My therapy session this week started with me talking about how much I still people please, how much I struggle with doing what I really want for myself. We started digging, as we always do, and, as it often happens, ended up in a completely different place than the one I figured we might: it’s not the other who is my judge and my critic – my harshest critic, my bully and my tyrant boss is … myself.
If there is one phrase that royally frustrates me, it is the one saying something along the lines of, if you don’t love yourself, you cannot love another; if you aren’t kind to yourself, you cannot be kind to other people, if you are not generous to yourself, you cannot be truly generous to others. I get the logic of this and, at the same time, I am immensely pissed off at the hypocrisy of it all.
There is a chorus of voices that have been built up to continuously mumble, sing, bitch, yell or simply roll their eyes inside my head. The voices that first joined the chorus, in my early childhood and in my pre-teen years – so, great longevity there – murmure a well known tune that has become the background of my life: you are too dramatic, you are too black and white, oh dear, you are so bitchy and selfish, you are a piece of shit with eyes, I made you, I can kill you. I did not even have to flex my memory muscles too much, these voices are at my fingertips. At. All. Times.
The chorus above was joint in my teens and early adulthood by more voices, telling me about how I don’t fit in unless I look a certain way, I am not cool if I don’t make out with boys, drink, smoke. As a young wife and then mother, more voices joint the cacophony that was accompanying me every single second: you are supposed to do this, this and the other to be a good wife, don’t let yourself be seen, you are too morose, why are you depressed, you have no reason, just snap out of it, mothers are cheerful, immensely loving, all sacrificing and continuously alert.
And these are not to count the professional voices pushing me to be on top of things, work myself into the ground and be three steps ahead because I am a local, a woman, at some point I was under an age where people could believe I was worth anything and now am openly part of a sexual minority in one of the most homophobic countries that exist.
You would think one can find solace in a community of God but what you find there are more recipes for what you should be – sin free (and there is a huge lists of shoulds and musts in there alone), dedicated to the church and a world that has nothing to do with reality.
It’s almost like you get several different checklists for who you need to be and what you need to do and sometimes, often, these lists butt heads.
And then comes the time when you encounter the phrase: love yourself the way you are. Who and how in the hell am I ? In the middle of all of this chaos of expectations, raised eyebrows, how are we supposed to find the true us, open our hearts to this person and fully love them? We get no training for this unconditional love of ourselves we are supposed to have and yet, at some point in our lives, this becomes just another point on a checklist. THE checklist. The irony of it all … .
The best I can do at this point in my life is be aware that there are voices imprinted on my mind and heart that are not mine, take a breath every now and again and try to listen to whatever message is sent to me from deep, deep inside. I figure, whatever the truth of me is, it is buried there and every now and again manages to get to me. Most of the times it gets to me in the form of illness because the body always keeps the score and we listen to the body more than we ever listen to our heart. Isn’t that insane?