‘What you are looking for is acceptance’ she said, in a still, sure voice.
The words reached my heart before I could hear them with my ears. It made sense. It all made sense. The mumbled oceans of emotions and feelings I had tried to name in a million other syllables and metaphors all collected in the mesh of this one word – acceptance.
I was sitting in my counsellor’s office, with my body tucked underneath me. She has this huge window through which the sky pours itself right into the room and it feels like the world has opened up even when it is closed shut.
I love that window.
I can sit there and be aware of the tiniest things like the hairs on my body breathing even as I can see the sky change shape and form. It’s like being everything all at once.
But we don’t believe we can be that, do we? We don’t believe we can be everything, especially to ourselves. We pick and peel at ourselves and try to scab the sediments off our skin. Use any force necessary demands the memo that goes out to the rest of our being.
Maybe I am the worst human at this, the worst girl at slicing herself. The catastrophe of this is not that I am an amazing person. It is that I am a valuable human. And person. I just never truly believed it. The impact of that truth never found soft ground in me. I scattered my value to the four winds the day I stepped out of frame. I went looking for acceptance in all the wrong places. I wanted the world to tell me just how significant I am. I really wanted to hear it from the masses. I wanted it to reflect in my once-upon-a-time Facebook LIKES and Twitter feed.
I also went looking for it in the one-on-ones I have with people. And because I was hell-bent on finding it, all I saw were the ways it was not there. My focus was often on the wrong thing – the wanting to be declared a worthy being by another. This has its place in human relationships, for sure, but it is also completely dangerous to leave all of it in the hands of clay that is also being shaped…lest we form each other into hideous things.
Our desire to be valued and accepted is a perfectly normal human need. But the world teaches us to come out in full force with batons to beat this need down. Down, down where no one can see it. We are also not really taught how to handle this powerful need in a way that is healthy for our hearts. Instead we stitch titles to our sleeves that begin with needy, shameful and all the their synonym cousins.
To come to grips with this need, we start from where it hurts. We go there. We look. We see where that stuff is coming from. We take it back. And maybe we ask the question I asked: how does the girl begin to value herself?
And maybe we will find the same answer I found: through gratitude.
The rich arches of life truly are in the bounty of seeing grace where there is grace. And this is what a grateful heart does. It looks to find the grace and goodness that is already there. And builds a relationships with that goodness. Holding oneself tenderly and lovingly within one’s own embrace in the same way we do for other human beings.
Being valued is no small matter. But it has to start in our front yard, in our living-rooms and backrooms. We have to value ourselves. I submit to you that you cannot act properly human with another human if you withhold the same acts of loving kindness from yourself. You may be able to keep it up for a while but eventually it unravels and resentment comes to live in your rooms.
So don’t neglect you. Thank God for you, for the heart that beats in your chest, for your wonderful strengths and the things you did well today.
I will be doing the same.