Love Yourself

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First.
Before trying to fix.
Before you return.
Before the repair.
Before the journey on.
Before you take one more step.
Please, love yourself.

Love the legs that got you here, and the ones that will
step bravely into the wilderness.

Love the heart that did not give up, the one that beats to a song, your song.

Love the eyes that trusted beyond the darkness enough to go without for a little while.

Love the body that grows, the one that will one day perish, for now it holds you, and you have it, it does not have you.

Love the mind that examines this landscape, constantly learning and responding to endless mystery.

Love the pockets of memories that it holds, and the ones that it will one day let go of.

Love the infinite consciousness that your soul holds in a cosmic embrace, love the fact that NOBODY can truly tell you who you need to be, because nobody really knows.

Love this moment, because it’s all you will ever have. It’s all you ever needed.

Love yourself as a companion, one that will never leave your side.

Love your fear, enough to know you can conquer it.

Love your ability to decide, the one thing that can never be taken from you.

Love yourself for all of this. Love the self you have been and what you will be.

Love.

Now carry on.

Photo: Justin Kern

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Letting Go of Bitterness and Facebook Friends

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I never thought clicking ‘unfriend’ could be so liberating. Until I understood why.

Sometimes, when there isn’t much else to do, I will scroll through Facebook, as many of us do. Over the past little while, I began to notice how many unfamiliar faces were popping up, and eventually, I began to recognize an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach. Seeing faces of people along my journey, I could feel a ball of negative energy building up inside of me. For a long time I never understood it, nor did I give enough spotlight to deal with it. I had had a few casual conversations about the amount of “friends” I had accumulated on Facebook, and how I wished it wasn’t such an arduous task to whittle it down a little bit.

Nevertheless, one night I took to my Facebook page, and began scrolling through this 900+ list of people that I shared my internet self with. What I thought was going to be a quick clearing of old acquaintances, turned into something remarkably liberating.
As I began scrolling through images of familiar faces, I started to feel that familiar gut energy bursting with negativity. A face from high school, a face from camp, a face from an old job, a face matching a friend of a friend that I met at a party one time. Seeing all these faces at once made me feel one thing: bitterness. But how could I feel bitter toward so many people? What if they knew I felt this way about them? Had they really done anything to harm me, or create this ugly sensation in my mind?

Once I started the train of questions there was no turning back. What was happening?

I was matching faces to my own life experience. When I was in a period of doubt, confusion, and anxiety, anyone with a shred of certainty around me earned the privilege of deserving my emotional weight, all the stuff I never said out loud. When I was insecure, the people I was surrounded by became confident, and I hated them for that. Now hate is a strong word, and often we don’t want to admit to ourselves that we hate someone or something. So I would justify that bitter feeling by putting an easier term to it. Thinking to myself “I hate them for being so certain, they’re so full of it” or “They only THINK they’re happy”. As much as I don’t wish to admit it, the amount of bitterness I could simultaneously hold for various people was astonishing. Even worse, these may be people who see me positively, yet I would never be able to believe that behind my thick wall of blame.

Think about how you can listen to a song that reminds you of a certain time, and before you know it you are met with the same emotions you had once felt.  the same thing happens with people, but we fail to label it as the feeling and instead we label the people as the source for our hurt.

I saw pictures of different people, I also saw pictures of my life where I was lost. Finally, I stopped ignoring the truth that was staring me right in the face.

First, I began to feel an immense amount of guilt. How could I blame all of these people, as if they are the source of my problems? I desperately hoped that my internal resentment had not reached the surface and made its way into anyone else’s consciousness. But I couldn’t be sure. Though I feared the thought of someone feeling rejected by my ‘unfriending’ I put aside my own pride, and took to unfriending like it was the last thing I would ever do.

I will not deny the reality of betrayal, lies, abuse, all of the things that do occur. The times where we need supernatural strength to forgive.

Yet, there is a kind of bitterness we (I) hold on to. It’s the one that makes people raise an eyebrow as we vent about all the ways the world is against us. Its the gossiping and the insulting and the anger that we attribute to all of the people who, as we believe, are causing us pain. It’s the blame we place on authority, institution, religion, systems and people. Not because what they are doing is wrong (though it happens), but because we are convinced that they are hurting us intentionally, and we want them to feel the pain that we feel.

We just don’t want to feel how we do, and so we try to project it onto other people, hoping that they can bear the weight of it. Most of the time we don’t intend to actually communicate this, or else we fail to recognize the problem, and allow a face to bring up all these emotions. Instead of seeing the pain we see a criminal, someone who played a part in life being difficult.

You see, I realized that there are a lot of people who have been in scenes of my life. The good and the bad. And it just so happens that some were there when I needed a hand but couldn’t ask for it. Eventually, it took a Facebook friend purge to help me realize that there was no one to blame for it all. And the more I held onto that blame, the more I would cause old wounds to resurface.

Healing has begun to take root and change the way I see my relationships. The more I can see someone as their own person, trying to find their way through life, the less I need to place on them the extra burden of all the ways that my life hasn’t exceeded my expectations.

Are you holding on to bitterness? Does it surface when you see your old high school friend, your old teammate, your uncle, classmate or co-worker? Do you let yourself shrink back into safety mode every time you see someone who was a bystander in the chaos of your life?

There are enough things in life that we cannot control. There are times when we will get angry, when we will feel betrayed. But if we let our skewed perspective of other people build a mountain of bitterness inside of us, something needs to go.

I get it, we don’t want to carry that weight ourselves, we want it to go away. But it’s not an effective strategy, and you will pay the price that you think someone else is supposed to.

Let go of bitterness, because it’s not doing you any favours.

To anyone that I may have blamed for my own battles, whether you could see it or not, I am sorry. And if you got unfriended, all clichés aside, it truly is not you, it’s me.

The Pursuit of Truth

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I’ve been away. You see, I’ve been trying to find truth. But it seems to evade me. Many hold a version of truth, but I fear none are certain. There are many answers, but I always seem to have more questions. I wonder if truth exists.

That’s a scary thought. Yet the idea consumes my thoughts. So in the interest of being transparent, let me tell you how terrifying it is to feel like truth is unknowable. Many may argue, even attempt to convince me otherwise. However, currently, this is how I understand it. Though there are minds in the world relatively much more educated and intelligent than my own, the only reality I will ever be able to attempt to fully grasp is mine. No matter the knowledge I gain of policies, laws of nature, discoveries of quantum physics or neuroscience, I will remain inside my reality. I will remain inside this body, with this brain, the one that so longs for something true. Maybe we ought to pay attention to it.

I feel confused, that maybe the answers I have been told are not, in fact, the whole story. I feel confused for myself, asking what part of my own reality am I truly experiencing, and if the rest is a conclusion to help me navigate this world “successfully”.
The thing is, this confusion is not by one fault. The person who told you that in order to be happy you need the right car or clothes, they were likely told something such as that before, and are merely repeating it. Many times I have had the audacity to claim an opinion on ideas I don’t know I really believe to be true. This is because we learn what is available to learn. We learn within our culture, our environment. So maybe a lot of it is outside your control, maybe we have to actively swim upstream, against the ideas that are easy to passively accept when asking for a comfortable life.

Sometimes I wonder if truth exists, or if we simply cannot know it. Sometimes I wonder if we even need search for it. Is there really beauty without understanding?

So what are we supposed to do then? Gosh, I wish I knew. If that were the case, this message would be written in CAPS LOCK and I would do a better job of making it as flawless as the literature law-makers claim quality writing to be.

If I can’t know truth then what can I know?
People say “feelings can be deceiving”, does that mean I can’t even know myself? Is it really that impossible?

In the midst of my inner chaos, I am brought before one idea. I am choosing to begin believing that reality is not absolute, and what works for one, does not have to work for another. Truth may exist, but often I forget to look for the truths within myself right at this moment.

What truth are you listening to? Does it feel right? Or does it make you feel you are not good enough? Does it cause you to fall asleep on a wet pillow, knowing waking up will bring with it a new set of fears? Is it what puts you on auto-pilot, working every day for a pay check and waiting for another day off? Is it the one that presents one road, yet still you can’t seem to figure out how to travel along it?

Why is it that we listen to something, anything, that makes us feel inadequate? When did we allow our own voice to become unfamiliar?
Sure. We want to belong, we thrive in community, we are social beings, or so we’ve been told.
But maybe being social is about contributing the parts of ourself that no one else can. Maybe it need be less about the way we must strive to be number one, and simply about being with one another.

What could finally bring us to accept the inherent value in one another, rather than systems based on failure vs success?

We have created a dichotomy that does not satisfy the diversity of humanity.

Do you feel inadequate? Are you unhappy? Are you listening to someone telling you what you need to accomplish to be okay?

We live in a performance driven culture. One that expects input for output. Yet they choose what you are allowed to contribute. You are more than that. You are a multifaceted, beautiful, unique individual, and that does not change. There is beauty in relationships and community, and I believe that will flourish exponentially when you are able to be who you really desire to be. It means you will have the courage to seek out other people like yourself.

Listen to yourself. Listen to what you want. It is real. It is there within the wonder of a human brain that you have. You are powerful, you are intelligent, you are an innate problem solver. You can create life, instead of fostering death. You can promote growth, instead of allowing suppression. If you can find it within yourself to believe that you are everything you need to be, only then will you be able to begin to pursue ultimate truth.

As long as we let ourselves be told who we are, we will never truly know.

Who are you? I don’t know. Do you?
When truth is hard to find, will you be able to trust the truth within yourself?

You have a voice. May it be celebrated.

Be Loved not ‘Liked’

Social media is great. It allows us to connect with people all over the world and I use it often. I’m not one to bash the use of it, but instead I’d just like to approach the topic of our intentions when we do use it.

We know the feeling of wanting to be loved, but instead, we mix it up with being ‘liked’. The difference, is that one is situational/performance based, and the other doesn’t go away regardless of circumstance.

When it comes to social media, there are countless times that I have checked for the little red number on my Facebook page, getting that tingle of excitement every time there’s a notification, with tremendous feelings of disappointment when it turns out to be an invitation to play Farmville.

When people like our photos, like our status, like our activities, we can come to believe that they are liking us. That our lives as portrayed online are the real us, that people are responding to and loving.

But are our online lives a true representation of who we are? 

Do we let them define us or our value to others?

It is a never ending cycle. The more I let the attention build me up, the more of it I want. And each time I get the satisfaction of making a good post, or gaining a follower or whatever it is, I’ll feel loved… at least for a moment.

We use these platforms as a way to gain the attention and acceptance that we so deeply desire. To get instant gratification when that ‘like’ button is clicked. 

But don’t let your self-worth be determined by that. Because it won’t last. I promise. And it’s harder to let go of than we might anticipate.

The attention becomes an addiction, and there really isn’t any long term fix.

There are only so many posts, so many witty statuses, so many colorful sunset photos before you’re worn out, your friends are irritated, and you are back to the beginning, wondering why you don’t feel loved. 

Go live your life, build real relationships, and share your life with people. By that I mean your real life, the one that includes more than what content is worthy of posting. Know that people desire to know beyond what they can find online about you. 

As you experience real love, and giving real love to others, the ‘likes’ won’t matter so much. 

Your presence online will never be able to replace the fullness of who you are.

Challenge: Next time you are about to make a post, think to yourself ‘am i doing this JUST to get love/attention from others?’  and let that guide your decision.

What are your thoughts on social media? 

How can we use it in healthy ways?

How can we try not be intimidated by other people’s social activity?

You Can’t Earn Love

Finally, after three months of working long hours i’ve earned this vacation.

I need to earn enough money so I can live the life i’ve always dreamed.

If I work really really hard on this, he’ll have to notice my hard work, and finally i’ll earn his approval.

I only need two more baskets to beat my scoring record, then i’ll earn their respect.

They probably don’t want me around, but if I try hard enough to fit in, i’ll earn my place here.

If I win this competition, that’ll earn me bragging rights forever.

If i’m good enough, I’ll earn their love.

Our lives are marked by performance. By earning. An incredible amount of our self-worth comes from the grades we get, the things we achieve, the job we have, the places we go… It seems that the main goal of our existence is to earn our right to do just that… exist.

In your school

In a sport

In your job

In your family

It often revolves around the earning of something.

Performance can be an amazing outcome of the different gifts and skills that we have inside of us, but why do we feel like we have to earn everything?

Why do we have to earn respect?

Why do we have to earn the right to rest?

When we are always trying so hard to make ourselves count, to make our lives count for something, do we ever see our value in just existing? 

What happens when we fall short? 

What happens when our crutch of performance can’t hold us up?

I like to be that person who can fix things. The one to save the day when something goes wrong, or the one to pull through when no one thought it could happen. I like the shock factor of creating something amazing, and I like when i’m the one who was able to make something successful. 

Sometimes it’s a good thing. I really do like to help, and seeing others having a great time because of something that i’ve worked hard on does bring me joy.

But it also can be the way I try to earn acceptance. I can work myself into the ground and make my exhaustion visible, in order to earn awe and sympathy.

I can depend on what I bring to the table as the only way I have any value. That if I were to take a break, or rest, my presence wouldn’t be needed.

Maybe you feel that way during sports. Maybe you feel that in order to earn love and acceptance, you have to be the best. For every goal you score or race you win, you’ll be that much more valued.

Maybe you earn value through school. 

Maybe you don’t feel valued at all because of what you haven’t done.

Maybe you think if you were just good enough at something than you would be deserving of love.

But you can’t earn it.

Although our lives may revolve around performance, you can still be at your absolute best as you rest. 

Think back to when you were a kid. Maybe you haven’t felt like a kid for a while, but back in the day before you began the cycle of performance, there was a time where you happily accepted love as it came, and expected it to return each day. 

You didn’t know yet what you were good at, or what you were here for, but it didn’t matter because someone provided for you, and you accepted everything that was given. You screamed for attention when you wanted it, you cried for sleep when you needed it, and you yearned for love and affection to comfort you.

In those times, there was nothing you did or needed to do to earn those things. 

And you need to still believe that to be true now.

Love is something that exists outside of performance. It isn’t a reward, it isn’t the finish line, it isn’t acceptance. 

Love isn’t a result of your hard work, nor is it recognition of what you’ve done.

Love isn’t held for those who succeed, nor is it saved for those who come out ahead.

If your relationships are built on love as a reward, they can’t sustain the pressure of performance.

There are people in your life who love you when you are contributing nothing. When you aren’t the best at something, when you fail, when you lose, or when you don’t have the answer. 

Maybe they don’t say it. Maybe you don’t say it either.

Maybe this is the first time you’ve been told that you have value outside of everything you will ever do. But it’s true. It is so hard to believe, and I have to remind myself everyday that it’s true. 

But you need to believe it. You need to be free to do what you love, and to love what you do, but know that you don’t need to do it to be loved.

  

 

Be kind to yourself

YOU are wonderful. You are gifted. There are things that you can do that nobody else can. There is a way you smile that is completely unique. You are noticed when you walk in a room. People think great things about you that they might never say because of their own fear. You are deeply loved because of everything you are that is different from everyone else.

So BE kind to yourself. 

When someone gives you a compliment or encouragement, believe that it’s coming from a place of truth and that they really mean it. Let the words sink into your heart and rest in a place of acceptance.

When you think you aren’t deserving of good things, strive to believe that those words are lies. Desire the greatest things in life, and spend your days believing you deserve them.

When you compare yourself to another person and are filled with jealousy, know that there is nothing they have that you need in order to be better.

When you are competing with a friend or a sibling, always trying to be as good as they are, always trying to outperform them, rest in the truth that you don’t need to compete for love.

When you believe that you’re not good enough. That you don’t have enough of something, you aren’t skilled enough at something…

Please just BE kind to yourself. 

Because an infinite amount of encouragement will never be fully received if you don’t let yourself believe that it can be true.  

Even if you don’t believe it now, someday you will. So say these things to yourself

YOU are wonderful. You are gifted. You are…

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