“One should always be on the trail of one’s own deepest nature.” ~Henry David Thoreau
I am watching my beautiful eighteen-year-old daughter begin to navigate life as a young adult. Dating, friends, work, school, future plans: the perennial Big Five in terms of potential landmines.
I am projecting like mad, reliving my own traumas, and hoping she will be more successful, more lucky, more savvy by a long shot than I ever was.
And mostly, I find myself on the sidelines silently urging her (okay, not always silently) to choose herself.
Choose herself when the friend who only wants to hang with her when there’s nothing better in the offing calls at the last minute with an invitation.
Choose herself when the guy who looks so great on the surface just isn’t consistent in following up with his actions.
Choose herself when the pressure comes to declare a major and everyone else on Facebook is going into Biochemistry or Genetic Engineering or Future Masters of the Universe.
I want her, and I want you, and I want myself to choose me. This is not selfish. Repeat: this is not selfish.
Choosing yourself is the only way to thrive in the world. You can only know yourself and your own reactions, so this is the only truly accurate compass you will ever have. You can’t steer by what other people want or need, and it will make you crazy trying to figure out what that is anyway.
Learn to check in with yourself. Yes, it takes some practice. Yes, it will feel scary at first. Yes, you will get some things “wrong.” This isn’t the same as following hunches or even gut reactions. It’s a much deeper and richer process of learning to know yourself, becoming familiar with how your body reacts, and then learning to trust what it tells you.
And then, most important of all, choosing yourself first.
Make a commitment to love and trust yourself above all others. You will never be sorry for this, ever. Even when it seems like your choice might hurt another. Every one of the choices I made in my life in order to avoid hurting someone has ended up hurting them (and me) more in the long run. You can’t know what is best for someone else, only for you. Choose you.
In the same vein, no one else can know what is right for you (even your mom, unfortunately).
It might feel safer to outsource your decision-making to a committee of friends, authority figures or even oracle cards, but your best decision-making tool is right there with you all the time in your own body and its reactions. Listen up, because I’m going to tell you how to use it.
Our bodies send us signals all the time, but usually they’re drowned out by our busy minds. We tend to place a lot more credence in our thoughts than our feelings, which doesn’t help.
In fact, the “stories” you tell yourself about your experience are probably the biggest obstacles clouding your judgment. In order to listen carefully to your body, you need to practice dropping the storyline and tuning in to the pure sensations.
Feelings, without the story attached, are just sensations… and these are your gold.
The sinking in the pit of your stomach. The buzzing in your chest like a swarm of angry bees. The numb, leaden feeling in your shoulders and neck.
Or maybe it’s a little thrill up your spine, a quiet sigh of peace and relaxation, or that delicious sensation of walking on air.
Tune in and trust what your body tells you, because it never lies.
When something isn’t right for you, it doesn’t matter how many reasons your mind can come up with for why you should do it. Your body will feel constricted and heavy when you think about it.
When something is right for you, even when it’s scary as hell, your body will lean toward it with a feeling of expansion and lightness.
You can practice telling the difference simply by bringing to your mind a past situation that was awful. Close your eyes, scan your body, and note the sensations. Then think of something you absolutely love and do the same thing. See what I mean? There’s a huge difference in how your body reacts.
This is the knowledge that will help you navigate all those tricky minefields.
The potential relationship my daughter wanted so badly to work out? Her body felt sick and queasy waiting for his texts, and even the “good” times were accompanied by an anxious buzzing.
The flaky friend? A feeling of pressure in her chest clued her in to mounting resentment and the need to set better boundaries for herself.
Dancing, on the other hand, makes her whole body smile.
You will be able to use this feedback too. Get curious about yourself. Don’t make any assumptions; just test everything against your body’s compass. What feels great for you (staying home on Saturday night to veg with YouTube) might feel crummy to your best friend.
Make it a priority to feel good and stop worrying so much about what other people are feeling. You can’t know. Allow them to have their own experiences, and always trust their actions to show you who they really are and what they really want. The mind is an expert at making up excuses for people, but your body won’t be fooled.
Better yet, teach them by your example how to value and care for themselves. If everyone chose themselves first and consistently communicated their authentic needs and wishes, then true connection would be the norm rather than the exception. Wouldn’t that be beautiful?
When you’re out of your body you can’t be true to yourself, because the body is the doorway to your essential nature, who you really are at the deepest level. The mind is a chameleon, spinning on a dime from one agenda and persona to another. The body is an unwavering star you can follow through the darkest night.
When you come home to yourself you’ll experience a deep peace and a knowing that feels so exquisite, you will never want to leave.
So please, choose yourself, choose yourself, choose yourself! And live a wonderful life. You’re welcome.