“Hold your hand over your heart, like you would when you’d say the pledge of allegiance in school,” she said. “Then, gently start to move your finger tips around. There should be a sore spot. It’s an acupressure point.”
“Okay...yes, I feel it,” I replied, wondering why we all had this “sore” spot but figured that question was for another conversation. Rebecca was on a role.
“Good. Now, repeat after me. Are you ready?”
“Just...one...sec,” I said as I reached into my bag to find a pen to write down what she was about to tell me. Furiously using one hand, crashing through pages in my notebook, I finally came to a blank one. Popping the pen top, it was poised and ready.
“I deeply and completely…”
“I deeply aaaand commm...plete..ly…” I said, drawing out the words to give me a little more time to write them as I said them, one handed, sitting in the car balancing my notebook on my knee while massaging the “sore” point with the other hand. I had our babysitter come over for an hour and a half so I could talk uninterrupted. Turns out, the car is the best place to do that these days.
She continued, “love and accept myself...”
“luh..ve aaandd ac..cept myselffff…”
“exactly the way I am…”
“ex...act...ly the waaaay I aammm…”
“even if I never change.”
“eev...en---wait, what? That’s hard.” I whispered.
“Go on,” she coaxed. “Even if I never change.”
“even. if. I. never. change.”
“Now, repeat it back to me in it’s entirety,” she said.
I took in a deep breath, saying it out loud:
I deeply and completely love and accept myself exactly the way I am even if I never change.
“But the whole point is I want to change. Need to change. SOMETHING needs to change,” I pleaded.
“You are changing. You are in the midst of great change. What this exercise will do for you is help heal and comfort your inner child who needs you even more now as you go through these big changes. She is railing against the change because she’s scared and doesn’t know that you can handle it. You can and all she needs is some firm gentleness and understanding.”
Sigh. Relief flooded through me for being understood but I was also weary. Already tired from the frustration of having “dealt” with my inner teen for a while now, I was ready for a break. She was hard work.
The thing is, I’m in my thirties, and just now going through these unprocessed feelings.
As a teenager, I was lonely. I didn’t have the normal boundaries or parental guidance to bump up against. “Just be good,” was what I heard mostly. This left me trying to figure it all out by myself, all while trying to be “good.” It was exhausting, frustrating, and put me squarely on the perfectionist track.
And god forbid I didn’t know something. Or tried something and failed. It simply wasn’t allowed.
Our family had other, deeper issues going on. Life at home was reactionary, every one usually high on cortisol and walking on eggshells at the same time.
Those formidable years of feeling firm in a solid foundation that would have allowed me to try, do, make mistakes and try again were instead spent agonizing over how to be “good,” do everything perfectly and quite literally not be seen. If I was seen, it meant I did something very wrong.
Yet, trying new things and failing are all a part of knowing ourselves.
Being allowed to fail in an environment that contains us without judgment, then validates and acknowledges our attempts is one of the greatest gifts we can ever give or receive.
Being shamed over failure or made to believe we are a bad person because we failed, misses the point entirely. Not only is it damaging in the long run (trust me, I know!) but it never teaches someone how to separate their BEHAVIOR from their TRUE SELVES. Then, that person goes on living their lives as if they were bad, terrible, and striving for perfectionism---which will never happen because PERFECT literally DOESN’T EXIST.
My 16 year old self didn’t know that though.
That budding young woman didn’t just eat it and go away, however. She’s here right now and asking for my attention, validation and open heartedness. This is so tough with a teen! They’re angsty and angry. They back talk and sulk. They test, push and test some more JUST to make sure you’re still firm, you still love them and you still have their backs no matter what. It’s like a toddler times one hundred.
“I deeply and completely love and accept myself exactly the way I am even if I never change,” I repeat before bed. Pausing while doing the dishes. On the bike at the gym. Driving. “I deeply and completely love and accept myself exactly the way I am even if I never change.”
She hears it and acknowledges it’s validating powers. And even though I’ve softened into it more and more---maybe even believing it from the sheer amount of times saying it---what’s really helped has been Andrew.
He sees my struggle and can verbalize back to me what I’m going through.
I’m not alone. I’m not doing this by myself. We’re in this together. A team.
And my inner teen revels in that. She loves that she has a family---strong and loving people (Andrew and myself) who she can rely on even in her darkest moments of fear. She can make mistakes, say things she immediately regrets, and express a full range of emotions. Meanwhile, she won’t be labeled, judged or shamed. The behavior is addressed separately from the person. Through it all, she’s still loved. And she’s growing from it day by day, blossoming into the woman she’s destined to become.
I have an incredibly hard time with slow. As a natural “doer,” I tend to try to find solutions as quickly as possible whenever a problem or frustration arises. And this can be really beneficial in many cases.
But there are many cases where a good, long seasoning needs to happen. A slow progression, so nothing is missed, everything is touched, revealed. This, for me, is where I deeply struggle. It’s so uncomfortable that I WANT IT TO BE DIFFERENT NOW. Enter my inner child.
The past two years of my life have been my immersion in fully understanding this long, slow unfolding process. It’s been painful. It’s hurt. There has been so much I wanted to run from, screaming. But circumstances kept me firmly planted where I was, to face it all head on.
I feel it coming to an end though. And while I can’t say I’m sad about that, I can say I’m humbled, relieved. A tiny bit proud, even. I'm making it. I'll survive!
Sometimes, I’ve realized, it’s the simplest things.
Pressing into a sore point.
Reciting a self-compassionate prayer out loud.
One prayer at a time, moving forward.
A slow but beautiful unfolding.
My mission is to leave the world in better condition than how I found it. I’d be grateful if you shared this post with someone for whom it may make even a tiny bit of difference. Let’s start creating that positive ripple effect, together! Big hugs xo