It all started when my friend Katie and I were visiting at a coffee shop. She asked: “What would it look like for a group of young, Millennial women to get together as a group to empower and support one another?” It started that way. It ended this way….
Last weekend, women between the ages of 18 and 25 gathered into a home. We called ourselves “Wander Woman.” Most didn’t know each other, many came alone which is scary and brave and awesome. We had a table where they could write why they were there (most of them wrote about how they wanted to be with other women who support and encourage each other), they put on name tags, and wrote one word on a mirror to finish the sentence “I am…” These women wrote words like “strong” and “worthy” and “enough.”
Then they poured mugs of coffee and tea and gathered around in a living room of twinkly lights to listen to other young women read things they had written about self-love and being enough. Girlfriends can write, y’all. We laughed, some cried, some just listened.
The delightful duo from Nashville Chasing Lovely joined us for the evening and shared ten songs and their hearts. They exceeded all expectations – their music was beautifully written, their voices were strong and flawless, and their kindness, style, humility, and wisdom was refreshing and inspiring.
We finished the night by taking photo booth style pictures. We laughed and chatted and ate a lot of dessert and laughed some more. We made new friends and discovered we are all so much alike.
So – What would it look like for a group of young, Millennial women to get together as a group to empower and support one another? It would look like this:
**some girls had to leave before this photo was taken – and they were awesome too!!**
Sometimes it’s not always great, you know. But we always put our best faces on, don’t we? We dry up the tears quickly enough to answer, “I’m fine” when the stranger asks us how we are. We never say, “Actually it’s all going to shit, thanks very much.”
Sometimes it’s not always great. We post pictures of our significant other being charming and delicious and never put up pictures representing fights. We caption our photos: “Here are the roses he bought me!” and “Isn’t she the prettiest?” But we don’t seem to put up pictures of the air conditioning unit. The one that started the fight over saving money on the electric bill and lasted for days.
Sometimes it’s not always great. We look in the mirror and feel fat. Men and women. We both do. We wake up wrapped up in enough insecurity to last a lifetime, but it’s only a Tuesday. So we starve ourselves all day until we get home late at night, convince ourselves we deserve it, and binge. Then we wake up the next morning wrapped up in enough insecurity to last a lifetime, but it’s only a Wednesday.
Sometimes it’s not always great. Loved ones die. Loved ones abuse. Loved ones hurt. Or leave. Loved ones don’t even know it, but unintentionally wound us. We hurt the most those we love the most. We have ghosts from our past that haunt us; we have ghosts in our future that haven’t popped up yet.
Sometimes it’s not always great. We can be our worst enemy, the villains in our own lives. We worry about somebody breaking into our homes and destroying all our possessions. But we break into our own heads and destroy every ounce of confidence. We say we can’t, we say we don’t deserve it.
Then we feel lonely and the car breaks down.
Sometimes, it’s not always great, you know.
The funny thing is – this lack of greatness, it’s universal. We all understand what it’s like. Yet we all hide it. “Maybe they won’t know I’m royally screwed up if I don’t tell them.” We put on masks; we pretend it’s all good. Some of us hide under religion or education or makeup. It’s like a game we all participate in. The “Who Can Hide Their Shit Better?” Game.
But if we cut the crap, we’d see that it’s sometimes not great for everyone. Then we could use the magic words. Me too. We can’t say them when we are all play The “Who Can Hide Their Shit Better?” Game. Me too.
You’re a co-dependent? Me too. You’ve been divorced? Me too. You have church issues? Me too. You jumble your words and accidentally say hurtful things? Me too. You have acne scars? Me too. You feel hate or bitterness? Me too. You feel bored? Me too. You worry if your life will be significant? Me too. You use negative self-talk? Me too. You fight with the people you love? Me too.
Sometimes it’s not always great? ME TOO.
Take off the mask. It’s amazing how many other people will join you.
Let me introduce you to Katie Visconti. You know when you get lucky enough to meet somebody and think “She sees the world like I see the world” and instantly you have a sense of peace wash over you? That’s how it was when I met Katie. She loves writing, reading, beautiful things, and being ambitious. She is passionate about women and the justice and joy they deserve. She has a travel bug and a wanderlust. And we seem to see God in a similar light – a lover of human beings. I adore Katie and her writing. When I begged her to let me share some of that writing here, she graciously agreed! Her thoughts on self-love are so important, enjoy! -Tay
On Thursday, I sat in my Creative Writing class, eager to get started, just waiting for my professor to say what our assignment would be.
School is hard, I’ve been going through a particularly dark season lately, and I find myself constantly holding on to tiny moments of light.
My creative writing class being ones of those bright, beaming moments.
My professor began to tell us about our free write for the day: What is the most important moment in a child’s life.
You could run with this in one hundred directions. So I found myself racking my brain, “Can I write about any child? Should I recount my childhood? Maybe I should write this for my future daughter or son? What do I remember as a huge moment of my childhood life?”
We’ve got ten minutes for the prompt. Nine minutes left after I begin to think about what direction to go in. I panic, naturally. How does one write something decent in eight minutes and 44, 43, 42 seconds?
Write your truth. The though came in a soft but strong whisper.
For the child yet to grow big and tall, for the child being wished for & prayed for, yet to be in a mommy’s tummy, for the child that is already having a difficult time navigating the world, and for the child that still shines brightly in all of us, this is for you.
If I could tell you one thing, there are going to be many important moments in your life. There’s going to be a time when you discover how to walk, talk, run, and ride a bike. You’re going to have a time where you love so wildly, and your heart pitter patters when you have your first crush. There is going to be a time where you feel a little embarrassed, and when you are mad at someone who cares for you. I hope you don’t have too many moments of sadness of defeat. And if you do, I hope you have double the amount of moments that bring you happiness and laughter.
You are going to have moments that reveal your passion. You are going to have a favorite food, favorite friend, favorite book, favorite time of day.
You are going to have lots of moments, but I know the most important one, for me at least, is the moment you realize that loving yourself is essential to really loving and appreciating all of life’s other moments.
Loving yourself, and realizing you are a gifted individual that adorns that world, is the most important moment.
The moment you stop allowing yourself to nitpick over flaws, or wish you had a different nose, mouth, hip size, hair color. The moment you notice the way your eyes sparkle, or that no one else will ever be like you. The moment you realize the entire world and everyone you have ever interacted with would not be the same without you.
That moment may seem fleeting at times, and there may be hours and days that you don’t feel so in love with yourself, but I can promise you: this body, this mind, this heart of yours needs to run on self-love. You deserve to love yourself.
As children, we are too often judged on standards that are set for everyone. We are too often told that talent, smarts, and ability is based on a one size fits all scale.
The moment you love yourself, you love the fact that you could never really play basketball but could write poetry, or could barely handle public speaking but could handle calculus. For me, loving myself meant I finally accepted that I would never be the girl that could stay still, or not question, or make it through a day without reading and writing something.
If I would have known that the only thing that would bring me to a place of forgiveness, adventure, new opportunities, and acceptance was self-love, I would have granted myself that moment a long time ago.
If you always do what you always did, you are always gonna get what you always got.
I think the ability to change is one of the greatest aspects of humanity. We can change our minds, our clothes, our political affiliations, our religion, our place of residence, our tendencies and rhythms, our relationships and, ultimately, our lives.
I look back to a year ago. I’m not the same woman. My core is still there. I still have introverted tendencies, I struggle with people-pleasing, I love music and books, I think we should all hug it out and be friends, and I really just adore eating dessert. But I have changed a lot. I make different decisions. I don’t do what I always did, because then I would always get what I always got.
~ Giving up all my passions and desires and dreams for somebody else didn’t work very well.
So I changed how I do that.
~ Saying “no” to anything that made me scared left me with a really boring existence.
~ Staying silent when I should have shouted created inner-turmoil.
So you better believe I speak up.
~ Worrying about how people thought of me made me go insane.
So I am learning to take nothing personally.
I don’t do what I always did. And I’m no longer getting what I always got.
We are not captives to our lives as they are today. With hard work, tears, anger, frustration, and lots of beating your head against the wall, we begin to change. Then it gets easier. Moments pop up that are fantastic and, sometimes, even easy.
We have the power to say “no more!” We have the power to say “I want my life to be different!”
Well-being of mind is like a mountain lake without ripples. When the lake has no ripples, everything in the lake can be seen. When the water is all churned up, nothing can be seen. The still lake without ripples is an image of our minds at ease, so full of unlimited friendliness for all the junk at the bottom of the lake that we don’t feel the need to churn up the waters just to avoid looking at what’s there.
Pema Chodron (When Things Fall Apart)
All my life I have been an expert churner. I could churn the waters of my mind so adeptly that I never had any ability to see what was really lying beneath all the choppy water. Any time the choppy waters eased into steady ripples, I would hurriedly begin my churning again.
My churning methods were various throughout the years. A common one was finding a needy person and filling every second with fixing their problems. Unfortunately, my fixing abilities were not as masterful as my churning abilities. My fixing, to my bewilderment, would always look more like enabling really unhealthy behaviors.
Another common churning method was perfectionism/people-pleasing. Busying myself with saying “yes” when I wanted to say “no”; and saying “no” when I wanted to say “yes”.
My methods went on and on throughout the years. Stuffing my face with food, exercising compulsively, shopping frantically – because what else can hide what’s REALLY going on better than a new pair of killer shoes?
I lived in perpetual denial. Perpetually denying that there was anything underneath my choppy waters. No dead fish. No sharp rocks. No garbage. No decaying carcass. No non-biodegradable plastic.
I did not wake myself up from my denial. The catastrophic mess that was 2013 woke me up from my denial. I did choose, however, to stay awake.
My mind, my heart, my hands, my body, my emotions, my every-fiber-of-my-being was exhausted. I had been in the height of my pretending and of my “fixing” others. I had reached the peak. The peak was so narrow and so sharp; my only choice was to fall. So I let go. I plummeted. I divorced the man I married at the age of 19. A former Pastor’s Wife was now divorced. I could not fool anybody anymore. The world knew my name had now changed twice. I no longer felt that I had to be anybody I was not. The cat was out of the bag.
While I was busy letting go and plummeting off My Peak of Codependency and Perfectionism, I stopped churning. I allowed the lake of my mind to still. And I summoned all my bravery, stepped to the edge of that lake and peered in.
I saw things I did not like. I saw things I did not want. I saw things I had repressed. I saw things I was embarrassed of. I saw things I never anticipated, and I saw some things that I had anticipated.
I decided to look at them without judging them. I decided to look at them with friendliness. I stared at my tendency to busy myself by shopping. Instead of calling myself a vain, materialistic failure, I thought through how to be able to enjoy shopping without using it as a numbing technique. I examined my tendency to allow people to walk all over me. Instead of calling myself a weak nobody, I thought through how to be able to be a kind, generous person with healthy boundaries.
I gifted myself with awareness. No more churning led to an awareness of my life. Awareness is empowerment. Being aware of junk allows me to start dealing with the junk. Being aware that I can not only survive, but also thrive even with the knowledge of my own “junkiness’, allows me to be kinder to myself. It also allows me to be kinder to others: both to those who are expert churners and also to those who refuse to churn and show the world the junk at the bottom of their lakes.
My life is now a still lake. You can step up to the edge and take a peak if you would like. The waters are clear enough to see what is really going on. You will see things may be scary, possibly offensive, and definitely crazy. But there may be one less dead fish than there was yesterday.
The first step toward personal freedom is awareness. We need to be aware that we are not free in order to be free. We need to be aware of what the problem is in order to solve the problem. Awareness is always the first step because if you are not aware, there is nothing you can change. If you are not aware that your mind is full of wounds and emotional poison, you cannot begin to clean and heal the wounds and you will continue to suffer.