Speaking Truth

I’ve been thinking about the significance our words can have in our relationships. Especially words of encouragement. I think “speaking truth” looks like sharing truth the someone is loved, and valuable and guides you toward being your best self.

Speaking truth into someone’s life is not the same as giving advice. It’s not telling someone what they should do or who they should be or how they should act, it’s naming the positive things you already see in them. They ways you believe in them, see good and have faith in them.

A few months ago I heard a sermon that focused on our understanding of our own identity; how we see ourselves, and the ways which we long for others to see us and validate our existence. But then the speaker talked about the power we have to affirm knowledge that we are beloved in ourselves and – here is my favourite part – in others.

When I first drafted this post I focused on the importance of finding people who speak truth into your life. The longer I thought about it, it occured to me that rather than focusing on finding those people, *imagine running around with a butterfly net catching those people*, maybe we should just try being those people.

It is so important to surround yourself with people who encourage you and challenge you to be your best self – but it is more in our control to be like that. The intentionality of speaking well of others and reminding them of their belovedness is something we should be trying to do everyday.

Maria Goff once wrote “God doesn’t just give us Himself. Sometimes he gives us a few other people in our lives who’s voices we can trust”.

Encouragement can stir up our weary hearts and stop dust from settling on us when we are feeling tired. Positive affirmations can keep us moving, or even help us get going again if we’ve fallen off track. We have the ability to speak truth into people’s days to remind them of their value and goodness.

It is up to us to learn to be slower to criticize and critique. Be quick to shower others with love.

If this is too vague and feelingsy – here are some simple and direct tips to speak truth:

  • First thing’s first : listening to what someone is going through and assessing if they are inviting you into a space to speak into their life (if you aren’t listening to them they probably won’t listen to you)
  • Reminding people of their worth, who they are and what they deserve
  • Affirmations, encouragement and naming strengths when you see others thriving
  • Lovingly redirecting and calling friends out when they aren’t acting as their best self or engaging in unhealthy behaviour
  • Speaking well of others – to their face and behind their back

Sometimes we don’t always realized how much our words can resonate but even just positive off-hand comments, kindness and empathy can speak to people deeply. A few months ago I was FaceTiming my friend Hannah and out of the blue she said to me “by the way I have always respected that you know how you deserve to be treated and you expect others to treat you that way”.

It wasn’t a grand speech, it wasn’t something I think she planned out, but I remember it changed the whole mood of my day. Our words have a great deal of power so take the opportunities to give reckless encouragement and affection.

Establish culture of encouragement, affection and affirmation in our communities to battle self doubt. Affirm the truth that each of us are worthy of love and belonging.

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Christmas Blog

In the last few weeks at church I’ve been listening to stories about advent. Hearing over and over that anticipation is good. That waiting is good. That patiently finding hope in what is to come is good.

And to be honest that really resonated with me in where I’ve been at in my life lately. December hasn’t just felt like advent. This whole fall has felt like advent. And the waiting game has been hard.

You know in the movie Click, where Adam Sandler skips over parts of his life? I have had many moments where I wished I could just skip to the part where I know what I’m doing. Where I’m not in the middle part of the story full of growing pains and waiting and hoping for what is to come. Where I have a plan and the goals I’m dreaming about and hoping for right now are already accomplished.

But also, I cried like a baby when I watch Click because he skips over his whole life and misses all the important moments and gets to the end wishing he had appreciated the middle bits so much more.

Even though Click is most definitely not a Christmas movie at all, it relates to how I’ve been feeling about Christmas this year. Our lives aren’t about skipping over the anticipation to get to the future. We need to take our time to enjoy the seasons of waiting.

I realized on my way home from the mall the other night that I really was missing the point of Christmas this year. Many of us know the cheesey phrase “reason for the season” but it truly hit me as I was panicking about wether or not I had good enough gifts for my family that I was realllyyy missing the point.

This season is not actually twinkle lights and watching Home Alone and baking cookies and buying the best gifts we can for the people we love. Those things are great, but it’s not the point. We give gifts at Christmas as a symbolic reminder of the best gift we’ve ever been given and could ever give.

And when you remember that, the panic induced “I wish I could afford to spend my entire paycheque on my parent’s christmas gifts because they deserve it” fades away because newsflash *no gift you give is better than Jesus being born*.

This is a season to remember what happened, and honour that and be as generous with the people we love as we can. It is not a season that should be focused on the gifts under the tree. And it is a season to be reminded that it is good to wait.

Gift giving is also difficult for me because I suck at surprises (on the giving and receiving end). I am the type of person who would love a surprise party thrown for me, but also love planning so much that I would never not plan a party. I tend to micromanage, I like to feel in control and when the holidays come I’m the queen of planning and Christmas shopping and trying to have everything purchased and ready to wrap by the end of November.

And y’all that didn’t happen this year. I didn’t wrap my gifts until Christmas Eve and I felt like a hot mess. And it felt like a very close to home metaphor for life lately. But why is that? An easy answer, control. As humans we like to be in control. We like feeling like we have knowledge and power. We like feeling like nothing can get past us. And what happens when we crave control we can’t have? Anxiety.

But maybe that’s the lesson here, we can’t always micromanage our lives. We can’t always be fully in control. We need to find joy in the waiting for what God has waiting for us. In the trusting that good things are coming. December is the season of advent, but maybe it’s not the only season of advent me or you are experiencing this year.

You might be reading this thinking … Kaitlyn… Christmas was yesterday. Why are you posting this now. Well because maybe this is a lense we can use to look at our lives. Maybe the posture of reveling in the anticipation can be something we carry into the other times when it would be easier to fast forward in our lives.

It is normal to crave control, to stress out when you don’t have it, and get restless in the stagnant seasons of waiting. But keep waiting. Stay faithful. If you’re in the same boat as me, keep trusting that good things are coming and stay present to appreciate the moments that you’re in while you wait.

Love Don’t Cost a Thing & Your Self-Care Shouldn’t Either

Welcome back to week two of the September Self-Care Series!

Self-care is often talked about hand-in-hand with the concept of treating yourself. This week I’m talking a little about why it’s problematic to commodify self-care the way that we do. Self-care is a practice meant to build up resilience in yourself. When it goes from being the rituals you to do practice self-love and keep yourself feeling balanced to something that costs money it means that it is no longer accessible to everyone.

Self-care isn’t a commodity that only some people should be able to access. Self-care is a mindset, it’s habits and routines and actions you can do to take care of yourself. Practical self-care, such as setting budgets for money, taking care of your physical health, or going to sleep early might not be Instagram worthy, but it’s just as important than the glamorous self-care we think of.


Last week I wrote about how the first step of self-care is listening to what you need, being willing to take breaks, and then being intentional about responding to those needs. This week lets dive a little deeper to what that can look like.

Treating yourself from time to time is great. Buying yourself something you’ve admired can be a nice way to reward yourself. However, a quiet night in with facemasks and 7 layer chocolate cake in a lavender bubble bath with a new book that you treated yo’ self to… it sounds dreamy but could run you about $50. That isn’t practical or accessible.

When I brainstorm mainstream self-care many of the things that come to mind aren’t accessible to everyone, and self-care should be because everyone deserves to have the resources to take care of themselves. In the conversation about self-care I think it’s important to think more about the little daily things rather than the big treat yo’ self moments.

Championing self-care means being mindful of inclusive practices and having an intersectional approach (Kaitlyn’s inner feminist is coming out y’all). I’m not going to sit and write about facemasks or splurging on expensive lattes and leggings. As self-care becomes a bigger topic in our culture we should be mindful of how we are really being gentle with ourselves vs. spending money on ourselves and calling it “self-care”.


A few months ago I was buying groceries and saw these pretty flowers on my way to the cashier. I thought “those are so pretty, I’m going to get those for me because I deserve it” – but as soon as I got home I felt like it was a frivolous purchase and I felt silly because I was more stressed about wasting money on the flowers than I would have been if I just left with what I had set out to buy.

We hear the message ‘treat yo’ self’ all the time, but if the message we actually need more often is ‘stick to your budget and don’t buy things you don’t need’ then this is me putting that into the world for you. If you take one thing away from my blog this week, let it be this, when self-care goes from being tangible actions we do to fill ourselves up so we can love others better, to expensive or extravagant things it is becoming exclusive and not available to everyone who needs it.

The other day my friend asked the question on instragram “what are your favourite ways to practice self-care?” and these were some of the responses she got:

  • Going to bed early
  • Working out
  • Drawing
  • Going to an unexplored coffeeshop
  • Turning off my phone
  • Writing down feelings
  • Getting off social media
  • Running
  • Cooking and eating wholesome food
  • Writing in a notebook, giving voice to feelings
  • Spin classes

Sure, they aren’t all completely free – but in terms of practical self-care these are a lot more accessible than going on a shopping spree or an expensive spa every one in a while.

I heard someone comment that how self-care is becoming another one of those thinly veiled performances of affluence – and that really stopped me in my tracks. If we are intentional about listening to our bodies and our needs, I think we should also be intentional with the way that we care for ourselves. Maybe that is setting a budget, maybe that is eating a salad instead of a burger, maybe that is choosing not to treat yourself to something you can’t afford, maybe it’s sitting with uncomfortable feelings you’d rather avoid, whatever it is be mindful of what you actually need to do for you.

I found this interactive guide to self-care online and I had to include it this week – it asks you questions to help you figure out what practical things you can do to meet your needs and it’s great: http://philome.la/jace_harr/you-feel-like-shit-an-interactive-self-care-guide/play. If you made it to the end of this post about practical & financial self care and inclusive feminism – thank you. Next week I have a special guest post for the September series I’m excited to share with y’all!

Inspired by Lori

For the month of September I’m kicking off a series of blogs on different aspects of self-care. This week’s post is dedicated to my good pal Lori.

Lori is a great friend, wise beyond her years, I often forget I’m the older of the two of us. We bonded a lot in out time living together in Florida, and maybe even more since. When we talk the topic of self-care comes up frequently. Lori is great to bounce ideas off of and we encourage one another to find ways to to pause and practice some self-care when we need it most.

This week’s post is inspired by some of those converstatins, so it only makes sense to credit half of these ideas to lil’ mama.


How are you, actually?

A key part of practicing self-care is being mindful of how you are really feeling. When we feel stressed, especially when it is frequent stress about little things that we wouldn’t usually find overwhelming, it can be a sign to slow down and be intentional about pausing to take care of ourselves.

Self-care isn’t always a big thing, I think it is most effective in our everyday lives when we are mindful of how the little things we do can add up to impact how we are feeling. Once we recognized that everyday things, like how well we are sleeping, how much coffee we are drinking, and if we’re working out and getting endorphins going are crucial aspects of wellness along with other acts of self-care we can do a better job at caring for ourselves.

The little rituals and habits in our lives add up, they can have a huge impact on our mood and when we practice living well and listening to our bodies we can take care of ourselves in a gentle and understanding way.

As the summer has simmered down to a near close I’ve been reading a book called Heart Talk: Poetic Wisdom for a Better Life. I can’t recommend this book enough, and the author Cleo Wade starts the first chapter with a beautiful description of why self-care is important;

“Self-care is how we fuel our self-love so that we are able to share our love with everyone around us. Our hearts are warm when we are able to show up with generosity, patience, and compassion for the ones we life, but we must remember that it is impossible to truly be there for others without taking care of ourselves first. We take care of ourselves by asking what our needs are. We take care of ourselves by making healthy choices when it comes to our  physical and emotional bodies. We take care of ourselves by lightening up and not being so damn hard on ourselves…It does not benefit anyone when we live our lives running on fumes. Love is an action, a thing in motion. Therefore, it requires fuel.”

Balancing Act

Life can get busy and with all the things we have to accomplish at school, at work and in our social lives we can sometimes get frustrated that we can’t keep up with the go go go pace. The best way to stay energized and integrate self-care into a busier lifestyle is to make to-do lists that have the regular tasks you might except along with self-care stuff (such as running , having a bubble bath, painting, watching Netflix, eating cake etc) so we remember that is a priority too.

Another quote I love from Heart Talk about this idea is ;

“At times, life seems to be one never-ending to-do list, but we must learn to disrupt the flood of life’s demands in order to replenish our energy so that we can fully show up for all of our passions and responsibilities.”

Self-care is not always about treating yourself but learning to listen to what you need and allowing yourself to take breaks and take care of yourself a little bit everyday. Sometimes the most important part of self-care is learning to recognize when to give yourself a break.

I once had a professor say that self-care is building healthy coping habits for yourself when life isn’t stressful, so that when it gets to be stressful you already have those habits in place. These habits could be waking up early to drink tea before the morning rush to give yourself space to feel centred or booking off a night just to hangout and catch up on your favourite tv show. Writing “eat cake” or “take 15 minutes to draw” on your to-do list might sound silly, but from personal experience I know it can help you to feel more balanced.

Simple Self-Care & Accountability 

The less exciting side of taking care of yourself is taking steps that will help you in the future rather than in the exact present moment. Like budgeting or eating healthy or going to bed when you’d rather go out.

When you do little things you don’t want to do because it’ll help you in the future, you’re practicicing self-care. When you take a break and let yourself just sit and breathe for 5 minutes before rushing about your day, that is also self-care because your future self will have had time to be present and hopefully be feeling less stress.

In the words of my girl Lori, “it is a mix of the two” [doing the things you don’t want to because it is good for you, and giving yourself a break].

As I said above, Lori is someone who I talk about self-care with a lot and it’s not only helpful to have someone to debate it with and think about it in different ways. It is so powerful to have someone who holds you accountable to practicing self-care too. Having people in your life who also believe in self-care and hold you accountable are so great.

It’s self-care, it’s up to you to actually do it. But having friends reminding you can be important too. We picked up this phrase living in Florida where if you’re hearing someone talk about a bad day or something they are struggling with you ask “what are you going to do to take care of yourself today?”. It’s so powerful, just to even be asked and reminded that I am in control – the ball is always in your court when it comes to self-care.

If I reach out to a friend and express some hard things I’m going through, I love the empowering reminder that I can go do something to fix how I’m feeling and feel better about my day.

The other day I texted Lori , I was having a really stressful morning and was telling her all the things going on, she asked what I would do to care for myself and I just said “I am practicing self-care today by drinking a green tea latte from Starbucks instead of coffee bc it doesn’t make anxiety worse” – it’s little things y’all. It’s listening and knowing when you can’t handle coffee, it’s knowing when you need a break, it’s knowing that you cannot show up for people if you don’t show up for yourself first.

September is a month of transitions, of going back to school, of building new routines, and I wanted to talk about self-care this month because now is the time for you to build in the habits of taking care of yourself. Transitions can be exciting but also stressful, so listen to yourself, give yourself credit, and remember that to stay in motion you need fuel.

Defensive Living

If you took driver’s ed when you were sixteen, you likely learned about defensive driving. It’s great when you’re on the road. But defensive living when you’re not behind the wheel can be a toxic habit. Choosing not to live defensively usually consists of trusting people and of opening yourself up to being vulnerable so you can connect with others. This choice can result in beautiful relationships that bloom as you feel known, understood and accepted by people you share yourself with.

Not being defensive is championed by many people these days as courageous and a healthy way to build authentic connections. From my own experience I know that opening up to others is what creates deeper relationships and I don’t know how I would survive without those relationships with my friends and family.

We make choices to trust others and often it results in knowing that we aren’t alone in our feelings and building deeper connections. We also make choices let ourselves be open to being hopeful. I wrote a blog post last year about allowing yourself to get your hopes up, even about jobs or unlikely opportunities, because it’s better to experience hope than try to defend ourselves from the possibility of disappointment. It sounds great, yeah?

One of the harder things to accept about being open and vulnerable is that we can still get hurt. To be totally honest, it is sort of the ugly side of vulnerability that we like to glaze over in the self-help books. But it is true, we can open up, be vulnerable and fall on our ass. Yet, despite that reality, I believe it is valuable to keep making the choice to be open to that possibility anyway.

Getting hurt sucks. When we get our hopes up and let our guard down, and things don’t work out – well that is something that can be pretty hard to sit with. Brené Brown says the root of anger is pain. And like most things, I agree with her. So what do we do when we get hurt, and a natural response is to be mad (at ourselves or others) about it?

There are a whole slew of thing we might relate to being hurt. And it is okay to admit when you’re feeling mad or disappointed, but it is also important to work through those feelings so that we don’t become bitter. Sometimes we might feel foolish- like we should have known better. But we don’t always know better, we simply do the best we can with the information we have. Being vulnerable still counts when it doesn’t result in a new best friend. Being honest still counts when it backfires. Courage is still courage, even when we fall down and get a little bruised.

When we are let down or disappointed by something it is also important to let go of the feeling like you “should have known better”. We were not created to live our lives on constant defence. When you get hurt, it’s still better than never being open to the possibility of connection.

Renowned relationship psychologist John Gottman has dubbed four toxic behaviours in relationships as ‘The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’. And wouldn’t you know, one of the four worst behaviours is defensiveness. If defensiveness is unhealthy in relationships, think how it destructive it can be if it is part of your relationship with the world around you.

When we are defensive we are trying to protect ourselves from getting hurt by others, we don’t let down our guard and it looks for ways to blame or assume the worst about others. We basically paint ourselves as victims and run away from things that might hurt us rather running towards them. This could be as simple as trying not to get your hopes us about a dream you have, not opening up in relationships or just not being vulnerable with people out of fear of their reaction.

Think back to the defensive driving I mentioned earlier, on the road it is important to be defensive and aware that other drivers might unexpectedly swerve into our lane. However, to respectfully disagree with Tom Cochrane, I don’t think life is a highway, and living defensive at all times is no way to live.

Defensiveness may be a strategic way to help you avoid disappointment or feeling hurt but it stops you from giving people the chance to surprise us with goodness and we miss out on friends or relationships. We can’t assume that we will choose vulnerability and never get hurt. Yes, at times it can be a risky choice. But I still think it is a better choice than defensive living. If you’re always trying to avoid being let down you won’t get excited about possibilities floating around you.

If you’ve fallen on your ass recently, have been hurt or disappointed, then this blog is dedicated to you. Even though it’s not great to feel that way it is a sign that you’re on the right track. You’re letting people in, getting your hopes up about life, and courageous choices always count even if they don’t work out the way you thought they might.

Eight Bridges Away

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there” 

I’m the type of person who is prone to worry, to wonder how I’ll deal with an issue I’m not even dealing with yet. It might come up in the future, IF x, y, and z happen, I might have to cross that bridge. But lately I’ve decided I’m not going to try to cross bridges that are eight bridges away from where I am.

Taking things one step at a time isn’t easy. But living in the present and focusing only on what is in front of you can cut down on a lot of unnecessary stress.

When I used to tell one of my friends about all the things I would worry and stress about she would categorize them into things I could actively do something about and “future Kaitlyn’s problems”. There are things we simply cannot deal with yet. Answering questions about where you are going to be in a few months might be an easy question or very difficult.

Sometimes you just have to trust that in the future you’ll be able to deal with the issues you face as they come up. If you deal with the little things now, the things that seem huge now might actually be little to you when you’re finally there.

Time is a funny thing. It can be a stressful concept, we feel that we either don’t have enough of it or we’re overwhelmed when we have so much we don’t know what to do with it because there is pressure that we always need to be productive. We need a plan of what to do with our time so we don’t waste it. It can feel like time is running out for us- but we have to remember that isn’t true.

 

I don’t know about you, but I was stressed out about 22

I am currently 22, and I’ve been thinking about time a lot. I am in a period of my life where I have a lot of time – and I have a lot of control over the way I use my time – forever. If I want to travel or go back to school it’s in my hands to make that happen.

Sometime last year I started crying because I was stressed about turning 23. For perspective – I was 21 , so it wasn’t even my next birthday. It was my next, next birthday. But 23 sounded so much more grown up, so daunting, and I didn’t know where I would be. It’s funny to think about now, because I caught myself being excited about 23 recently. It doesn’t seem so scary being only 6 months away. Maybe because I’ve had time to live and grow and overcome some of the smaller bridges to get me there .

As we move through life, we have a better sense of where we are going and we have more time to figure out how to get there. Often, we even discover that there are many different paths to get to the destination of our choosing. Thinking about being 23 a year or two ago was scary because I had no idea what this current year would hold. I didn’t know what life would look like for me, and now the picture is a little clearer.

Even a few months ago if you told me I would be visiting the Brooklyn Bridge with two new and really close friends I would have been like what? Really? But how will that unfold? Who are these people?

What I have learned is, we don’t need to understand how everything is going to unfold. We don’t need a road map, we don’t need to know every bridge we’re going to have to cross and how we will manage crossing them. We just need to focus on this moment and crossing the bridge in front of us. We need to know our goals and where we hope to be. The general destination we’re working towards, yes. But the exact directions? Not necessary. We will get there. We will keep moving and navigating, but step by step directions aren’t guaranteed.

New friendships and spontaneous travel plans? Working things out and discovering passions and the “ah ha” moments when it clicks and you know where you want to go? The uncomfortable moments of limbo and indecision that challenge you to grow? You don’t want to miss those moments by knowing every step ahead of you. And you don’t want to waste your time worrying and trying to predict every surprise.

 

Listen to your Mentors 

As I said, I am 22, and in the last few months I’ve gotten advice from a few mentors I really look up to and respect. I think it is wise to get advice from friends, but especially wise to have mentors who have life experiences beyond our own. If they are in their 30’s or 50’s, it’s been helpful to hear about where they were at when they were my age. And the ironic thing was that many of them said they didn’t know what they were doing or what their plan was at my age. They joked with me that life changes so much from your twenties to even your thirties, that there will be people and experiences that shape the course of your life, and whatever you plan now will change anyway.

We are young. We have time. We are going to be okay even without a step by step plan. And part of the fun is not knowing how things will unfold.

Turning 23 is still a few months away for me, but is it’s not really about the number. It’s about getting older and feeling like I need a plan. The truth is, we need a destination, a goal, idea or a passion, and we need to start moving. But we only need to focus on the bridge ahead of you.

I picked up the book The Opposite of Loneliness recently, by the late Marina Keegan and this passage has resonated with me and I think of it often when I am trying to stay present and feel hopeful for the future rather than daunted by it:

We’re so young. We’re so young. We’re twenty-two years old. We have so much time. There’s this sentiment I sometimes sense… that it is somehow too late. That others are somehow ahead. More accomplished, more specialized. More on the path to somehow saving the world, somehow creating or inventing or improving… What we have to remember is that we can still do anything.

The most comforting thing is having mentors, strong women who I admire and have lived more life than me, telling me that it’s okay not to have a plan. It takes time, being thoughtful and intentional about the moments you’re in and focusing on what is in front of you rather than playing a game of “what if’s”. You’ll find your path. You will cross that bridge when you get there.

 

 

All The Lonely People

In late May I acquired 11 books in the span of a week and I’ve been pouring over them since. Poetry books, biographies, books about loving people and philosophies about life, and so many more things.

As I was reading along I was connecting the dots between them and found that many of them deal with being willing to stand alone and how to fight off loneliness. So here is a little summary and some extra wisdom from writers I admire.

What Loneliness Tells You & How We Listen to Our Fears 

When we find ourselves feeling lonely it’s not a simple as not having friends around. Loneliness and community might seem like opposites, but we don’t simply choose one or the other, we have a lot of other choices that we come to first. Such as choosing fear of not being accepted or liked over being vulnerable. Or choosing to isolate ourselves from others. It’s smaller, everyday choices that shape what our relationships look like.

I think that the fear of not being accepted or liked can very easily stop us from engaging in meaningful relationships. In the poem “Here Is What Loneliness Tells You” Tonya Ingram writes:

“You are the only one

You are the girl who feels awkward referring as herself as a woman because some part of you is unable to grow into it 

You are the girl who texts too much 

You are made of too much”

Our fears can tell us we are too much, that we are alone in our emotions and while we are trying too hard we are still unwanted. One of the many books I have been reading is called Kill The Spider, which is about finding the lies you tell yourself and getting rid of them so they don’t impact your daily life. A common lie many people deal with is that people won’t accept us or we aren’t really wanted at that party. When we start to believe these fears of not being welcome and let them dictate our actions it can cause us to disengage and make ourselves to feel more alone.

In Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller writes;

“We are proud people, and because we have sensitive egos and so many of us live our lives in front of televisions, not having to deal with real people who might hurt or offend us, we float along on our couches like astronauts… hardly interacting with other human beings at all. … Loneliness is something that happens to us, but I think is it something we can move ourselves out of. I think a person who is lonely should dig into a community… Jesus does not want us floating through space or sitting in front of our televisions. Jesus wants us interacting, eating together, laughing together”.

I couldn’t agree more, and I think that though loneliness is hard and sometimes feels like we can’t do anything about feeling that way – we can do quite a bit. It’s all about making small choices of opening up to people and making sure that fear isn’t making the choice for us.

True Belonging & Choosing Vulnerability

If you know me well, you know I love Brené Brown. Even if you don’t know me well you know I love her. Did I talk about her with the guy sitting next to me on my flight last week? Maybe. Anyway, the point is she says a lot of important things about belonging and her research about the importance of learning to belong to yourself before you find belonging with others has been on my mind a lot lately.

In her book Braving The Wilderness, Dr. Brown writes:

“Stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you don’t belong. You will always find it because you’ve made that your mission. Stop scouring people’s faces for evidence that you’re not enough. You will always find it because you’ve made that your goal. True belonging and self-worth are not goods; we don’t negotiate their value with the world. The truth about who we are lives in our hearts. Our call to courage is to protect our wild heart against constant evaluation, especially our own. No one belongs here more than you.

She talks about the idea that we don’t need to belong with anyone else before we feel at home with ourselves and then with the belief you are enough you can open yourself to the world. I love that idea because as an extrovert, the thought of being alone has always seemed lonely, but her concept of belonging to yourself means that it doesn’t need to be that way. To overcome fear and choose vulnerability you need to believe that you are worthy. You must believe that you are loved and loveable and have confidence in yourself to contribute to relationships.

When we choose vulnerability over fear you give yourself the opportunity to share yourself and your story with others. Maybe that means going out of your comfort zone and spending time with new people. Maybe it means trusting that you don’t have to prove anything. When we are authentic in our relationships, when we show up rather than show off, we can become known and understood by others.

Loving Yourself, Building Community & Drawing Others In

The Beatles famously sang “All the lonely people, where do they all come from?”. To answer this I give you another Donald Miller quote from Blue Like Jazz, “The words alone, lonely, and loneliness are three of the most powerful words in the English language… those words say that we are human”. Loneliness is a feeling, it is something we all experience and “all the lonely people” are actually you and me. What is important isn’t that you never feel lonely, but you make choices to move away from loneliness and these choices will add up to the lives we build for ourselves.

It starts with believing that everyone, including and especially you, is valuable and worthy of love. And then practicing that self-love and sharing love with others by being inclusive. Making room for people, letting them know they are valued and welcome, it is one of the easiest things we can do and it makes a lasting impact in people’s lives.

In the poem “Here Is What Love Tells You” Tonya Ingram writes:

“you are yours before you choose anyone else 

You are cicada and buzz

You are loose flannel and cup 

Green tea

You are soft knuckles 

You are dance alone

You are unafraid”

Essentially: you are so many good things. You are so worthy of love and belonging and acceptance. And when you walk in the world knowing that and treating others that way, good people will gravitate into your life.

In her essay The Opposite of Loneliness, Marina Keegan wrote “We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life”. I think however, maybe there is an opposite of loneliness. I think the opposite of loneliness is finding belonging within yourself and as a result building authentic and honest community with others.