Short on time? Listen on-the-go:
Love yourself first, and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world. -Lucille Ball
Last night, I received a text from one of my ride-or-die besties: I feel like the flowers I got this time smell like farts (crying emoji). She also sent a photo of the offending fart flowers…
Baby’s breath. Of COURSE it was baby’s breath. The packing peanuts of the floral world.
Worried that I’d missed an important promotion or birthday (as is my norm), I responded like a true detective: Flowers? For what?
Apparently, my friend makes a habit of buying flowers for herself every time she grocery shops; a practice I, myself, used to uphold. I began tapping out my response… oh, I do that, too… but I stopped myself, deleted and started again: I used to do that, too. (Yes, I like to use proper punctuation in my text messages – go ahead, America, hate me).
We chatted awhile longer about nothing super important, really. Thanksgiving, birthday plans, book recommendations. Then, we bid each other farewell. She needed to finish a work presentation and I needed to finish a leftover slice of apple caramel cake… that thing wasn’t going to eat itself.
But long after our conversation, I kept thinking about those fart flowers and the fact that I don’t buy them for myself anymore. I started to consider the long list of things I used to do for myself, things for which I no longer make time or space: buying myself flowers, updating my underwear collection, making myself banana coconut lattes…
Without realizing it, I’d given up a million small treats I once loved. And always for good reason – it felt irresponsible to spend the money, I had two young kids and no time for life’s “frills.” But these small things added up, and I’d never stopped to consider what foregoing all of these tiny, seemingly insignificant treats might say about me, or (more importantly) what they communicated TO me about my self-worth.
I like to think I’m being humble, that my sacrifices are just selfless acts of love, evidence that I’m choosing to put family first and preferring others over myself. This world is full of so much selfishness, so many people who think they’re the absolute shit and the center of it all. I’m just doing my part for humanity…
…by always letting the person behind me in the grocery line be first to the newly opened lane (even if I have two things and they have 20)…
…by avoiding writing at my favorite coffee shop if they’re too busy, because I’d hate to take up a table when they have paying customers waiting to be seated…
…by not getting too dressed up or wearing too much makeup, because I shouldn’t be spending that much time on myself when my kids need my attention…
…by not making myself breakfast, because half a banana and a squished protein bar are more than enough…
I know, I know. These are such small actions that sound so incredibly silly and don’t really matter in the long run… or do they?
It’s one thing to put others’ needs before our own – a practice I fully believe in and support. But it’s another thing to compulsively, eternally put ourselves last after everything and everyone else. Think about the cumulative effect of all these tiny self-sacrificing efforts over a lifetime, each small, seemingly insignificant action sending subtle messages to my brain over and over that I’m not worth it, I don’t deserve to buy the flowers, it’s selfish of me to want undies that aren’t blown out like a circus tent.
One of my favorite authors in the world, Anne Lamott, talks about the small but meaningful act of simply putting lotion on her body when she’s recovering from a food binge or feeling a bit overwhelmed and anxious about life. As a bright-eyed, bushy-bottomed collegiate youngster, I didn’t really connect with the meaning behind her words. Now, as a mom / wife / writer with exceptionally few moments to myself and a million “better” things to be doing, I can see the beauty and bravery in stopping everything else in order to give our bodies such careful and focused attention – especially when we feel undeserving and unlovable.
All I’m saying is, it’s no wonder I feel that my ideas or thoughts have little value. It’s no wonder that I never really tried to put myself or my art “out there,” because to do so would mean that I believe they’re actually important – that I’M important. That I deserve to be here. That I have something meaningful to say, and I deserve the right to say it, just as you do. I’ve been listening closely to my mental tapes, grinding out the same tired message on repeat: you’re not good enough, you’re not worth it, nobody will listen to you, your ideas aren’t all that new and don’t really matter.
All this time, I’ve been operating under the assumption that I’m powerless to change these messages. But, you guys, it’s a simple process of input-output: by neglecting myself, I send subtle messages to my brain that my body and its musings aren’t important, and my brain gladly replays those messages back to me. It’s always been a two-way dialogue, and the power is all mine to change the conversation. I just never recognized my own power.
Consider for a moment what this world would be like if you and me and everybody we know took control of their own mental tapes, began to believe that they mattered, that they had gifts and ideas and contributions that the world desperately NEEDED. Imagine if we all truly felt free to engage in our own unique, creative expression, no matter how it looked or how silly it felt. It feels scary, I know, because putting ourselves “out there” requires terrifying vulnerability, but this deep-seated fear can only be overcome by the audacious belief that what we’re creating – what we’re saying – matters.
AND Y’ALL – IT DOES.
What you have to contribute – the gifts and talents, ideas and visions within you – f*cking matters. A lot. There are far too many of us living in silent fear that our dreams are worthless, frivolous, or stupid. We’re terrified that the moment somebody challenges us and says that they’re stupid, all of our fears will be validated.
Well… then what? I’ve got news for ya: just because somebody thinks you’re nuts or an idiot or completely and totally wrong doesn’t make it true. And there are an awful lot of folks out there (me included) so afraid to push their own limits, they find it easier to soothe their soul by hating on the rest of us, who are actually trying. It’s classic schoolyard bullsh*t.
So, as a mother, I offer to you a classic “mom” response: f*ck ’em, they’re just jealous. I mean, don’t become an asshole who suddenly gets all into yourself or anything, but also don’t forget that the Golden Rule about treating others the way you want to be treated assumes that you aren’t treating yourself like shit… in loving and caring for yourself, you model for the rest of us how to do the same.
Are you hearing me? You deserve to be here. You have a voice and you deserve to use it. You exist for a reason, and while helping others is part of that reason, remember that expressing your inner gifts and vision is one way to do just that. We NEED you to believe that you matter, and we need you to live like it.
Go ahead. Buy yourself the fart flowers. Show us that you’re here.
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