Why Don't I See Myself?
Some of the most REVEALING MOMENTS in our lives come wrapped in the form of questions that arrive unannounced at the doorstep of our lives. This riveting moment occurred in my life when this question, “WHY DON’T I SEE MYSELF?” landed on my doorstep. It arrived unannounced, throwing me off as I was going about my life and yet it was EXACTLY WHAT I NEEDED to stop me in my tracks.
I found myself re-playing this question like a broken record in my mind over the next couple of weeks, and to be quite honest, I am yet to find or come up with a sound and reasonable answer. Because what does the question even mean? The poise of it, the violence of it, the unrelenting empathy it asks of me— it took my breath away and left me asking even more questions. I mean why wouldn’t I see myself? I hope you are sitting down as you read this because what followed next was a riveting sequence of events, so brace yourself. It was only when I was lying face up on my mat at the end of a yoga class that I had been putting off attending for months, with tears streaming down, that I felt seen by myself. FINALLY. In this precise moment, as I lay there unravelling, I realized that for the first time in a while, I actually gave myself the gift of attention, and just enough attention to refuse to minimize what I yearned for that morning. I realized I had finally seen myself enough to get up early and go to that yoga class that would ultimately improve my quality of life and make me better. Even if it would be just for that day. I felt deserving of that act of self-care towards myself.
Before you judge me for having this breakthrough moment that sounds like it could fit right into a script of the remake of the movie “Eat, Pray, Love”, let us try to unpack this and have you understand how exactly I ended up having a dramatic “aha” moment on a yoga mat with tears rolling down my face. Let’s trace it all the way back to my childhood, shall we? I grew up in a home where I was loved, I felt it and was sure of it. However, I was never taught self-love. I was never told “Tumi, it all starts with you, you have to love yourself first”. That notion may have somewhat been suggested but it was never emphasized, it was never clear and resounding in the way I carried myself, so love from others seemed more important by default. “As long as I am loved by my family, my friends, my partner, the world, I have enough love in my life!” is the echoing vibration at which most of us live or exist at. I only started to experience glimpses of understanding and remotely feeling self-love in my early twenties, and even then barely, because at that age, life ( and in many ways, myself) kind of thrust me in situations where I had to actively choose myself, or die.
The first and most notable experience: the loss of my baby when I was 8 months pregnant. It was an experience that I never could have imagined as a little girl playing house and wishing to be a mother someday. But as a pregnant 22 year old now faced with the prospect, did I feel worthy and deserving of this blessing, this gift?
The answer is no, no I didn’t.
Anxiety, especially during your first pregnancy, is normal and not that surprising. But what I felt was not anxiety, it was deeper than that. For me, it was an intense feeling of agreement to the completely false and imaginary thought that: I am not good enough. So when the unimaginable happened and I lost my baby, I had proven myself right and now that I knew for sure that I was “right”, I really wasn’t good enough, I had to commit to that right?!
This is what most of us do. We agree with false narratives and thoughts about ourselves and quite frankly Forrest Gump our way through life, and not in a good way. Aimlessly, we commit our lives to consistently proving them, our thoughts, right and in the end unconsciously prove ourselves “right”. All the whilst unknowingly sabotaging ourselves. So silly isn’t it?
So back to the loss of my baby. I was expectedly shattered into pieces after “proving myself right” - the irony. Thoughts of my unworthiness became obsessive at this stage. How, of course, I wasn’t going to have a baby, what did I even think, of course I am not deserving! And I began to rapidly disappear during this time. Becoming more and more invisible to the world around me, that seemed to be able to carry on as usual. Like nothing life altering had just happened in my world. But upon reflecting, I can now determine, that I too became more invisible to myself. (HA! Now, we’re getting somewhere!)
I completely disappeared into my thoughts and they completely ruled my being. I use “my” very loosely because thoughts are rarely ever ours as they are projections of our environment most of the time. However, it wasn’t all bad. Like any good story, there was another side. A positive, a yang, a silver lining if you will. This experience awakened something in me. It taught me how I am the only one responsible for my own healing. I command it. I came to learn during this time, and probably in the most harsh way, that the world doesn’t care about the state of your heart as long as you smile. And even if you don’t, the world carries on. So you are left to yourself to figure out how to process your feelings at any given time and make sense of them in a meaningful way.
The true triumph of my experience, however, is that I got to learn the most enduring lesson that clarified what self-love and self-care are rooted in. I HAD to SEE myself out of the darkness that came with going through an experience that makes you feel alone. Like no one gets what you are feeling and their love for you just isn’t enough to get you through anymore. And no matter how life unfolded, I knew I had to see myself out of that darkness. How did I do this? And more importantly, how do I continue to do this to this day?
Well, simply put, healing is a never-ending process beloved. For one, I allowed myself to be sad and cry uncontrollably so and inconsolably so, even if it meant I had to ugly cry or resolve to sobbing until my tears could no longer be the manifestation of my emotions anymore. I didn’t listen to anyone telling me to not be sad. I had to feel this immense sadness in order to get through it and past it, or else it would hover over me for the rest of my life. I also removed myself from people who did not aid in my healing process, people whose energy felt like it would delay me. Sadly that even included the father of my baby. I was called selfish and I was willing to carry that judgement for the sake of myself, my healing and my peace. That’s another thing, you have to be brave when choosing yourself because you will be questioned and chastised for choosing yourself. Because the world, in very subtle ways will echo, “How dare you choose yourself when we’ve all been sacrificing ourselves?”
So, cultivate courage, dear heart. Courage.
It was this journey that I also found a way to connect very deeply with my Source and myself through meditation. I cannot accurately articulate in words how meditation has saved my life. It has restored my breath countless times, reminding me to breathe, in moments that felt like the end. Reminders are so important because we are forgetful beings who think we have it all figured out when we present ourselves to our loved ones, friends and colleagues meanwhile back at the ranch we are actually falling apart at the seams. And yes, we do know what to do, intrinsically, we just need reminders to call us back to ourselves and realign ourselves after a breakdown so we can have a breakthrough. So establishing what those reminders are for you is important to help you hold space for yourself. This isn’t simply a suggestion. It’s warfare. It’s how you too can actively choose yourself in moments that feel like the end that’s been holding is coming to an end.
So back to answering the question that led me down the path of unpacking my childhood, then loosing my baby and living to tell you the tale. Why don’t I see myself?
Here is my answer in all of its glory: I don’t feel I am deserving of joy and a blessed, peaceful and high-quality life. This leads to me thinking and talking myself out of my greatness and all the acts required of me to make my life as such. Having it out there finally, and looking at myself and finally seeing myself in the mirror, I am certain that this is not my truth. Or, it certainly doesn’t have to be. For many, their story and the stories they tell themselves, would lead them to having answers like mine—heartbreak, setbacks, failure and loss of any magnitude have a way breaking the spirit and the will for one to live, if nothing else, a fulfilling life.
Not with me, though. I choose.
I choose to dust off my yoga mat no matter how long its been and show up for my yoga class. I choose to wake up and meditate when even when my mind tries to sabotage me out of pursuing my healing. I choose to see myself and pay attention to what will bring me into alignment. I choose joy. I choose joy AND the knowing that comes with that joy. Joy should always be accompanied by knowing that you deserve it, otherwise it is futile and fleeting. For now, I will leave you with a mantra that has in many ways held my hand through it all, I hope it will do the same for you, and whenever you find yourself needing reminder, declare:
I KNOW that I deserve joy and peace.