Wednesday, July 24, 2013

One Fine Thing

(Image by Jade Beall Photography)

My new friend and kindred, Catherine, generously invited me to write a post to share on her blog. I thought to myself, “If there were only one thing I could say (to women), one thing I could share, what would it be?” I would say, “You can know, just how magnificent you are.” I don’t mean when; when you lose 10 pounds, when you get that promotion, when you accomplish whatever it is you think you “should” do.
No, I mean right now in this present moment, you can know the magnificence of the beautiful and the not-beautiful within you. 
I turn 56 in less than 3 weeks, and if there is one thing I now know like I know like I know, it is that all that I have ever longed for, searched for, felt was missing or just not quite right in my life was addressed with one primary relationship - the relationship with self. Yeah, I said it. Do you have a visceral reaction to it? Do you have little voices in your head that whisper words like selfish, self-centered, self-absorbed, egotistical, narcissistic, unattractive, unspiritual, wrong, bad? Tell me how did “self” become such a dirty word? It’s like the word “no” for women. Nice girls are always loving and giving… to others. From the time we are little girls we are taught to focus our attention outward and away from ourselves toward others. We are taught to focus our time, attention, energy, love, commitment, generosity, patience, and compassion to other. This is done often out of balance and to the exclusion of our self.

How many women do you know who are very comfortable with giving to others their time, attention, love and acceptance, but feel uncomfortable and undeserving when it comes to giving that same thing to themselves? How many women do you know who are just as comfortable with receiving as they are with giving? I have been facilitating women’s soul work since 1997, and I have met and know a lot of women. I would have to say in response to this question, very few. What I have discovered is that as women, this is one thing we seem to share universally. I don’t think it’s limited to the U.S. because women from all over the world respond to my women’s Facebook page, and it is certainly broader than American culture.

The problem with the message that self is bad, and the resulting impact, is that women disconnect from their bodies. This is a grave problem because our bodies house our instincts and intuition. Our bodies tell us the truth about when we need to say yes and when we need to say no. In fact, our bodies will tell us exactly what we need at any point in time if we will but listen. Sadly, we have been taught to fear this. We have been programmed to see our body as the enemy. Most women believe that if they listened to their body tell them what they need that it would destroy them with its voracious appetites. But that, Dear Girls, is a lie. Our magnificent bodies are an exquisite resource.

Most of us have come to believe that if we accepted ourselves exactly as we are in this moment, we would become lazy, complacent, unmotivated to create positive change. We have come to believe that our harsh inner critic is what motivates us and keeps us from becoming something undesirable. Is that really true? Think for a moment about how humans thrive. What results would you get if you said to a child the critical things you say to yourself? Would that child thrive? Would that child be motivated to risk, to step out of their comfort zone, to learn new things? Or would that child become fearful, distrusting, hesitant, lacking confidence? 

This is true of any human. If the inner critic actually worked, wouldn’t we all be in a very different place by now? The truth is that constant criticism enlists our lizard brain, the part of our brain that responds with fight or flight. When we are threatened or under stress (criticism), our bodies produce cortisol, a stress hormone. When the body feels consistently threatened or attacked, the long-term effects of cortisol can have a negative effect on our overall health. The body, when under this constant internal stress, in order to protect itself, will eventually shut itself down. Depression follows. When a person is depressed, there is little motivation. So a deeply ingrained pattern of self-criticism is actually de-motivating.

All that garbage you have been telling yourself all these years does not help you. It does not expand your life or nourish you in any way. It is counter-productive, diminishes your health, and impedes your joy. You deserve joy. Period. Commit to the act of Embracing. Synonyms for Embracing: Acceptance. Approval. Agreement. Implementation. Yes, practice it. Get up every morning and say yes. Yes to this belly, yes to these breasts, yes to these hips, thighs, waist, arms. Yes. Look at your body in the mirror and begin the practice of loving and accepting yourself right here and now, all of you. Reconnect with the wisdom of your body. It has so much to tell you. Look into your own eyes and begin to build a relationship with yourself that is honoring and respectful.

The self is not some ugly, anti-god monster. The self is our soul-self, that rich, dark fertile soil of the psyche. What is there drives our actions whether we know it or not. We can live from an unconscious, self-defeating place or a conscious loving place. It is a choice, but it is not an event. Tending soul is like tending a garden. It needs love, nourishment, and nurture. When we make that commitment, we get to reap the harvest. 

There is a bounty of joy, compassion, peace, freedom, and personal empowerment waiting for each of us. It starts right here at home, this relationship with myself.