Lately, I’ve been a little hard on myself. I started a new job, and it is helping me see that I struggle to offer myself much grace. My anxiety often manifests as perfectionism, which leaves no room to learn, grow, or feel safe trying something new. It’s a pinched, scary place to live.
I am good at buckling down and enduring – sometimes, this is a handy skill! More often it means I white-knuckle through an experience and then try to process it later, but feelings don’t like to be squashed. If I try to ignore that I deeply want to feel valuable, purposeful, and connected, and I’m afraid of failing, then guess what? Those feelings start banging on the cymbals in my lizard brain, and the clanging comes out sideways. It manifests as feeling ashamed of my poor muscle tone or hating my clothes. It distorts my face in the mirror and convinces me that I am broken.
Thank goodness I’m starting to recognize this tune.
A new friend recently held me accountable when I made a disparaging comment about a picture of myself. “You’re really hard on yourself,” she said. “I’m going to call you out when I hear it.” Her words were simple and direct, and they woke me up. Last weekend, I allowed myself to feel some feelings that needed to be lived through, and it was hard. I had to let myself fall apart a little, and that is uncomfortable. It’s scary to turn to God or the Universe or whoever might be listening and say, “I’ve reached the end of my understanding. I need help.”
In years past, I would have opened a bottle of wine or leaned too far into other people, desperate for either or both to liberate me from the terrible weight of fear and uncertainty and grief. As I sat through this experience instead of running from it, I almost didn’t notice how I drank a La Croix instead of a Sauvignon Blanc. How I went to the grocery store and made healthy meals, so I’d have leftovers for my work week.
I started to remember that being healthy doesn’t mean you never feel sadness or grief or insecurity. It informs how you support yourself through those times. Love is a verb, and sometimes it looks like going to the grocery store to buy zucchini.
Yesterday, I took a couple of minutes to journal before work. I set an intention to view the world (and myself) through the lens of love. I didn’t consciously think about those couple of scribbled sentences throughout the day, but something had shifted. I took pride in how much I had learned at work and what I was already contributing. I called my mom and step-dad, and then my Grandmother, on my drive home, and I felt so grateful for them. I filled up my gas tank before the light came on. I looked at the pile of clothes for the dry cleaner, which had been sitting in the passenger seat for a few days, and decided to take care of “future me” and drop them off.
As I walked up to the dry cleaner’s shop, I passed a man who was picking up a pizza. He wore work boots and drove a pick-up truck with racks and ladders in the back. He walked to his truck, and I continued through the glass front door, under the neon “Open” sign. As I laid out my items to be cleaned, the bell rang as the door opened again. It was the man.
The woman behind the counter asked if she could help him, but he turned to me. “I have something to say to you, actually,” he said. “I’m sure you know this, but you are so beautiful. That’s not a pick-up line or anything, I just wanted to tell you.” I blushed to my hairline and thanked him, but he was already walking out the door. It feels a little vain to tell this story, but I don’t think his comment had anything to do with my looks. I was, simply, happy.
That type of comment wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but to me, that man was generous and kind when I needed a reminder that beauty isn’t a defined set of features and a body fat percentage. It’s a byproduct of feeling worthy.
Today, may we remember our worthiness. May we cherish ourselves like a child in our care. May we reflect others’ beauty back to them. What a powerful gift.