i have spent a lot of my life believing that i was failing in some way. this is a plague. whether you name this shame, self-contempt, self-loathing—being a constant enemy to yourself, instead of a companion, is a toxic crime.

the more i talk/write openly about this, the more people have thanked me for being honest about something they, too, are living under.

i’ve realized too many of us are suffocating. so i wanted to share with you how i’ve found a bit of breathing room . . .

chanting: “i am no more than human, and i am no less than human” has become a mantra for me. at some point in my life, i got into this really crazy thinking that if i couldn’t be more than human (hyper-productive, hyper-amazing, hyper-perfect) then i was decidedly less than human. this is what happened to adam and eve in the garden. this is the age-old lie. the snake told them “you can be like God.” but when they ate the apple and tried to be like God (more than human), they realized their nakedness and felt great shame (less than human).

part of accepting myself is accepting my humanity—the reality that i am no more than human, and i am no less than human. i’m going to get hit with the things that humans get hit with (fatigue, grief, longing, disappointment, bad hair days) . . . but all this is ok because, after all, i’m a human. and going through these human-things doesn’t mean i’m failing. it just means i’m human. the more i try to be super-human, the more i feel less-than-human. so, i chant. and this mantra has created some space for self-acceptance.

reading: the more i read, and the more i read the right kinds of writers (those who are vulnerable, brave, and honest in their writing; those who aren’t trying to perpetuate a certain image in their writing), the more i realize i am not alone, i am not the only one, and i am not the last person on the planet to get the memo. i think this is why i love good memoir. i get to hear the journey of another human being; i get to find myself as they are finding themselves; i get to laugh and shake my head and cry and say yep, i get that. reading honest writing has dared me to re-examine myself as companion instead of enemy.

creating: creating helps us get connected back to our true selves. i just completely believe that. creating is centering, satisfying, and sustaining work. as i tweeted yesterday, “creation is a better means of self-expression than possession; it is through creating, not possessing, that life is revealed” (scudder). love that so much. we pursue so much externally in order to “find ourselves.” what if the finding happened by means of expression, not possession? here’s an idea . . . very simple, really . . . make a collage today. gather (from magazines or wherever you find inspiration) words, pictures, items, colors, textures . . . anything that reminds you of your true self, that connects you to your soul, that inspires you. follow your intuition. glue your findings to a journal page, piece of cardboard, poster, paper plate, anything. don’t martha stewart it to death. the creating and the creation itself can be cathartic. don’t have time to create, you say? this is not a luxury, people. this is a soul-necessity. creating is always a way back to myself. when i have lost me, creating (writing, collaging, etc) reminds me that i haven’t lost myself for good. i am still find-able.

confessing: put words to the toxic voices that are scampering about your mind. don’t just let them bang around in there unchecked. tell someone you trust what you are hearing, what you are believing, what you are allowing to shape your decisions and your feelings about yourself. bring it all into the light. i absolutely believe that when we reach out, tell that trusted someone what is really going on—the true state of affairs—we open a small space in the walls that are closing in on us. miraculously, someone is then able, through that same small space, to reach in to us. this, as they say, changes everything.

breathing: when i’m under attack from shame, i find that i am holding my breath a lot, taking shallow breaths, practically panting at times. i feel pressed and suffocated, under the thumb. one of the most revolutionary responses is to stop and breathe. after a time, this begins to be prayer.

what has helped you become a better companion to yourself?

which one of the above most resonates with you?

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