“Your actions are your only true belongings.” ~Allan Lokos
I used to be the kind of girl who relished stable and perfect surroundings. I fanned my magazines. I scrubbed the inside of the refrigerator.
I worked tirelessly to cultivate the external environment that I was lacking inside.
Externally, things were in order. The bills were paid. The laundry was folded.
Internally, I was a voracious black hole of yearning.
I consumed everything that was closest to me—food, love, validation—in an attempt to fill the void that I experienced on a daily basis. That feeling of not being enough, of seeking desperately for the last piece of the puzzle, the piece that would round me out and make me whole.
Instead, I obsessed over whether or not someone could find me loveable and used superficial benchmarks to validate my existence—grades, jobs, cash, and degrees from fancy schools.
But when I was truly honest with myself, I was able to notice where I was crumbling under the pressure of that external flawlessness.
How, in an effort to shellac over my imperfections, I was micromanaging those around me, offering help that had not been asked for, repairing others because I didn’t have the courage to believe I was repairable.
I required my own love and support. I needed my actions to resonate with the deeply hidden spark thriving inside my spirit, which held the space and the light in the hopes that someday I’d come to retrieve it.
Now, I often tell people that the spark inside of them, no matter how dim or deeply hidden, is like Tinker Bell as she is dying in Peter Pan. That, like Tinker Bell, that spark is enlivened and emboldened by the clapping and cheering and belief in its relevance.
That spark represents your inner wisdom, the light that will guide you directly toward a life that is tailor-fit to your specifications.
And yet, there was a time when I doubted its integrity, favoring the words and programs and gospel of experts and gurus, wanting desperately to be fixed, to be whole.
I was certain that if I just read enough or was good enough, that I would be transformed into a person deserving of a beautiful life.
It never occurred to me that I was the one that I was waiting for.
While I was moving about, consumed with the tireless task of learning to love myself, I had never taken the opportunity to get to know myself. It was like asking me to love a stranger on the street or someone sitting next to me in the subway.
Instead, I began not with love for myself, but with the only path that seemed clear—the path of self-trust and self-responsibility.
The path of returning home to yourself:
1. Sit down and encourage yourself to remember all of the times that you’ve been at your best, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Break these moments down into distinct parts, like a chemist in a lab distilling the most salient ingredients.
If there was a place that felt injured or broken or if you can’t think of a time, give yourself the permission to imagine what might feel really good there. Give yourself the permission to dream.
2. Take that list and boil it down to five needs.
My five daily needs are: adequate sleep, plenty of hydration, nourishing food, moving my body, and connecting with my partner.
Those are the five ingredients that I could provide myself to concoct a truly supported and nourished day where my body felt whole and my spirit felt encouraged. Your list might look radically different than mine, but the importance is that it is something that works for you.
3. Give yourself permission to try to meet those needs in whatever way you see fit, however imperfect or intermittent.
Ask only that you try, and that your basis for trying is that you deserve to have your basic needs cared for—that at the end of the day, fulfilling your needs is your responsibility.
This process may seem simple, but the implications are profound.
Unlike the self-care that you may have struggled to fit in before, the idealistic visions of gloriously scented bubble baths on mountaintops or Egyptian cotton sheets, allow these few items to become your baseline. Your if I do nothing else today, I have made needs a priority list.
In remembering all of the time that you have not met your own needs, allow yourself to be gentle, acknowledging the hurt and broken-feeling place that you might be coming from.
Meet yourself exactly where you are, and begin stringing together almost infinitesimal acts of healing and kindness, one after another, until they began to add up in earnest.
Over time, you’ll begin to see yourself as a person worth caring for. You’ll begin to believe you deserve a life that is deeply immersed in and led by your own inner wisdom.
As you gain success in meeting your most basic and heart-felt needs, you will begin to unfold and open. That voracious black whole of needing will begin to be appeased, one nourishing meal or cup of tea or honest conversation at time.
What you are developing here is your daily practice of self-love—the daily and weekly sticking with your body, instead of cutting and running when you feel scared or overwhelmed; the moment-by-moment invitation to revise or re-narrate what is no longer serving you; the permission to change your own mind.
In beginning to meet my needs, and following through with my promises for myself, my actions began to resonate with my heart-felt desires. Suddenly, my physical surroundings were less vital to my survival or happiness. The laundry being clean and folded ceased to signify my worth as a human being, because I felt my worth deeply in my bones.
I carried this love for myself in my body. Like a turtle with its home on its back, I took myself everywhere I went. Once I found peace within my skin and was able to deeply trust my choices and actions, I had cultivated internally the safety that I had been seeking externally.
The pull of the material possessions that I had purchased to save me from myself and the glittering words of the gurus and the experts still held their beauty, but I no longer scoured the pages looking for the answer or trick to transform me from the person I was into the person I desperately wanted to be.
It was me that I had been looking for, all that time—my truths, my words, my beliefs.
It is through the act of moving forward with your best intentions, those grounded in a profound love and respect for yourself, that you return home to your body and spirit.
It is through returning home to ourselves that we are healed.
Photo by libreliving