So much of my own healing has begun by noticing how I respond to myself. How do I respond to myself when I get anxious? How do I respond to myself when I make a mistake? How do I respond to myself when I need food, care, or gentleness?
One of the most powerful ways this was reflected to me was when my niece learned how to ride a bike. She had just learned how and her mom, my sister, wanted to celebrate her achievement. For whatever reason, my niece didn't want to ride her bike in front of me. Eventually, we sat in the grass and I did my best to reassure her that she didn't have to ride her bike if she didn't want to.
Her response to me was, "You only love me when I go hard."
That reflection hit me like a ton of bricks and I knew a few things to be true:
Growing up, I learned that the harder I pushed myself, the more praise I'd receive
I knew there were times when it was harder to push myself and the lack of praise, despite my parents attempt to interrupt this societal message, taught me it was bad
Passing it onto those in my care only required that I continue the treatment and standard with myself and unknowingly, I project that standard onto others.
How we respond to ourselves can reveal where we have a wound waiting to be healed and how we've learned to reject our own humanity. If we want to interrupt cycles of thinking and behaving, we have to get through the shame that we've been taught to hold when it comes to our needs, wants, and limitations. And we do that by learning to respond to ourselves in a new way.
I was ashamed of my need to rest or inability to perform so I learned to respond to my needs by ignoring them and "going hard." Sonya Renee Taylor illuminates how shame perpetuates our patterned behaviors and thoughts in her book, The Body is not an Apology.
"The sense of shame keeps use distant and detached from our personal center of governance. It puts us out of operational control.... you just keep recycling hold behaviors and ideas that you know do not serve you but you can't seem to interrupt them."
The book goes on to talk about who benefits when we respond to ourselves this way. For now, I want to offer a way of responding that supports your reconnection with a sense of personal center of governance. For that, you can check out another blog I wrote called, A New Strategy for Getting What you Want. I also offer inspiration from the following poem.
The Guest House by Rumi
This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.