I met Kendra back in 2000. The first year we got to know each other and before long I was renting her second level of her home. I lived there for about a year and when I purchased my first home in Portland Kendra did the Uhaul with me. It was later that year I photographed her for the first time.... Little did I know that would be the first of many sessions. I have had the opportunity to photograph Kendra's journey over the last 16 years. When I asked her to share a glimpse of who she is currently and her chapter she is writing these beautiful words came to life.
What if we truly understood on a heart level that our ability to practice self-care and self-love is directly connected to our physical and emotional wellbeing? I am not talking about getting the occasional pedicure or massage, taking a hot bath or whatever we think about when we toss this idea of “self-care” around. We must go deeper. Our ability to love and care for ourselves is critical to the quality of life we give ourselves and to everyone and everything we care about. Can we even begin to imagine recognizing and meeting our own needs before the needs of our children, spouses, parents, employers, etc.? What would our lives look like if we dove head first into an ever-evolving and passionate love affair with ourselves? What are the consequences if we don’t…?
If we cannot learn to recognize and meet our own needs, to treat ourselves with tender and loving compassion, self-forgiveness, gentleness, and deep, deep love, we will never have access to how magnificently powerful we are. We will find ourselves both physically and mentally sick, malnourished in the body and soul, depleted to our cores, unproductive, depressed, addicted, co-dependent and in some cases, dead.
F that. It’s time for a radical shift in the way we understand and practice this critical and ever-evolving a life-long journey of falling head over heels in love with ourselves. I’ve experienced enough of the painful symptoms/illnesses mentioned above through my lack of truly understanding what it means to care for myself. I needed to understand some patterns of self-sabotage and so I’ve been on a mission over the past couple of months to break this cycle and begin to unravel some of my twisted belief systems.
I interviewed friends and family and researched articles and watched Ted Talks and u-tube videos. I skimmed the surface around some of the “whys” of this dilemma. We can get to the fact that one of the contributing factors stems from the roles we played as children. If we perceived that we were responsible for the happiness of our parents then we experienced the “I’m not good enough” to make my depressed parent happy or make my alcoholic parent stop drinking, etc. Therefore, I must not be “good.” I’m not enough. Maybe we had parents who didn’t care for themselves, therefore they couldn’t care for us in a healthy way. Have you ever had a parent say to you, “What did I do wrong?” That instantly made you “wrong” bad and undeserving of love. Maybe authentic self-care was never modeled for us, therefore, we have no frame of reference. We compare ourselves to others. We experience abuse and walk around with unresolved trauma. We remain the “victim” a lot of the time and we don’t even realize it.
Now, here we are adults, both woman, AND men with this obsessive desire for people to like us, often times, people we don’t even know. Take just a minute to let that resonate. It’s so ridiculous, really, but if we stop and look at our behavior…we do it all day long. Our fear of disappointing others and our pursuit to avoid conflict along with our paranoia around appearing selfish keeps us in a cycle of deep fear, inner turmoil, and suffering. We are valuing ourselves based on the perceived approval or non-approval of other people who are just as broken and screwed up as we are. Our system of self-value has to be uprooted, ripped out and replanted in God, The Universe, Divine Love, the Source, a Power Greater than Ourselves, etc. When we see ourselves as part of something bigger – we create more space for self-love and self-care.
Just begin. Just start the inquiry…the conversation with yourself…observe. Get really curious. Experiment with the saying, “no.” You might confuse some folks, especially if you are an over-giver. You’ve trained people so there is a natural set level of expectation. You set it. The people that are supposed to be on your elevator will understand and support you in your quest. Go back and re-play your day and look at the motivation behind your actions. Take a pen to paper and do some writing