the perception of my own value can be held in a single action -- do I choose to move may body (I can actually finally feel what my body needs after years and layers of protective numbness) and goto yoga, or do I stay home to take care of the needs of others? -- and even in a single glance -- their lack of eye contact and body language in this moment is making me feel unsafe and is activating old gremlins. -- The sensation in my body, the tightness in my throat and contraction in my belly says I need to run, and by run, in this instance may mean leaving the room by whatever means most expedient (silence, eating, iphone, deference). I recognize the shutting down... it's fight or flight (or sometimes freeze), as old as time. It's a dash for safety. So, I have also learned deep deep compassion for my compensations. -- Thank you for wanting to keep me safe. Sometimes I can bring myself back to what is actually real and true in the moment, that the look or lack of connection says absolutely nothing about me or my worthiness. Sometimes I still have to run, but I can often see it now, what's mine and what is not mine, and that feels like a huge new awareness that allows me to have a choice.
Liberation is choice. The new skill is to choose my own self, care and needs above all else, which re-aligns my worthiness from something external to an internal anchor and belief of my own making. A lot of it has been experimenting with the awareness... what's the trigger and what happens when I don't flee, or when I do, and then experiencing how I am able to catch myself through the discomfort and not default to an old story. This, I've come to realize, is what building self trust feels like in action. Self trust, self regulation, self determination, self care, self love, are one primary practice of turning towards one's self, not away. It's not a linear equation that is meant to be solved or proven. It just is. I am love. We are all love.
This is where I'm at with my worth these days. Deep in the dong, so I can believe it through my own actions.
And how it's been bearing out, is in becoming incredibly intimate with who I am in all my strengths and limitations. It's been having to create new boundaries that allow me to love more honestly, freely and fiercely. It's meant asking to get paid (in time, energy, money) rather than always giving myself away. It's been advocating for what I need, so I'm not needing from self-abandonment and scarcity, and learning to see/feel/recognize the difference (this one is SO big). It is in choosing Me even when it's hard and creates conflict. It's in staying, and not leaving in the millions of ways I've learned. It is understanding the terms of my own safety and care, and trying to honor my own agreements with myself, and not beating myself up when I don't/can't.
I'm practicing this in all my relationships, in all the moments, and I can tell you that it is really, really hard. I can also tell you that it has been one of the greatest gifts, this one little word, in turning towards my own worth in this way.
All those years I thought I had to wait to be rescued and needed someone else to take care of me, when it was Me I've been waiting for all along.