ILLUMINATION
Published in

ILLUMINATION

Advice from a Rebel Leader

How to Get Over Your Hang Ups

Invite yourself to the table with intention

How do we get to a place where we stop asking for friends and start befriending ourselves? To love our stories with honesty, integrity, and a willingness to be seen? Your story is not mine; your relationship to yourself is and should be wholly different. But I would like to share why I finally decided to befriend myself (without the parenting admonition of a self-administered Golden Rule).

Photo by John Fornander on Unsplash

Despite a capacity for empathy, I realized I am not inherently a relational person. I truly enjoy others, and love learning what makes them move. But in all my years trying to build connections, I think I relied heavily upon their reciprocated relationship to me. I waited for approval, but more than that, for identity and depth to manifest between us as an indication of my value. So while I could empathize, maybe it was an outwardly shallow empathy that fell flat. Ultimately, I realized a need to investigate why the warmth felt absent from my personal connections. Why did it feel like people just didn’t truly like me?

It’s funny how easily we lose sight of ourselves. My projections of being disliked where exactly that: Projections. It has taken me decades to like myself, and only recently did I find true reasons to celebrate myself. Drawing attention to my work or accomplishments was the way I knew to garner praise. The lack of depth became evident, as a pandemic version of me could suddenly not produce the way I had in the not-so-distant past.

But in spending time alone, without the mission of serving another’s vision, I received an opportunity to investigate myself. What motivated my desire to build and connect? Why was I doing things I hated for people I loved? What did I fear if I stopped serving their vision? Did I have a vision of my own?

Photo by Ava Sol on Unsplash

It was a very “Derek Zoolander staring into a puddle on the pavement” moment — Truly, I did not know who I was. And after a lifetime of seeking that identity through action, it was time to pursue the truth of my value through stillness.

What do I like about myself? In order to find out, I acted toward myself the way I would with a new friend. I would be faithful in the pursuit. Where a new friend would come to mind and elicit a friendly text message, I took those as a sign to breathe deeply and appreciate my heart for connection to others.

I considered how I would speak to a friend in crisis, but when anxiety or panic arrived, I would treat them as separate friends from myself. They bore information, needed attention, and would soon leave after being heard.

Engaging the scarier arenas of my life meant becoming curious about what they had to teach me. Soon enough, asking questions of my anxiety became second nature. Instead of losing days worth of work to a lack of focus, I could shift whatever the anxiety needed me to shift (my attention, my location, etc.).

The irony of liking myself means I must continue to choose myself, no matter the frustration of the moment. Do I want to sit at the table with that friend? It’s easy to place a boundary and ignore a friend’s phone call. It’s more damaging to place boundaries in our inner lives, keeping our head and heart as far apart as possible. What can I do when I don’t want to sit with myself?

My mental health relies on the honest expression of what I need and what I know to be true. I cannot like myself if I do not know myself. And so my daily intentions are written and designed to keep me in relationship with myself. To keep my needs and importance in the front of my thoughts, rather than allowing the self-deprecating narrative to dismiss my value.

Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

Intention: To love myself — all parts
Can you love yourself if you hide from who you are you? I’m passionate, excitable, enthusiastic, and quick to shout. I can overwhelm others and carry too much. My body is in progress, and my heart is working overtime to heal. But I love the insight I gain from learning to be quieter. I’m grateful for my body; how it moves and how it reminds me rest is necessary. Rather than picking on myself for not being enough, I have the honor of occupying my life and enjoying who I am right now — in great anticipation of who I am becoming.

Intention: To break the addiction to external validation
Admiring others for their work or accomplishments feels like inspiration on the best days — and self-destruction on the worst. I have been the A+ student, seeking approval and validation for my ideas and work from others, while rarely taking their accolades to heart. Recognizing my own value required me to serve my own vision. To pursue the goals and targets set before me, for my purpose instead of the work of someone else’s mind. My own vision manifested allowed me to focus on the work of my hands, for my sake. Now? Your like is extra.

Intention: Honor my work
In this new season of working to develop my own vision, I have been faced with incredible self-doubt. Will this vision mean anything? Will it move the needle for one person? These questions are not about validation, but about worthiness. Is this work worth my time? My time is precious; I like who I am most when I am true to what I want and what deserves my attention. And so, in all I create, I want to honor the time and effort invested. I want the vision to flourish so that others may see it and be inspired to pursue their own healing, growth, and expansion.

Intention: Remain present
With all these gigantic ideals before me, it is far too easy to become overwhelmed and derailed. And so my intentional gift to myself is to remain present. To practice healing breathwork, and playful coping distractions when necessary. To lean into the difficult with courage and graceful expectations that I will rise when I fail. To hold myself with gentle, openhanded affection for who I am, and who I am becoming — because we are all becoming; always.

Mandy Capehart is a small business owner, editor, certified grief and life coach, and creator of The Restorative Grief Project. The Restorative Grief Project is an online community focusing on one another’s stories and new methodologies for grief, creating a safe environment for our souls to heal and our spirits to be revived. To learn more, visit MandyCapehart.com or follow along with bi-monthly columns on Ask A Grief Coach!

Read more from Mandy here or follow her on Twitter.
She thinks she is pretty funny. The jury is out.

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Mandy Capehart

Mandy Capehart

Writing about grief, beliefs, & psych/mindfulness. Editor of Ask a Grief Coach. Happily Tweeting & doing other “Very Good Things.” I apologize in advance.