Thursday, September 16, 2010

Be Gentle With Yourself

I am comfortable with ambition and motivation, but when my energy flags, I begin to panic. I think I have always struggled with this concept of relaxation which has not been earned. If I work like a dog until I'm bone weary, and cross at least half of the things off my lengthy list, I feel like I can unwind and relax with no guilt. If I have a long list and I'm not conquering it, I worry that somehow I've lost my edge and it's all over.

I have always had this fear lurking at the edge of my subconscious, waiting to pounce and defeat me. Instead of panicking, today I gave myself the kind of advice I would likely give to a friend who had the kind of month I have just come out of, one rife with conflicts, difficulties and emotional upheaval: be gentle with yourself. Even just typing the words brings me to tears because I have been quick to offer this solution to my friends, and so bloody slow to accept it for myself.

No matter how far I have traveled along the road to separate my personal value from my accomplishments, I discover in these moments that I am not as far as I thought I was. I am not what I do. They are two separate things. I have intrinsic value as an individual, as a wife and mother, as a friend, a daughter, and all of the other roles I fill on a regular basis. If I am simply myself, to the best of my ability, it is enough.

I don't have to prove anything with my accomplishments in order to be acceptable and lovable to those in my life. Perhaps if I state it over and over, I will actually believe it. I wish this concept wasn't so hard for me to understand on a soul level. Perhaps in my childhood the two things (value and effort) were so intertwined that I had no real way of separating them, so in times of stress, I fall back on my fears that if I'm not producing something impressive, I am worthless.

It's garbage of the highest order, and I've spent years convincing my mind of this truth, but my spirit is the harder sell. I have prioritized this issue for my kids, being careful not to say, "Good girl" or "Good boy" when they accomplish something, but instead I say, "Good job". I wanted them to start out in life at a point that took me many years to reach - knowing that all of their value exists in who they are, and what they do flows out of that. Our efforts don't define us; they reveal us.

I have lots of inspiration right now, I'm just lacking motivation to get the words on paper or the legwork done for upcoming classes, but I have confidence that my motivation will return. Sometimes being gentle with ourselves is the way to healing. Being busy often masks the emotions that we need to feel in order to move on and not remain mired where we are.

I've had a lot happening in the last four weeks, and now that it's all settling down, the emotional fall-out must be managed before I can resume business as usual. Taking time for myself is not wasted time. Recognizing this is the first step to getting better. Gentleness and kindness are good for the soul; they create space for beauty and growth and lead the way for motivation and accomplishment when the time is right.

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