Today, on a tumultuous day for all Americans, we need to remember what matters most. We can’t control everything, we can hardly control anything, but we can control ourselves and our own actions. We can control how much love we give, and how much we keep for ourselves. Today, instead of casting hate and worry into the world, try to channel your self-love and self-care. Instead of panicking and thinking all day about the fate of this historic election, release your grief and focus on your passions.
My entry today is a continuation of our sisterhood discussion of self-love. Earlier this Fall, we read Cam’s beautiful words about mental clarity, intelligence and self-worth. Her openness set the bar high, and I hope that what I have to say about my spiritual journey will match her eloquence. The third pillar, the body, will come later this year from our dear friend Sami. The three of us represent the trilogy of self-love, and we work hard to encourage each other to grow in each way, in every way. Our hope is by sharing these talks, these motivations, we can help grow a greater community and a stronger network of women who love and encourage each other.
So with that, here’s a bit about my spiritual journey, and how my path to self-love and acceptance has brought me to where I am now.
The journey I’m on right now began at the end of my junior year of college. Up to this point, my focus had been on my physical appearance, my weight, and other people’s opinions of me. I never thought much about my substance, or how much I liked myself. In one summer, I lost 25 pounds, and when I returned to school in North Carolina for my junior year, I was thinner and more confident than I’d ever been before. I put so much emphasis on my appearance, assuming others would love me more if I looked prettier.
Do you know what happened? They did love me more. They loved me so much more, actually. Every greeting came with an exclamation like, “You look amazing,” or “Oh my gosh, look at you girl!” So others did love me more, but losing that weight only made it clearer to me that I still didn’t love myself. Somehow, getting that part out of the way made it possible for me to see that I was anxious, awkward, and inauthentic. I wasn’t even sure who I was, because I didn’t know what made me happy.
With my body image issues on the back-burner, my failing mental health came front and center. The entire three months I studied abroad that year, attending classes and interning in Dublin, I was broken. I cried all the time, and wouldn’t leave my room for days. That darkness was all-consuming, and I thought I’d never escape. At times, I wondered if I would make it back home alive.
When I did, I knew that a new journey had begun for me. This journey has carried me through graduation and into my real world, my real self. Just weeks after being back home from Ireland, I applied and interviewed for an internship with World Vision International, in Seattle, WA. My family wasn’t sure another 3000 mile trip was good for me, and while they wanted to see me succeed, they were cautious. To be honest, even I wasn’t sure I could handle it with the depth of my depression at that point. I pursued the opportunity anyways, knowing how selective the program was, I assumed my odds were low anyways.
When the offer came from World Vision, I accepted immediately. I called my dad after and said I was going. That moment, that three minutes on the phone with my dad explaining why I wanted to go and how I felt about it, those were the moments when this journey began. I was sure, sure that this was the right next step. I felt a higher energy calling me to say yes and to accept this adventure.
“I have to love myself.” I kept thinking.
That summer in Seattle started it all. I was thrown into a community of Christian interns who didn’t drink, or swear or have sex. I was the odd one out, but I never lied about who I was or what I liked, and to my surprise they liked my anyways. In fact, they may have liked me because I was the weird one. It was the first time I felt entirely accepted for who I was, no costumes. In my job at World Vision, I was valued as a writer and communicator. My peers taught me, let me tag along, and gave me meaningful projects to work on. I felt enraptured with the community I was a part of. That summer was three months of self-love and self-expression. At the time, I had no idea the depth of my journey to come.
Since then, my life has changed in many ways, but my journey to deep, meaningful connection with the universe still persists. Through the physical practices of yoga and meditation, I have been able to bring a balance into my life that would have been impossible before this journey. This wasn’t all easy or fun, in fact I made some pretty big sacrifices to find this new sense of self-love and inner peace. Friends, women I thought I’d keep by my side forever, no longer served me in a positive way, and I found it necessary to break those connections in order to love myself the way I deserved. I learned how to identify these kinds of toxic relationships, to guard myself more as a means to protect my heart and my soul. In turn, this new space for myself has transformed me into a kinder, more expressive individual to the ones I keep close. Now, I am a caretaker to my people, and to myself.
In the last 6 months, I’ve found a strong community of women here in Pittsburgh who are committed to this spiritual journey as well. With their support, I’ve found new determination and motivation to connect. I read Danielle Laporte’s book “The Desire Map” and Jen Sincero’s “You Are A Badass” both of which pushed me to be more bold and honest about what I want and how I am going to get there. I’ve built myself a routine of yoga and meditation practices which remind me to love myself, physically and emotionally, and to make sure that these three parts of me, mind, body & spirit, are connected and in tune with one another.
My spirit has become lighter, and I feel less attached to the physical world now than I ever did before. I feel free to explore and adventure and dream, without the anxieties of other people’s opinions or judgments casting shadows into my light. I would once have stumbled through the words to tell someone my dreams, and now I can confidently say, “I’m going to write books one day, and build a family.”
What would you say if someone asked you to tell them what your dreams are? Do you have the courage to be honest with them? Are you even really being honest with yourself?
Connecting with your spirit may mean connecting with your greater God, Goddess, or divine being. It may mean understanding your true desires, and being ready to chase them. It may mean a lot of things, but it definitely means understanding WHY you are doing what you are doing, and why you are committed to what you are committed to. There may not be some lofty “higher purpose” but there is a reason you’re here today…and it’s up to you to channel your passion and your connections to find that reason. For me, that reason is peace and light. I am committed to living a peaceful and light life that feels joyful as often as possible, and to spreading those feelings to the important people in my life.