One of the things I find really off-putting in others is insecurity. When people speak about themselves in ways that are disempowering, I feel my stomach writhe.
I’m too weak for that pose.
I’m too fat to wear that.
I’ve always been gangly.
I want to (and often do) say, “No, that’s not true. That’s not who you are. That’s who you’ve come to believe you are. But, it’s not true.”
I don’t know who I am any more.
“There, there. There is Truth.”
I like to think I’ve overcome this self-deprecating sort of thinking and speaking, but for 30 years I’ve deemed myself only intermittently deserving of my own love and affection.
Last week I ran into a former love. The only thing that I really remember that he said in our awkward conversation in the grocery store checkout line was, “You’re really thin.” While some women have waited years to hear these words, his statement didn’t feel objective, nor complimentary.
Instantly, I felt a need to defend myself, to prove that I am healthy and whole and happy and largely unaffected by his opinion. (As I was saying, I find insecurity in others troubling because it resides within me.) I just stared at his lips blankly, like he was speaking another language a bit too fast for me.
It’s amazing how so much can change and so much can stay the same.
Later, I spoke with a friend on the phone and told her the story, and in her faithful way, Truth began to circle back through the traffic of Misbelief.
“I haven’t even showered today. I’ve got a busted blood vessel in my eye. I’d just spent four hours at the yoga studio and was soaking wet with sweat. I mean I look really bad today.” Finally, I took a breath. “I’m having a hard time not self-mutilating today,” I sighed.
“That —that you’re having a hard time self-mutilating — is the only True thing that you’ve said to me,” together we laughed.
And as good friends do on a bad day, she began to remind me how great I am.
“Did you take off your shirt and show him your back muscles? I’ve seen you when you’re run down at the end of a long day, and you are still sexy. And, besides, why do you care what he thinks?”
Once upon a time, a fellow teacher guided me through a “What’s Great About Me” process. It’s one of my favorite interventions. Most of us understand what’s wrong with us. When I ask people what’s not working, they hardly ever say, “I don’t know.” When I ask people what needs to change, they have a laundry list of ideas.
However, when I say, “OK, you’ve told me a lot about how you’re overweight and stressed out and anxious and everything, now what I want to know is: what’s great about you?” people fall off their mats. They literally roll off the mat and cover their eyes in an attempt to blind themselves from their own light.
Once upon a time, I did this too.
It happens like this. Every. Single. Time.
Oh please. C’mon. Don’t make me tell you what’s great about me.
I’m smart? The crescendo in pitch makes it sound like a question.
"Say it again. Affirm it."
I am. I am smart.
"Good. What else?"
People tell me I'm funny.
"Yes, you are. Keep going. What’s great about you?"
Oh, I’m...I don’t know. I’m not all that great. I mean, I’m kind of average.
"Average, pshaw. You are great. Tell me why."
I am sensitive, but that’s not really great...
"Whatever, do you like people who are insensitive? Sensitivity is a gift." I write it down. "What else?"
When s/he runs out of ideas, I resort to Horse Stance or Handstand or the longest Bridge Pose known to Wo/Man. This wears the ego down and gets the spirit moving.
I found my own What’s-Great-About-Me-List in a notebook the other night. For whatever reason, putting these traits on paper helps us own them.
So often, we compare our insides to other people’s outsides.
We feel crazy on the inside and we look around and everyone else has showered and has on lipstick. And they’re crazy on the inside, too, but their lipstick covers their crazy up.
What they think shouldn't matter.
What do you think? Can you look yourself in the mirror in the morning and love yourself in spite of, or even in light of, your perceived flaws?
And when you can’t, when you’re tempted to allow someone else’s flippant remarks dictate how you feel about yourself, when the recesses of your mind feel like verbal warfare, can you call a ceasefire? Can you practice the art of doing something different and tell your Self:
I love you. I honor you. Thank you. I know you’re doing the best you can.
We all do the very best we can on any given day. Even if we haven’t showered. Even if we left our lipstick at home. Even if we don’t believe it yet, there are plenty of reasons that we're great. Because, for better or worse, our appearances and achievements do not define us.
What’s great about you is that there will never be another exactly like you.
The sooner we own up to this fact, the sooner we can put insecurity to bed and awaken to our unique gifts. Isn’t that why Emerson says we’re here — to leave the world a little better than we found it? When we match our unique gifts to the deep burdens of the world, we create a powerful equation for healing our world. Go on, you know you want to. Own up to what’s great about you.