1_Celebrating Our Selves_b3

Honoring the courage it takes to risk living in the middle of our healing journey – learning to love, accept, know and enjoy our inmost selves – in a world that does not support or value this choice. 

Celebrating Our Selves

Celebrate and acknowledge your self for having the courage
to risk being in the process of healing and growing your self
in a world that makes it difficult to claim your birthright:
truly loving, accepting, enjoying and knowing your inmost self!

When I walked away from my outwardly successful life just a few months past my 32nd birthday (see Pirouettes for more about this), people were incredulous, baffled by my decision. In those early days of the second wave of feminism, it seemed profligate for a woman who had made it in the male-dominated world to be turning her back on that success rather than using her position to mentor other women into that world.

It didn't matter to me then what anyone else thought or felt about my choice. I left that life – both my work as a feminist psychotherapist and my open marriage to a feminist man – because I felt compelled to.

I was heeding a call from deep within me. I couldn't any longer bear living in the middle of the contradiction that was my life: an abundance of external success, achievements and accolades, yet never a sense in my self of being okay, a worthy human being. My inner critic attacked me mercilessly. Her lacerating barbs undermined everything I did or accomplished. The self-loathing with which I lived was extreme and pervading.

At the time, I didn't see this leave-taking as an act of courage. I didn't even see it as a choice that I was making. It was simply what I had to do, no matter what. Leaving almost everything and everyone behind wasn't hard; it was the irresistible unfolding of the necessary next step.

For all the remarkable experiences I've been through in the now more than 39 years since that turning point, it remains the most powerful watershed moment in my journey. That decision set me on the road to a life that has been very different from the sort to which I, before then, had aspired. There was a particular refrain repeated by my mother whenever I took exception to being told that I wouldn't be allowed to do or have something I wanted to do or have. "When you're rich and famous you'll be able to do/have whatever you want!"  I took that flip message to heart and set about becoming rich and famous so that I might escape from feeling unhappy and deprived for the rest of my life.

By 32, I knew I was probably as rich and famous as I'd ever get to be. My income was above the 98th percentile for professional women at the time. It was already more money than I could find ways to use once I'd bought all the shoes and matching purses for the walk-in closet full of all my specially chosen or hand-crocheted (by me) clothes. (This, my reaction to years of being told by my mother that more than one pair of shoes or one purse or any clothing of particular quality was "not necessary," even when there was money available and she had a considerable closet-full herself.) I'd also by then had my small share of fame: being interviewed for radio, TV, and modest newspaper and magazine stories about my work and life as a feminist/feminist therapist.

It was painfully apparent that being rich and famous was not, after all, going to change anything that felt wrong either about me or about my life. I finally got it. Nothing I'd been doing was of any use in my struggle: excesses of outward accomplishment would never put an end to my feelings of deprivation or bring me to feeling happy or at peace with who I was. I hadn't a clue what a new and different path might look like but that didn't feel daunting at the time.

The journey that began with this understanding and with walking out of my old life has been an amazing one. It started me on the way to living from the inside out. My path became one of uncovering (and sometimes recovering) who I was underneath all the socially valued but personally meaningless trappings. The work involved learning to accept, nurture and celebrate all of who I am in every moment of my days, just exactly as I am in these moments. This, even when how I am is less than I might hope someday to be; even when those around me may be less generous with me than I am being with my self; even when other people may find my dedication and life style unforgivably self-indulgent.

Nothing in the media or the culture's generally touted version of the good life honors this way of being. The good life we're swindled into valuing involves climbing to ever more important career positions, acquiring ever more – and more costly – possessions, traveling to ever more exotic places, having ever more extreme adventures and amassing ever more excessive amounts of money. It also involves, particularly for women, considerable attention (and money) devoted to maintaining our physical appearance as thin and free from signs of aging.

The socially/environmentally/politically conscious good life calls us to values and awarenesses that are clearly much healthier for the planet and for all living beings. Yet, its insistent calls to action-for-the-greater-good also tend to marginalize the significance of a sustained commitment to self-knowledge, self-acceptance and self-nurture.

Many of the currently popular Spiritual paths are also less than supportive of claiming our birthright of knowing, embracing and taking good care of our inmost selves. Rather, these paths encourage us to find peace by way of transcending our particular self or by the practice of immediately turning any of our (normally occurring) so-called negative thoughts or feeling into positive ones. I have a lot of trouble with any versions of the good life that inspire devaluing all emotions that are less than grateful or serene.

Coming to know and compassionately embrace and care for our selves is our most basic right and our most essential responsibility to our selves, the planet and all beings on the planet. As we each take this inward journey, the energy we put forth into the planetary field becomes one of healing and wholeness. We do not seek to fill our emptiness or create a sense of our value by aggrandizing our selves at the expense of others or at the expense of the planet itself.

When we take the risk of living from this inside place: claiming our own healing as a focal part of our journey in this life and resisting the pressure to conform to more socially valued, more culturally acceptable paths, we are being courageous spirit-warrior goddesses (or spirit-warriors). This is so even if we feel there isn't a choice involved in our taking this path.

It is important to honor and celebrate our selves for this courage; for taking this course in a world that rather than acknowledging its worth, more often mocks and devalues it.

Consider how courageous and brave you are to be engaged in this revolutionary process of growing, healing and nourishing your self.