I can’t believe that it has taken me until now to write about “honoring yourself.” If you know me at all, you know that this is an immense part of my personal ethos. So let’s go there!
Among other things, “honor” has been a tenet of religion (e.g.: honor your father and your mother) and culture (e.g.: honor your country). Not nearly as much focus and attention has been paid to honoring yourself. Scratch your head about that one!
What does it mean to honor yourself? Well, that’s up to you. It’s all very personal. What do you find self-honoring? Nourishing? Fulfilling?
What honoring yourself does require is for you to cultivate a healthy relationship with yourself. One that, at minimum, includes self-care, being attuned to yourself and being connected to yourself both physically and emotionally. After all, how can we honor ourselves (and our needs) if we don’t know what they are? If we are not connected to how we are doing?
If you already consciously honor yourself, ask yourself if there are any ways in which you don’t.
If you realize that you don’t honor yourself, get curious! What prevents you from doing so? What would it be like to shift this idea into your values, ethos and consciousness?
Here’s a challenge for us all… as the brisk air, whistling wind and occasional flurries remind us that a new season is swiftly approaching, take this opportunity to notice how you are doing. How do you feel physically? What do you need more/less of in the cold weather than you do in the warmth of other seasons? Notice shifts in your body. Perhaps your body tightens when it’s cold. What need must you honor in order to address this? How about food? Are you honoring your hunger/satiety? And emotions? How is your mood? What need(s) must you honor in order to take care of yourself emotionally?
Pay attention and notice what you notice. What feels easy for you to honor; what feels more challenging and why. Off you go!
“On a cold winter’s day, a group of porcupines huddled together to stay warm and keep from freezing. But soon they felt one another’s quills and moved apart. When the need for warmth brought them closer together again, their quills again forced them apart. They were driven back and forth at the mercy of their discomforts until they found the distance from one another that provided both a maximum of warmth and a minimum of pain. In human beings, the emptiness and monotony of the isolated self produces a need for society. This brings people together, but their many offensive qualities and intolerable faults drive them apart again. The optimum distance that they finally find that permits them to coexist is embodied in politeness and good manners. Because of this distance between us, we can only partially satisfy our need for warmth, but at the same time, we are spared the stab of one another’s quills.” -Arthur Schopenhauer
This noteworthy parable is an analogy for the challenges of intimacy. A critical part of any relationship is managing the space between you and the other person. Too little space can feel suffocating and too much space can feel isolating. A balance of self-protectiveness and vulnerability is needed for true intimacy. Just like in Shopenhauer’s parable, the porcupines moved back and forth from one another until they found just the right distance between them to feel both safe and connected.
Boundaries can be complicated; they are not always respected; some feel that boundaries injure relationships and that they should always “go with the flow” in order to avoid conflict. There are countless other ways that boundaries might feel confusing. The truth is, we begin learning about boundaries on day one and our tutelage continues through our primary relationships, that is our family systems. We learn about boundaries by watching and listening to how others relate and by experiencing how they relate to us. From here, we learn how to negotiate relationships – hopefully, healthfully and successfully.
What have you learned about relationships and about boundaries within relationships? Are your relationships working for you today? Maybe only some? Which ones do/don’t? What needs to change to make them better? (hint: begin by reminding yourself that you deserve to have room for your own needs, including what you need/don’t need from others!)
I had these sneakers for nearly 15 years. I was in love with them despite the urges from those around me who did all but beg me to get rid of them with promises that a new pair would offer me all that these had and more. Nope! This was true love. These sneakers made me happy. For me, the dirtier and more worn the better. They had holes in them and the soles were falling off and that gave them character. I was relentless. I tried to make them work in more than a million ways. Occasionally there would be a sign that they were unwearable, for example I was extra careful about putting them on so not to rip them further and never dared to tie the delicate laces too tightly. I was seriously committed to my denial.
The time finally came when it became irrefutably clear that these sneakers were no longer working for me. They had supported me (literally) through many times in my life, many changes and challenges that I had faced, and if they had a soul, they would have thousands of stories to tell. It was difficult to part with them (and truth be told, I held onto them for months even after I got a new pair) but I had to accept that they no longer worked for me and were actually hurting me. Hurting me because, being in absolute denial, I would wear them in the rain, forgetting that they had holes in them and my feet would get soaked. Or wear them when out for an entire day, forgetting that the soles were nearly gone and every step I took felt like my bare feet pounding the pavement.
I finally bought a new pair. Exactly the same (thank you Charles “Chuck” H. Taylor for your timelessness). Well, sort of. They were missing the paint and grit from many adventures and the holes that reminded me of the paths I took in life. Overall, my new sneakers lacked the character and history that took 15 years to create. But… they were still super cute, they fully supported me, I could wear them all day without my feet hurting, they were solid and could withstand the trials and tribulations yet to come. And as time happens, they have since accumulated their own character.
I love the story of my sneakers because it reminds me to consider what works in my life and what I am holding onto that no longer does. It reminds me to consider times when I put too much effort into making something work that actually doesn’t and to re-evaluate the usefulness or healthfulness of keeping that thing, habit, relationship, etc. Sometimes we have to let go, not because we no longer have a connection to or a history with something, but because it no longer works for us.
Maybe you have your own pair of sneakers? an article of clothing? a relationship? Is there something you are keeping around that no longer serves you well? What would it be like to accept that it is no longer good for you? What would you replace it with that would match what you are looking for in your present life? What is preventing you from letting go?
I just saw the film The Help and the line “You is kind. You is smart. You is important” resonated deeply. If you haven’t seen it or read the book, you should. If you have already, I wonder if you were moved as deeply as I was. Here’s the scene: Aibileen Clark is the hired help for a white Mississippi family in the 1960s. After watching the child she’s been caring for (Mae) being consistently mistreated by her mother, Aibileen begins a ritual with Mae. Each morning when Mae awakens, Aibileen sits with her on her lap, tenderly peers into her eyes and says both with and to Mae, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” It is clear, by the film’s end, that May internalized this message and was able to hold onto the strength left behind by Aibileen. She knew that someone believed in her.
Watching this scene play itself out several times during the length of the film brought a warmth to my heart and tears to my eyes. I thought about how much each and every one of us, children and adults, would benefit from hearing this daily and from solidly believing this about ourselves. Words matter. Moments matter.
How many focused moments to you spend with your self, your children, your loved ones, sharing your appreciation of and adoration for them. Don’t take this for granted. Your words and those moments matter!
Trust is a complicated concept for most people. Who can you trust, what can you trust, when can you trust them or it, what happens when your trust is betrayed? What happens when they disappoint you? Disappointment is ubiquitous in relationships but if that shatters one’s trust, then what does that mean for that person’s relationships? How does one have meaningful, open, reciprocal relationships if their trust is lost vis a vis disappointment, which is inevitable in human relationships?
Most times, those who struggle with trust are those who also struggle with high levels, or persistent levels, of anxiety. They work too hard, feeling that the weight of the world is on their shoulders. That things are all up to them. That they are alone. Maybe you know people who struggle in this way. Perhaps you are one of them.
For me, when I realize that I am working way too hard and beginning to feel the weight of the world, I reflect upon why and then I remind myself to just sit back and let the universe hold me for a while. In fact, this self-created affirmation has become something that has empowered me countless times throughout my life. To be clear, I do not mean to imply that we should sit back and do nothing. I do mean that we can reposition ourselves to breathe differently, think differently about what we are trying to control and let things unfold organically, recognizing that much of the energy we are putting out is going to waste because we’re really not THAT powerful that we can control everything.
I offer my affirmation to you. I invite you to just sit back and let the universe hold you for a while. Experience it. Trust it. Allow it to help you let go of what you are holding onto. Notice what emotions rise up as you breathe into this new space. It may be scary at first but with practice it will become easier.
I also invite you to create your own affirmation(s), even daily. If you create them from within yourself, they will resonate differently and more deeply. Sounds hokey? I understand. But sometimes this hokey stuff is amazing if you suspend your judgment. Give it a try!
What’s your affirmation?