I wrote this as a guest post recently, and I wanted to share it with you here. As you read, consider leaving a comment to the question I ask at the end of the post. Your words might be just what someone else needs to hear.
Over the last three years—since becoming a mother—I have looked in the mirror, and more times than not, resembled Charlize Theron from “Monster” in most every way. Dark roots. Bad skin. Scowling. Just generally the most unattractive version of yourself you could imagine.
This has been a grief for me, as I would like things to feel much more like the Anthropologie catalogue then they have ever turned out to feel. Three babies in three years has put me face-to-face with myself in such an intense way, that I have had to do some reckoning.
For as long as I can remember, I have struggled to feel a sense of spaciousness within myself. Instead, I have spent time feeling ill-at-ease in my own skin, squeezed from self-contempt. Motherhood intensified all of this immeasurably, and I was confronted with the following question: was I going to be a constant critic of myself or was I going to learn to be a companion to myself?
I saw these little creatures at my feet. Gorgeous, wide-eyed tinies. And I knew I needed to find a new way of thinking, of being. After all, how could I really be there for them if I had no idea how to be there for myself?
Practically speaking, one of the things that has most helped is better understanding the concepts and practices behind 12-step recovery.
I had this swirling mess of voices and anxiety in my head, and so I looked into how a person might break down such a big problem, how a person might begin to think (and then act) differently, how a person might stop certain habits and begin new ones. That’s what 12-step offers us.
In my opinion, the single greatest truth from 12-step is the idea that we must approach each day anew. We don’t graduate from our struggles. We don’t arrive. Things aren’t ever solved, once and for all. We wake up each day and we begin again. We put into practice those truths that have become part of our health. And then we do it again tomorrow.
I’ve become really attached to a Scripture passage from Psalm 18:
But me he caught—reached all the way from sky to sea; he pulled me out of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos, the void in which I was drowning. They hit me when I was down, but God stuck by me. He stood me up on a wide-open field; I stood there saved—surprised to be loved! (Psalm 18:16-19, The Message)
Instead of “wide-open field,” other translations use the phrase “spacious place” or “broad expanse.” YES. That’s the kind of living I want to do. How about you? Don’t you long to live from the spacious place instead of the squeeze? Don’t you long to offer yourself breathing room instead of badgering?
I really believe that we can live our lives drowning in the void, or we can live our lives in the spacious place. I have floundered in the void, as some of you have or maybe still are. There is so much more life in the spacious place.
There is so very little in life that we can actually control. Almost nothing. Three little babies will teach you that quickly. But one thing we CAN control is this: How we treat ourselves.
The truth is, I still look like Charlize Theron from “Monster” most every day. And, the truth is, that’s still hard for me. BUT . . . somehow I can forgive myself now, I can care for myself, I can see that things will go so much better if I will simply stop believing that I am the sum total of my perceived inadequacies.
God has offered us a very broad grace. Can we offer that same grace to ourselves and, what’s more, wake up tomorrow morning and choose it all over again.
What helps you to be a companion to yourself (instead of a critic)?