Under Construction

“There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection. To me, that is the true essence of beauty.” ― Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

First of all I have to thank Dana De Greff for this ‘perfect’ title, inspired by a photo taken by Ingrid Serrano and orchestrated by Harmony Vides. The photo shoot took place in the lot of home that was being built. Like the title, this issue is confronting an ongoing processes of rebuilding that will always need refurbishing,work that is vital to my sense of self worth. 

There have been many times in my teaching experience that I’ve directly seen how we are all  connected by sharing similar lessons, sometimes even in the same moment. I’m not going to try to explain how we share these collective waves of understanding, and maybe it’s just my mind making parallels, but knowing that we are not alone in our struggles (and that when we are open we can learn from each other), fills me with a necessary sense of hope and support.

The issue central to many people I’ve spoken with lately is that we should not make ourselves smaller in order to make someone else more comfortable. We lack an awareness of our self-worth and put others needs above the basic things we need for self-care and inner peace.

It seems that most of my romantic relationships throughout my life (and I suppose this plays out in others areas of my life as well) I negate my opinions, desires, intuition and even my common sense in order to accommodate the needs of someone else. 

I know, it’s seems foolish--why would anyone do that, you might ask.  Well, for most of my life I didn’t even realize I was doing it until I had completely lost my sense of self worth or found myself feeling confused or stuck. And at that point, my coping strategy was to run away, either by physically leaving or by mentally and emotionally withdrawing. It’s not a new lesson for me; in fact, it feels like this part of my personality has always been under construction. I’ve always been working on learning to value myself with all of my imperfections. What’s different is that this time around I’m observing a deeper level to this negative pattern in the needs of some of my students as well as mirrored back to me in the empowering examples and words of my friends. 

From the outside it’s easy to say things like: ‘live your truth,’ ‘don’t ever make your needs insignificant to another’s,’ and ‘it’s your ability to be boldly and uniquely you in all of your imperfections that sets you free and can bring you happiness.’ But for many of us who have learned this behavior from a controlling or abusive parent, partner, or just from societal conditioning, it takes mental reprogramming and a conscious commitment to relearning how to accept and love ourselves. 

If we are sensitive to others or have been with partners who had extreme tempers or were overly critical, it may have seemed easier, at least in the moment, for us to put our needs aside to keep a sense of peace. I know this pattern all too well. And those of us who do this also know that every time we do it, we lose a little piece of ourselves. When we ignore our intuition, or become afraid to be ourselves, our personal power begins to fade. In that insecurity we begin to rely on the other person to give us strength with their approval of our ability to satisfy their needs. It’s a slow assault on our sense of self worth; sometimes it’s even wrapped in the guise of love. The truth is when someone else has no regard for your core needs, that isn’t love, it is vampirism. The end result is a person who feels subservient, dominated, anxious and codependent. But as it is happening it is hard to see the slow disappearance of yourself. In a relationship or an interaction with someone who is using this aggressive external power, when you refuse to stand up or walk away, you are often left feeling drained, confused, anxious and/or depressed. 

Standing in your personal power doesn’t mean being a bully or overbearing; you simply know what resonates with your heart and what doesn’t. In that moment our choice is to try to find a common ground where both people feel empowered, supported and heard; that, or you walk away. An argument or debate with someone who is stubbornly stuck in an external power play will never feel resolved unless they soften and see the harm they are causing to themselves and to the person they are attacking. The other side of this situation is when we refuse to look at our own actions and choose to instead remain in the role of the victim and blame our dissatisfaction on the other without taking care of ourselves; by doing this, we are also not allowing the other to grow. The other person might always feel cornered or constantly judged, which will put them on the defensive and most likely trigger more of the controlling behavior. 

“But at all times we too are 100% perfectly imperfect. At every given moment we are absolutely perfect for what is required for our journey. I’m not perfect for your journey and you’re not perfect for my journey, but I’m perfect for my journey and you’re perfect for your journey. We’re heading to the same place, we’re taking different routes, but we’re both exactly perfect the way we are.” —Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

We are all flawed, scared, opinionated and susceptible to mistakes at any given moment. So how can we judge each other for our different points of view, different ways of doing things, and different needs for maintaining a sense of inner balance? I’ve learned that the most controlling people and those who take the greatest pains to try to appear perfect or convince others that their way is the only way, are living with the greatest pain and fear. They too deserve to be able to live as they wish, but as Wind Wolf Women used to say, ‘Love your soul, hate your ways, don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.’

How do we come back to ourselves and learn to value the totality of who we are? Self empowerment is a way of life. Sometimes I catch myself in the moment and can make the conscious decision to stand up or walk away. Other times I see that I’ve repeated the negative habit of focusing more on making someone else happy and ignoring what I knew I needed to do to keep my sense of self empowerment. The trick is to keep constant vigil by focusing on what feels good, what lifts us up. We are not here to suffer, we are not here to be made fun of, criticized or ignored. We are here to be loving creators, to create and live out our greatest desires and keep the company of people who respect and support us.