The journey of homesteading is about so much more than chickens, gardening and self sufficiency. It’s also about personal growth, self awareness and healing. It certainly has afforded us all of those things and then some. This particular story is about facing shadows, the ones that hold you back or weight you down, and learning to truly and honestly appreciate yourself.
It wasn’t easy for me to write this. I have a habit of placing my deeply personal writings inside an old cookie tin and pushing them to a safe dark corner of my room but these words have been burning a fire inside me for some time. I think these words can help someone. Maybe you even.
Negative thoughts can build up inside of you over time. It can start at a really young age. There’s this expectation that you need to look pretty, behave certain ways and do or be certain things to “fit in”. We are programmed to believe that our overall performance in these areas defines “who we are” and many of us connect all of this to our self worth. This sets the stage for a lot of negative thoughts and perceptions of ourselves throughout our lives. Often we don’t really know why we think or feel these things …we just do.
Have you ever listened to someone you care about say negative things about themselves and have you though to yourself “how can they possibly think that? Why don’t they see what I see”? Have you noticed that you don’t give yourself the same consideration, love or compassion?
Where It All Begins
Our childhood development is strongly influenced by the beliefs of the society in which we live. Our families, teachers, friends and the media all have a powerful influence over us. The media: television, magazines, movies, commercials and advertising has an extremely influential voice within that circle. A writer named Allen Ginsberg once said “whoever controls the media-the images-controls the culture” and he was right.
Corporations spend billions of dollars to bombard us with messages on how we should look, feel, desire, what successful looks like and so forth. They’ve done a number on us by programming and fostering insecurities, stereotypes and unnatural standards. They’ve taken vulnerable parts of our human nature and exploited them. We unknowingly validate and perpetuate their agenda at every turn.
Why would they do that?
For profit and control. To make us buy stuff that we don’t need. None of it exists to make us happier. None of it exists for our benefit. This programming is extremely damaging. It impacts our relationships with others, ourselves, and our children. Did you know that the number of women who would describe themselves as beautiful is just 4% GLOBALLY? This number is probably that not much higher for men.
What if we tore all of that down? What would happen if we wiped away the shallow and cold stereotypes of what successful is and replaced it all with positive, HUMAN messaging? What if the world was focusing on really meaningful and enriching qualities such as: thoughtfulness, creativity, wisdom, empathy, intelligence, perception, mentorship and kindness? The next time you buy a fashion magazine, watch celebrity scandal TV or purchase the latest high priced anti wrinkle cream be aware of what you are actually supporting.
When I finally connected all of the dots and realized just how absurd some of my thoughts and behaviours truly were, it was a crushing revelation wound tightly in regret.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the things that I regret. When I write it all down it makes a frighteningly long list. Flipping through photo albums there are entire trips where I am not even in a single photo. A ninja at hiding behind the camera, I have robbed my son of memories. I feel the selfishness of this act deeply because I am someone who cherishes and collects memories and family history. I have missed out on a lot of experiences because of my insecurities and I regret that. Have you got similar regrets?
The worst part for me is that as a parent I have unwittingly passed some of these attitudes down. Kids see everything we do. They hear everything we say, especially about ourselves. I’ve seen glimmers of it in my son, these behaviours and lack of self esteem that I wanted so desperately wanted to shield him from. I have regrets and the only way I can correct this is to change. This is all on me to change.
On this journey, in the quiet of the garden, I thought deeply about things. This lead to self evaluation & reflection. This isn’t exactly an easy or comfortable process to go through but as the garden bloomed, in a sense, so did I.
I started by asking questions like: Why am I so self critical? Do I really deserve it? Why does my husband love me? Why does he like me? Why do other people like me? Then I would let my husband tell me what he valued about me. The difference this time was that I would actually listen and accept his words instead of pushing them away.
Then I started making lists of things that make me happy. I listed all of the things that were most important to me and what I want most from life. I also made a list of the things that I have low self esteem or insecurities about. Through this practice I became aware of something quite profound.
The things that I was insecure about, the things that made me unhappy, weren’t on any of the lists of things that I value most. Why am I giving these things so much space when they aren’t that important to me?
Change is never easy and it certainly didn’t happen over night but it was worth the struggle. At some point I started hearing the good messages surrounding me in the voice of my husband, my son, even my dogs that adore me unconditionally. I just started soaking up all this love and goodness and told myself I was worthy of receiving it. Eventually I started actually believing it.
When I openly admitted that I was holding myself back and keeping parts of myself tucked away AND that this made me unhappy, changes in my behaviours started to unfold. Carrying a deep seeded belief that you are “not enough” is a pretty heavy burden. Finding a way to let go of that weight makes room for a happier and lighter spirit to grow inside of you.
If what I am saying resonates with you and If you can stand in my shoes, please know that you are enough.
What Really Matters
Let me tell you about the beautiful you that you sometimes forget to see. Your beauty comes from the way you glow to others, how you make them feel and how you make yourself feel. The words that you speak and the actions you take reflect your beauty and matter far more than physical attributes or other trivialities. How we love and are loved is beauty personified. Does your partner tell you they love how you look, how you smell, how you are? Do you feel their desire for you? Do you trust them? Do you tell them those things in return? If you do, then listen and believe their words. Breathe it deeply, into your soul. Exhale. Then repeat and repeat and repeat until it finally takes hold.
It’s not easy to look within and take accountability for our own happiness. It’s not easy to change. I can only tell you that the process brings about such tremendous rewards, not only for you but your family, it’s worth the agony to get there. The discomfort is momentary but the rewards will be felt for generations. Be patient with yourself though because these things take time. Here are six daily reminders for you to start each day with.
Look at yourself without judgement. Look at others without judgement. Let’s all try to foster and nurture a kind appreciation of ourselves and of one another. That is where the true beauty, the everlasting kind lives. Beauty is in our hearts and minds and behaviours. We can smile secretly knowing something that all those billion dollar beauty corporations have overlooked. Our self worth isn’t something you can bottle and sell.
If you liked reading this, you might also enjoy: Why You Should Leap Outside of Your Comfort Zone.