Love yourself-accept yourself-forgive yourself-and be good to yourself because, without you, the rest of us are without a source of many wonderful things.”
I remember being in elementary school out on the playground. “Red Rover. Red Rover. Send Sally right over!” I clasped the hands of the children on either side of me tight. The three of us would not be the ones who allowed Sally to break our sealed bond. We refused to be the “weak link” in the long line of children chanting. What a horrible game this was for me. Did any child ever really want to be chosen to run through the clasped hands of classmates? For me, it felt like that familiar rock in a hard place of kind of wanting your name called out because that meant the kids knew you existed, but then you’d inevitably experience that scared feeling of anticipated public humiliation and failure if you weren’t big enough or able to run fast enough to burst through those seemingly bonded with glue hands. And then the laughter that inevitably occurred when a child did not break through the line of the opposite team. Ugh.
I’ve honestly blanked on what happened in the steps of the game to the child after she failed her teammates. I’m remembering more tormenting, jeering, and laughing. Then there’s the enduring public shame of not ever having my name called to run, having my name called last when teams were being chosen because my body was too tiny…not strong enough or fast enough. The rejection of my classmates at recess during the play of “red rover” left me in that place of pseudo-invisibility, yet painfully visible for my “unwanted” status because the adults on the playground would insist that the game include everyone which dumped “salt in the wound.”
In a different context, I managed to swim swiftly through the water and earned trophies, including the most valuable girl swimmer trophy of our summer swim team at 10 years old. I could hardly take in this moment of “being chosen.” The cheering teammates, coaches, parents wildly applauding on their feet completely overwhelmed me. The humiliation of all my other mistakes or perceived by others’ failings burned too fiercely. Plus, I knew what I’d hear when I returned to my parent’s house. Feeling the complete opposite of elation, my heart pounded with fear. I wanted to sink into the floor and hand the trophy to at least 10 other more deserving teammates. My coaches and teammates could not have chosen me. My face burned with embarrassment and my stomach did uncontrollable somersaults. I prayed I wouldn’t throw up. My legs shook. This type of “being chosen” felt like complete torture for what I believed about myself at my core, what I had been told by specific important adults did not translate into “most valuable” anything.
Years later I discovered these trophies in a box. While my infant son napped, my pre-school aged daughter and I explored some cabinets where I knew unpacked boxes remained. I pulled them out. Taken by the shine, the shape of the bent-over woman bodies clad in metal suits and caps in that ready to dive posture, my daughter asked if she could hold them. I said, “Of course. They’ve just been sitting in a box.” Her small hands tenderly held the trophies. She began playing with them on the floor, bringing each one to animated life by talking out loud, giving them voices. She uttered kind words as these shiny metal bodies on those wood platforms flowed through the air guided by her hands and arms. She created lively interactions with each of them. My daughter brought these objects to imaginative, playful life much like children enjoy a tea party with their stuffed animals and dolls.
All I felt as I watched her was deep humiliation, a shame to which I could not begin to put into words. I had imbued these awards with the private put-downs, the cruel shaming sessions I had endured. At this juncture, I had begun learning about the wisdom of feng shui. I knew belongings came with positive stories, associations, memories or negative ones. I realized in that moment that I had to dispose of these trophies.
After she completed her play, we placed them back in the box. Later that day while my then-husband interacted with both children, I carried the box of trophies to the large green trash container behind the garage. The need for relief outweighed everything else. I trusted that letting go of those trophies would help me continue to untangle my inner world of the awful feelings and memories that still hurt deeply.
These days I continue to choose all of me-all my expressions and ways of interacting with people in my life. I live grateful that most of that internal shame has lifted off. I know the value of choosing people for all that they are and all that they are not. I know the benefits of remaining far away from toxic, deeply troubled people. The belongings in my current physical space uplift me and hold beautiful memories and associations.
Nothing replaces being chosen, being fully accepted for all that you are-all your expressions-your goodness, sweetness, your bursts of joy, your meltdowns, your frustrations, fears, terrors, mistakes, accomplishments, awards, resilience, courage, intelligence, silliness, sass, even the look on your face when you do the heartbreaking cry that some people call “the ugly cry” which I actually accept as the healing cry of deep grieflove or gratitude.
I don’t understand why this type of crying has been called “ugly.” This kind of crying can be such a healthy, transformative, cleansing of the heart from all the hurts that have been hiding or shrouded by the numbing distractions of adult life or it can be a deep love, a profound gratitude for the unexpected kindness of others. I realize you probably don’t want the cleansing cry to happen in public, but sometimes it does, like at a funeral of a beloved one, the graduation of a child, a wedding, or because something happens that sets off the cascade of tears. Emotional health requires that emotions continue to be E (energy) in Motion (emotion).
Radical acceptance, the capacity to choose whatever life brings can free you to respond from your inner strength and deep acceptance of yourself knowing you have gained skills, much courage, and enduring inner dignity.
You may have your preferences, but life will continue to deliver experiences that are uncomfortable or challenging. That’s the design of life. Choosing life exactly as it is and is not in this moment becomes a pathway to freedom and peace.
A compassion for all your human expressions emerges as you choose and deeply accept yourself including the parts of you that might still feel a bit tender from too many years of the bruising ache of not being chosen by people with whom you had yearned and desperately wished to be accepted by and celebrated. You can choose yourself in all your laughing, crying, dancing, pouting, angst, silly, and easy expressions. There’s no law that requires anyone else to do so. You can choose to do so for you.
May you tenderly clasp your own hands in a beautiful bond of acceptance. May you hold your sweet face gently in both your hands with love, choosing fully to embrace your perfectly imperfect self. May you choose to see your whole self through eyes of compassion and grace.