I came across a powerful question today, courtesy of Chris of Creative Juicy Arts: What am I afraid to want right now?
When I look deep into my 20 plus years of eating disorders, I see how my bingeing, purging, starving, body hatred, and addiction shared this root: Fear.
I was afraid to want what I wanted.
I was afraid of my longings.
I was afraid of myself.
I was afraid of my goodness.
I would wager that nearly everyone who has or who’s had food “stuff” is familiar with this fear.
This is because it’s easy to see our goodness when everything on the outside is exactly as we want it to be. But how do we believe in our goodness when we look in the mirror and all we see is fat, fear, and flaws?
Many of you know that I’m featured in a new weight loss film, The Inner Weigh, which is available for purchase now. The Inner Weigh makes a radical statement: that believing in our goodness – not punishing ourselves – is the path to weight loss. To this, I can only say, “Amen!” (Watch the trailer for The Inner Weigh and purchase here.)
It’s a question of identity – who do we believe we are? How do we define ourselves? Yes, we each have our stuck points – our compulsions, our reactivity, our messy humanity. Seeing our goodness isn’t about living in denial about these things.
At the same time, we balance this awareness with kindness. This is the mercy of forgiveness; of compassion – of recognizing that we’re all doing the best we can.
We can also remember that our messiness – our shadow side – is not the sum of our story. The truth of who we are is much, much greater than our mistakes, our bodies, our behaviors, and even our thoughts themselves.
This is where I get shivers.
By recognizing our goodness – and the longings, the wantings that stem from it, the deeper truth of who we are – we can gently, kindly, diligently work on shifting the surface behaviors that cause us pain. In my experience, it’s the only way I find the courage to heal, to look inside, to do what feels scary and difficult.
Otherwise, I feel too ashamed, small and hopeless: guilty.
Honoring our goodness – while kindly acknowledging our stuck points – is where our humanity and Divinity intersect. It’s how they intersect. It’s a paradox, isn’t it?
As you focus on your goodness, you’re able to more fully embody it. It’s what enables you to rise to the occassion, to live out “the better angels of your nature.” It’s how you put down the cookie, do the exercise that makes your body feel good, reach out when you’re hurting, and hold your tongue when you’re about to lose your patience with a loved one. It’s how you become who you are.
It’s also how you soften the voice that says, “You’re just the worst human being ever. A piece of doo doo on the sidewalk.” (This voice in my hand is probably friends with this voice in your head. They all hang out at the same bars and have all of the same lines.)
When I get stuck – and, boy have I been feeling this way lately, which I wrote about here – I notice this corollary: I’ve lost the thread of my goodness. So that’s where the healing journey begins with me. I start with relationship – strengthening the connection I have with myself, and with the Divine. As I remember my goodness, I am more able to live it.
Here’s where it gets comical, and frustrating: If I get too stuck, I get mired in shame. I hide. I avoid doing the very things that help me remember my goodness. I almost feel like I don’t deserve them! For me, these practices include meditation, yoga, inquiry, journaling, teaching, creativity, writing, and play.
And yet what I most fear – and resist – is what I most need. So the one thing I’m going to do today to remember my goodness is to meditate, even though I’m terrified to go inside.
How do you remember your goodness? A few ideas:
1. Do something you love. Doing something you love connects you with love itself. What brings you joy? Go for it!
2. Call on love. William James said every prayer starts with, “Help!” The poet Hafiz put it this way: “Ask the Friend for love.” When nothing, nothing else works, I literally pray, “I’m calling on love. I’m calling on love. I’m calling on love,” and imagine drawing to me the Divine, people who love me, spiritual figures, and even pets so that I feel “held” and less alone. I will admit that in hard times, this is a thrice daily practice for me.
3. Ask those around you to tell you what they love about you.
4. Take 5 minutes every morning to tell yourself what you love about yourself.
5. Pause at night and forgive yourself for any unresolved hurts of the day. Pause and remember 1,2, 10 things you did that made you happy, grateful and proud.
6. When the self-critical voice tells you that you don’t deserve to rest, to give yourself a break, to care for yourself, do the opposite of what it says.
7. Take a moment to pause and appreciate your every small act of courage or action – even if it’s just making your bed.
8. Rest. “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” It is so hard to uncover our goodness when we’re exhausted.
9. Watch The Inner Weigh and get inspired.
1o. Do something really, really kind for yourself. For me, this was getting a haircut, reading a juicy novel (Diana Gabaldon, anyone?), letting myself have rip roaring lovin’ with my husband (letting ourselves receive pleasure – particularly the non-food kind, is so empowering!), and time with a friend.
11. Practice “even though.” I learned this from a wise woman in one of my classes. When she feels the voices of “not worthy” in her head, she reminds herself with, “Even though….” So, “even though” you gained 10 pounds, you can still go to the dance class. Even though your grey hairs are showing, you can show up confident to the party. Try the power of “even though.”
As you reconnect with your goodness (I find it helpful to refill my tank before reflecting), then consider spending some time with these questions: What do I want? Do I believe that I deserve to be happy, to be free, to be peaceful, to be healthy?
Our longings are the deepest expression of who we are. No, it’s not about trying to make you or your life perfect. (Impossible, and unnecessary.) No, it’s not about trying to control life. (Impossible, too.) No, it’s not about being “good” so that you feel worthy. (Also impossible and unnecessary.)
It’s about trusting that your need for love, for beauty, for self acceptance, for joy, for peace are holy and trustworthy and good. Good, not as in “Be a good girl,” but good as in perfectly okay. Good as in noble. Good as authentic and true. Good as in the expression of the Divine in YOU.
As David Whyte writes in his poem, Sweet Darkness, “the world was made to be free in. Give up all the other worlds except the one to which you belong…anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.”