Saturday, July 21, 2012

Self-esteem series 4: On the Journey

p.s. long post alert!

                                                           On the Journey 

        Over the past couple of months, I've thought and thought about how to conclude this series... I mean how do you write a paper conclusion on an ever-continuing story? I thought of writing a list of lessons - it seemed too pedagogical. Then I thought of doing a Q and A but I'm one for diplomacy - what if there is a question I refuse to answer  in a straightforward manner? Finally, I decided to continue my trail of thoughts from Part 1 of this series. 

You can read Part 2, and Part 3 too!

        As I had written in the previous post, I'd grown up knowing the commandment of loving your neighbor as yourself... and needless to say, I focused a lot on the first part. And I can safely say, I adhered to it to a stifling level. I never understood what one of my Aunts meant when I was a teenager, but she once said I was a "Yes" person. And that reflected in my relationships. Once I let someone get close - my time... my money... my everything in fact, you could have it. I would keep my opinions to myself to not hurt you... If you needed me to go cross a river to get you something and I could, I would... mostly I would. To me, my idea of loving people was inconveniencing myself. In it of itself, without considering my intentions, that would be considered loving my neighbor... but what about me? My idea was to get you to like me no matter the cost. Maybe if I inconvenienced myself enough, you'd notice that I was walking barefoot in the scorching sun for you... I didn't realize that if I walked barefoot long enough I would burn myself and not get to walk at all. Ironic. 
        The commandment concludes by saying " yourself ". How could I think I was possibly loving you as my neighbor if I didn't even love me? I think for me, the hardest part of this was realizing that being honestly me could be the only way I could learn to love myself... and it had to start with speaking the truth about what I thought, what I wanted and didn't want. I had to learn how to start saying "No", instead of my knee jerk response of "Yes". One applicable way that that started to look like for me was how much free time I leave for myself. Not time doing work or talking to friends etc... just time to spend with myself. Not lying and putting up a front as though I always wanted to be around people. I had to start telling myself that it is okay to be alone. It's okay to have time for myself. Another way that loving myself began to look like is what I actually think of myself. It's good for people to tell me I'm this... I'm that etc... but it's all music to a tone deaf girl if I don't actually believe that myself. Loving myself means I acknowledge myself, just the way I am - no additions, no subtractions... not his or her or their expectations - just me, and loving me just the way I am. All my mistakes, my bad, my good, my accomplishments, my blessings... all of it - just the way I am. It is only when you accept yourself that you can see and appreciate the beautiful imperfection you are. I am a mold of beautiful imperfection. 
       In my experience, and please note - I clearly don't have enough - I've felt that the church does not emphasize enough on healthy self-esteem. A lot focuses on what you can do for other people etc, as well as what traits you shouldn't have - pride, greed etc. But how about self-care? It's like Paul says, 
   "If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing." 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NIV)
And I say, how can we love, if we don't start with ourselves? I don't think God wants a bunch of people going around doing good and feeling horrible about themselves. I've been there - you are constantly left with a bad taste in your mouth. I can safely say that I used to think that in how I think of myself, I ought to make sure it's just always really lowly - on a level, I was scared that feeling good, or thinking well of myself would result in baneful pride which would then lead to that dreaded famous state of a dilapidated fall. Coupled with a sense of low self-esteem, I've had years of practicing false humility. 
        I can't say it's all gone. As time goes on, Christ continues to use people and situations to show me the broken shards that I am. It's a constant reminder that He is actively working in my life - healing and piecing me to be the woman He had always intended me to be. A revamp in how I think of myself had been hard, especially since I've had years of practice. However, one of the best comforts I've had is what His word says about me:  
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 
Romans 8:37 (NIV).
 On this continual journey of  learning who I am, I'm already more than a conqueror! I think that is the most awesome piece in a stream of messages I've relearnt over the past year. If I am more than a conqueror, that would mean that I am not only confident in who I am, but also whose I am. In the things I do, I'd exude that reminder, that knowledge... and that is so powerful that it translates into my dealings with people. Because I am more than a conqueror, I can confidently do all the loving I am blessed to do. Not because I need that affirmation or approval. I do it because I am already blessed and crazily loved. People who are loved, can't help but love back in return. They can't help it but extend that love to others. It's like when you come across a couple. I'm not talking about a couple engaged in their consumptive and needy selfish love, but one that just for the sake of all that is good and whole, they just love each other. Whenever you meet such a couple, you can't help but feel warmed at heart, and included. You don't leave their presence feeling like: "Oh gawd, where is my Boaz?" You leave feeling rejuvenated... like wow! (Lol, I'm so excited, I just want you to get the picture of what I'm trying to convey). That is what it feels like in the presence of someone who is self-assured on who they are. I feel that people can't help but get that vibe from you once you resign yourself to self-acceptance and self-love. You just can't help but love people back. I clearly haven't gotten there yet. It's like something my friend D once said to me - She said she hopes to be someone that she looks up to one day. She'd want to be the person she admires. I love that statement. And it is something I think everyone should aspire to. You end up loving and building yourself to be the best you can possibly be - all that untapped potential can't possibly go to waste. We are just too precious and awesome as individuals to spend our days in envy or self-loathing. You are awesome, you are wonderful, you are beautiful/handsome, and just too good and immensely loved.  
       I honestly don't know what your journey of self-esteem looks like for you, but as the famous line goes, admittance is the first step. Whether you believe it or not, you are good enough, just the way you are despite what all the outside noise says. The true voice to believe is that little persistent urge that reminds you that you are worth more than you realize. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Acts of Faith: Grace and Mercies

If I claimed even for a picosecond
that I knew where to begin,
the genesis of my gratitude...
It would be like telling you
I knew what particle of sand
you moulded Adam from.

If I told you
I could begin
to count the stars
you use to brighten my day...
Nay, brighten my life,
It would like claiming
I know the extent of your grace.

Your grace.
Your mercies.

I'm drowning in it.

And I couldn't even want a lifesaver jacket...