You Have a Right to Be Here

Hello, and happy Monday friends! Yeah, I know, I know, Mondays aren’t exactly happy. Mondays are for being tired, and grouchy, and remembering all the things you don’t like about your life. Mondays are for wanting to crawl back into bed. I know.

But, let’s try something different. Let’s think of Mondays as a chance at a fresh start, a reset of sorts, every single week. Let’s take this opportunity to do it differently. Let’s make the changes we want to see in ourselves and the world, okay?

“It took many years of vomiting up all the filth I’d been taught about myself, and half-believed, before I was able to walk on the earth as though I had a right to be here.”

― James Baldwin, Collected Essays

I’m working on being honest about all the bad things I think about myself and how damaging those thoughts are. It’s taken a lot of work, but I’ve gone from the bad thoughts occurring to me and me just accepting them as truth, to being able to see them for what they are. They are thoughts that come from somewhere that is not me, somewhere in my mind where I have less control and so, and am less responsible.

Understanding that has made a huge difference. What I hear in my head is an echo of my past that has become a habit, a habit so ingrained that it takes real effort and strength to fight. The more I remember this, the more I fight, the easier it gets, but old habits are hard to break and sometimes, I still believe that I have less right to life than anyone else on this Earth.

When I was young, I was told I was stupid a lot.

Now, as an adult, I believe that my mind works in some defective way and that the ways it is defective are somehow my fault. If only I would be better, think better, learn to grasp something obvious and easy then I could finally stop being such a burden and a hindrance to everyone around me. I believe that I am the reason that the people around me are frustrated, angry, sad or stressed. I believe that my stupidity it the cause of all the problems around me, even the ones that aren’t mine.

I believe that this, and my many other flaws and deficiencies mean I don’t deserve to be here. I don’t deserve to be loved or to love myself. I don’t deserve to be successful or to feel pride in my accomplishments. I have no right to look another human in the eye or to demand respect, to be heard, to be counted among the beautiful, the intelligent, the “normals”.

These thoughts live in the back of my mind and subtly influence the way I walk through the world, the way I carry myself and speak to people. These thoughts make me small and quiet and cautious. They make me feel sad and serious, and constantly anxious. I worry about overstepping my place or lowering myself further by saying or doing more stupid things every day.

It’s hard to live this way, and it’s wrong.

There is part of me that knows none of this is true. There is a part of my that genuinely knows that I am smart and good and worthy of all the good this world has to offer and so much more. I am strong and talented and capable. I am loved and deserving of that love. I am something special, and I am just as normal as everyone else.

I have the right to live and breathe and make my life into something I can go to my grave satisfied with, same as anyone else. No one else has the right to hinder that, but we often forget the ways we can hinder a life and a pursuit of happiness. We put our shit on other people and forget how our own wounds never closed and how a few words can break a person.

I have been a victim of other people putting their shit on me when I was vulnerable, like many of you.

So many of us carry around false ideas of who we are and what we are and are not worthy of. So many of us were told by someone who’s opinion we held dear that some part of ourselves was “bad”. So many of us have internalized this filth, and we are having the damnedest time letting it go.

We think we are ugly and stupid. We think that we never have and never will get it right. We think that we are broken and beyond repair. We think that we were set apart and built wrong from the beginning. We spend our lives hiding, making ourselves small, putting ourselves lower than anyone else because we think it is our place.

We all have it so wrong. I’ve never met a person who wasn’t fighting a battle, who hadn’t been hurt, who was suffering and struggling same as me. Every person I have ever met, even if we had nothing in common, even if I didn’t like them, even if I thought they were mean, or hateful, or toxic, I have never met a person who I thought didn’t deserve to be on this Earth.

This week, I want you to know that you that you deserve to be here, and I want you to practice saying that to yourself.

Try talking to yourself like someone you love and respect, someone you think the world of, or simply someone who has done you no harm and whom you have no desire to do harm to in return. Remind yourself that no one is perfect, that no one has all the answers that not one of us is inherently better than any other. Each and every one of us is lucky to be here and that lucky accident should never be wasted on believing such filth about ourselves.

This week, I’m asking you to tell yourself that all the bad things you think about yourself are not your own thoughts, they are the result of other people being people and forgetting that their words can hurt too. I’m asking you to remember that every person matters, and that means you too.

It isn’t easy but I’m asking you to believe, a little more every day, that you have the right to every breath, every step, and every bit of happiness and peace you can get your hands on because it is the truth.

***

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Featured image via Unsplash

Back to Self-Love Basics

Hello, dear readers and happy Monday! I know, I know, Mondays aren’t happy. Mondays are for feeling tired, and grouchy, and remembering all the things you don’t like about your life. Mondays are for wanting to crawl back into bed.

But, let’s try something different. Let’s think of Mondays as a chance at a fresh start, every single week. Mondays are do-overs, each one is our own personal reset button. Let’s take this opportunity to do it differently. Let’s make the changes we want to see in ourselves and the world, okay?

This Monday is a stressful one. I woke up late, I was almost late to work, and I don’t feel well at all. I’m tired, my joints hurt, and something is going terribly wrong in my gut, as usual. The whole thing is stressing me out, and the smallest obligations are making me feel irritated, angry, and exhausted. I’m trying to stay positive, but I’ve also promised myself that I can be a grouchy, whining, ball of difficulty if I want to too. So there!

“Be you, love you. All ways, always.”

— Alexandra Elle

I haven’t been feeling well for a long time now. I’m ashamed to admit it, but it’s been many years that I have been quietly fighting whatever is going in wrong with my body, not to mention all the fear, shame, and anxiety that came along with it. Only just recently did I finally get some help and start seeking some answers to what’s been going on. It seems I am just in time too. These past few weeks have been the worse yet.

While waiting for appointments and tests I’ve noticed all the work I put into learning to love myself more is slowly slipping away. My body feels entirely against me. I feel dirty, disgusting, and untouchable. I feel angry with my body. I don’t understand it at all. I am frustrated by it and the limitations it puts on me. I wish I could be someone else.

I feel afraid to eat because I have no idea how my digestive system will react. I’m afraid to lift anything or move in any way because the sounds coming from my joints are so alarming. I’m afraid of migraines. I’m afraid there will be new symptoms and new fears any minute.

This past weekend I walked the dog, just a leisurely walk around the block. Nothing strenuous, nothing difficult. I got home, and my right knee swelled up. Now I can’t even walk the dog! I’m afraid this will be my life now.

So I hate my body for ruining everything. This broken and disgusting body. This body isn’t me. It doesn’t even feel human. It surely isn’t behaving the way human bodies should. I want out of it, now!

But of course I know, somewhere deep down, that this my body is me. My body will always be me, and it won’t get better unless I start loving it again. For now, there isn’t much I can do except love it, and once I have the answers, I will have to go one loving it, caring for it, babying and coddling it, and helping it get through the day and accomplish everything it needs to.

My body is flawed, but it’s the only one I have. There will be no new one, and no matter how hard I protest or wish it away it will still be here. I had better learn to love it. I had better stop blaming it for everything. I need to stop being ashamed of it. I need to stop resenting it. I need to stop thinking so much about what I can’t do. I need to stop letting it define me and depress me.

It’s easier said than done, but this week I am going to try.

If you have been feeling a little trapped by your body, if you are having a hard time looking in the mirror and recognizing the reflection as you, or if you, like me, are just frustrated by pain and limitation, get back to the basics and start loving your body again.

This week try mediation or a new beauty ritual. I’m thinking about making a new DIY body scrub or trying dry brushing. I will eat slowly and deliberately, enjoying my food and giving my system time to digest. Maybe I will try some new teas to sooth my stomach or buy some new essential oils to add to baths, lotions, or soaps. I’ll take it easy and pamper myself a little. I’ll try to say good things and remember how hard I am fighting. I will look to the light at the end of the tunnel and focus on feeling better instead of blaming and pulling myself down.

Self-love and self-care are not easy, and no matter how far you have come it doesn’t take much to fall back into old habits. This week, take some time to remember how amazing you are. Take some time to show yourself some love.

***

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Featured image via Unsplash

Don’t Listen to Your Brain, It’s Stupid

“What’s wrong honey?”

“A lot of things, mostly that I am ugly and I can never do anything right.”

“That is not true you are beautiful and you have done so many great things.”

“But that’s not what my brain says.”

“Well, don’t listen to your brain. Your brain is stupid.”

The best piece of advice I have ever received and continue to receive regularly, in person, comes from my girlfriend.

She reminds me that my brain is stupid.

It may sound a bit harsh; my girlfriend is the kind of person who says things bluntly. She can sound mean or angry when her intention is only to be honest. She wants me to see myself from her perspective, but she knows that is impossible. The best she can do is remind me that there is more than one perspective and mine may (read: probably is) wrong.

So, she reminds me that sometimes my brain doesn’t know what the hell it is talking about, nd I should not believe everything it tells me. She reminds me that brains are not perfect organs. They do not experience the world objectively, nor do the process and recall information without clouding it first with emotion and previous experience. Brains are made up of a whole lot of things other people (and their imperfect brains) put there.

She does this whenever I get down on myself and to me, it feels so much more real or true than just telling me I’m wrong. When you think you look bad or when you think you have done bad, having someone say you are wrong doesn’t help. Hearing that only frustrates you and deepens your feeling of loneliness. She isn’t invalidating what I am feeling, she is only pointing out that I don’t have to believe what I am feeling. Plus, the way she says it is kinda funny which brightens my mood a little.

I still get down on myself from time to time but I remember what she says and the moment passes quickly.

It’s a comfort knowing that my bad feelings about myself aren’t unreal or unjustified, they are just wrong. It helps shift my focus from believing my bouts of low self-esteem are fact-based into realizing that my feelings are the sum total of the genetics I inherited, the childhood I had, and what society says about people who look and live like me.

It isn’t true that I am ugly, or dumb, or incapable of accomplishing my goals. What is true is that my brain is imperfect, it functions with only the tools it has been given over my lifetime, and sometimes it is even stupid.

Sometimes I just shouldn’t listen to it.

***

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Written in response to The Daily Post’s Discover Challenge: A Piece of Advice

Two Different Bodies, In Love

When I look at your body I see so much to love and I see much to be jealous of.

In all the places you expand and fill out, I am small, and in all the places where you curve, I am flat. I love the way you look. I love the way you feel even more. I wonder how you must see me and how I must feel to you. My body is not as beautiful, there is much less to explore. I must bore you. I must feel ordinary.

I have always felt lucky to have a girl who looks the way you do. You remind me of an ancient Greek sculpture or one of their Amazonian warriors. You are the kind of femininity that in made for bearing children, building societies, and carrying the burdens of life. You are strong and beautiful.

What could a woman, built like that, see in a little scrawny thing who couldn’t even grow decent hips?

In the dark of night when we lay with our bodies close, we feel how different we are and you tell me you wish you looked like me too. You wish you were smaller. You wish you weren’t such a big thing in this world. I never realized that when you are tall and strong people see you wherever you go and want you to always be tall and strong for them. Small bodies can hide in the places no one looks, the places right out in the open.

In that moment, I see I am lucky. I still wish I looked like you but I wish you could look like me too. Then I could be the one to surround you when you need to hide yourself away. I could make you feel small and protected the way you have for me by default. I could be strong and tall for you. I could keep the world from hurting you.

But I can’t be you and you can’t be me.

Instead, there in the dark, we offer each other bits of ourselves to keep tucked under the skin

And every morning I have another bit of you to keep me big and strong and you leave with another bit of me to help you hide.

***

Written in response to Death to Stock Writing #18: The Bodies We Meet

Feeling Beautiful at Thirty

In just about three weeks I will have completed yet another revolution around the Sun and turn 31 years old. Before this happens I thought I should take some time and think about what being 30 has meant to me and write a few posts marking the year that saw me moving into true adulthood.

One of my biggest concerns was that my body was going to start going to shit. I don’t know if my body really changed more this year than any other or if I was just hyper-aware of the changes this year because of my fear. What has turned out to be really surprising is that I love my body more now than I ever did.

My whole life I have been pretty skinny, with moderate curves in all the wrong places. My boobs are small, my butt is big, I have chicken legs, and my hips are almost nonexistent. I felt awkward in everything I wore and I wished to gain weight in all the places I didn’t have it so things would appear a little more even out. Thirty heard my wishes and chose to grant them, mostly.

I feel like my body is growing into itself and even in the areas that are not improving, I see them a little differently and I kinda like it. For example, my stomach is getting bigger day by day but instead of hating it the way I did last year when it was starting, I actually kinda like it. I am always reminded of that scene in the movie Pulp Fiction when Fabienne explains to her boyfriend Butch that she wishes she had a pot belly.

Everything seems to be getting bigger—my thighs, my boobs, my butt—and I do want to start working out to make sure things don’t get out of hand, but for now, I think I look pretty damn good :)

Besides having more curves to love I feel like my face has slimmed down, I don’t look like a little kid anymore, my skin appears healthier, and my hair is growing faster than ever. I attribute all that to drinking more water and eating more fruits and vegetables.

All this, and maybe my maturing brain too, means I feel more confident and more secure in my skin than I ever did before.

I feel more like a woman. I do not mean to say that I feel especially feminine or even sexier, I just mean I feel like a beautiful, strong human being. I feel like something special, something magical, something I never thought I could be.

I look forward to what the next year might bring.

“I am obsessed with becoming a woman comfortable in her skin.”

// Sandra Cisneros

***

Featured image via Unslpash.com 

Monday Motivation // Radical Self-Love

One day, what feels like a long time ago, I decided to start doing things that feel good. I started writing, I started being honest about my boundaries, I started treating myself better, and I’ve never felt more alive.

Before this I thought we were all supposed to hate everything all the time. Hate your job, hate your body, hate your relationship. Act as if living was the worst thing that ever happened to you and the end couldn’t come fast enough. This is what every one else did. This was what I thought I was supposed to do too.

Two things changed for me. The first was coming face to face with my mortality. Nothing serious happened, I just realized time was marching on and I was stuck being miserable and angry. I realized that one day I wouldn’t get to live anymore. I wouldn’t have the privilege of being a part of the world anymore. When I realized that, not cherishing my time here felt like a crime against the beauty of the universe.

The other realization came when it was pointed out to me that I was a hypocrite. I was telling others what they should do and how they should feel, all the whole doing the opposite. I hated when I would tell people not to put themselves down, or not to be so hard on themselves, and they would reply “, “but you do it all the time”. Sheesh! I wanted to lift up my loved ones and here they were using my self hate as an excuse for their own.

How could I give advice that I wasn’t taking myself?

So I changed. I started to see myself as just as deserving of love and care as every other human being in the world. I don’t know why but this felt like a radical notion. I felt like an anarchist, making war on self hate and that taking for granted of precious life.

At first I was almost ashamed! The fact that I kinda liked myself as a person became my own dirty little secret. It felt as crazy as cliff diving or climbing Mount Everest. It felt like coming to life.

I know it sounds corny, but self-love has turned not only into a way of life for me, but a something I promote with passion. I’m not ashamed anymore. I have learned that people are resistant to it at first, but once they see someone loving themselves out in the open, and with not a care for what others think about it, they find the strength to do it too. They realize that self-love what all they needed all along.

So now I tell people, love yourself first, then teach others to do the same. You may find that sky diving and kissing strangers isn’t what you needed after all, or maybe you will find out that these are things you wanted to do but never could. Not until you loved yourself first anyway.

Every thing should begin with self-love.

People seem to think embracing life means to jump off cliffs and kiss strangers. Maybe it’s just slowly learning to love yourself.

knowingjuniper

The Case for the Participation Trophy

Logging on to Twitter this morning I immediately noticed a new hashtag being thrown around, #participationtrophy. A quick search revealed that James Harrison, a Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker, recently posted a photograph of his own kids “2015 Best of the Batch Next Level Athletics Student-Athlete Awards” participation trophies and stated that he was returning them to teach his kids a lesson.

They must learn to “EARN a real trophy”.

They must learn that “sometimes your best is not enough”.

 

I came home to find out that my boys received two trophies for nothing, participation trophies! While I am very proud of my boys for everything they do and will encourage them till the day I die, these trophies will be given back until they EARN a real trophy. I’m sorry I’m not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and I’m not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best…cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better…not cry and whine until somebody gives you something to shut u up and keep you happy. #harrisonfamilyvalues

Participation trophies have long been a controversial thing in this country with older generations claiming that offering kids rewards for doing nothing more than showing up and trying is teaching them that entitled to something. Baby-boomers especially seem to think this “coddling” stunts a boys ability to become a “real man”. It turns our children into sissy.

I grew up in a houeshold where doing my best was enough. There were many years when report cards went home and my mother lectured me about really trying. She told me that if she knew my best was a D than she would be happy. Instead she knew I could do better and that was why I was now in trouble.

My parents didn’t get everything right but I think this is one they did. They didn’t want me to feel badly about where I stood in comparison to my peers. For them, participation was enough, but it had to be real participation. Now that I am an adult I am thankful for that. We all can’t be the best at everything and for a child to be told that their best wasn’t good enough and they need to try harder can be devastating to their self esteem.

What is good for their self-esteem is for their best to be seen and appreciated.

I took that lesson with me and now on the days when I did my best and things don’t turn out the way I wanted them to I don’t stress about it. I do my best and that is all I can do. I know that as long as I tried as hard as I could, as long as I gave 100%, I was good enough.

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I think this culture of hyper-competitivness is at best, unnecessary, and at worst, harmful to a child’s development. A participation trophy does not teach a kid he doesn’t have to try harder. You think your kid doesn’t know that he lost? Of course he does! He knows him and his team did not win first place, we’ve all been there, we all know that hurts. But when you give a kid and his team something to take home, something to hold on to, it fosters that drive to win.

I keeps kids from being crushed before they can develop a tough shell against such loses. These kids aren’t ready for that hit to their psyche. Recognizing their effort keeps them loving the sports they are playing and keeps them coming back so they will try harder.

How hard is it to get a kid to keep trying and giving 100% after they have become frustrated? Yeah you can keep dropping them off at practice but your kid is going to be out there playing the lazy game. He’s going to remember that year when he tried his best and lost and got nothing but a lecture about how is best wasn’t good enough. He’s going to remember that year and think he can’t do it.

Instead, I say give that kid a trophy, a ribbon, something he can see, something he can hold on to. Let him know that you see him trying and with practice and time to hone his skill his next trophy can be even bigger one. I bet you he keeps giving his all.

And maybe that’s enough for first place next time, and maybe it isn’t, but it should always be enough for you, his parent.

Original image via Ryan Tir