Love Yourself Unconditionally. It All Starts Here.
Loving yourself unconditionally is a tall order, but as a daily practice it’s essential. Self-love is like fuel in the tank of our souls.
Stories carry the details of the relationships and experiences that form us. Birth order, gender, religion, sexuality, racial identity—these are just some of the stories that are woven together to make a self. They tell us something about the contexts in which we’ve become who we are, the environments in which we have grown. They tell us how our parents responded when we were hungry or afraid, how our teachers reacted to our abilities in the classroom, what our lovers communicated to us when we were dating.
To foster more love for ourselves, we need to look deeply at these stories and search them for meaning, for lessons. When we do this, we’ll learn about our childhood, about how our loved ones held us, showed up for us. Were they more absent than present? Who filled in the gaps for us, to help us know we were shiny and wonderful? Examining our stories, we’ll learn about our own behavior with the people we love. Did we show up for them? Were we angry, bitter, gentle, kind?
It takes courage to peer into our stories and see what’s there; it’s like looking into a mirror. It can be eye-opening, and we can be startled by what we see.
Speak Truthfully. It Will Set You Free.
Of course, we all deceive ourselves from time to time. Perhaps we don’t want to face difficult truths, or we can’t access deeply hidden truths. We’ve chosen not to dig out the truth because we don’t really want to see it. There can be an inconvenient truth from which self-deception protects us. We can fear what the truth will show us, so we tell ourselves a false story, and we make choices—often poor ones—from the place of the lie. But when we tell the truth—about ourselves, about our experiences, about our needs—we are acting out of self-love.
Being truthful isn’t just about what we say; it’s about how we move in the world, how we be. Truthfulness means making a straight line from our convictions to what we say to what we do. While lying trips us up, the truth liberates. Energy that is bound up in hiding, pretending, and lying can be used for deep love of self and love of neighbor.
Travel Lightly. Downsize the Burdens You Carry.
Sometimes it’s hard and painful work being human. Many of us carry our pain around like bricks in a suitcase. It’s a heavy load to bear, but it’s ours. We’ve become used to it, so even though it might break us we drag that suitcase around. It becomes part of our identity, until we don’t know who we are without it.
Your life is a string of events, a collection of stories, some of which gave you irreplaceable lessons about how to live truly, stories that developed your superpowers. Even the painful stories, the ones from which you need healing and rebirth, those stories and experiences etched something significant on your soul. There’s no question that the places where you have been bent at odd angles and the places you feel broken, are spaces in which you can grow strong.
And, though they can seem impossibly heavy, if you lift up your unexamined stories, your unforgiven wounds, and the crippling weight of oppression, and pay attention to what lies beneath them, you can discover the best of what it means to be alive. You may be surprised by the ways your stories help you discover the resilience of the human spirit, by the ability you have to survive the most devastating hurt and pain, and by the wisdom your wounds have for you and for your posse. Your weighty stories will also become lighter to carry once you have examined them and squeezed lessons from them.
Confront Boldly. Transform Your Circumstances with Moral Courage.
Inside our families and circles of friends, inside our posses—there can be intense pressure to keep our mouths shut and just go along. The status quo has a lot of power; even when we don’t like it, it’s what we know. But confronting what is broken or harmful or evil or dangerous is the beginning of healing our souls and the world around us. Keeping silent about what’s wrong or unjust or simply uncomfortable doesn’t change anything.
You, right where you are, in the relationships that matter most to you, can create a laboratory for truthful speech, for confronting what hurts and needs to be healed, for fixing what is broken in your relationships so that they—and your soul—can feel at ease. Fierce love calls you to this, even when it is awkward, even when you are afraid. You can create the dynamics you want—by changing you!
Live Justly. Choose Fairness and Equality Every Day.
Alice Walker wrote: “Helped are those who find the courage to do at least one small thing each day to help the existence of another—plant, animal, river, or human being. They shall be joined by a multitude of the timid.” A movement to build a more just society begins with little steps taken by good people every day. Humankind desperately needs a love revolution that leads to equality and equity, to the end of white supremacy once and for all. You have the power to be an agent of change in your everyday living; you can influence your posse to also be the change you seek. And ultimately, together, in community, small steps can lead to morally courageous behavior that loves the world all the way to healing.
Just as you’ve come to understand that you can reduce your carbon footprint by making choices every day about the use of plastic and the consumption of gasoline, you can also make daily choices to be anti-racist. You can confront racist conversations at work and at home; you can decide not to consume racist news and social media. You can spend your money in establishments that have anti-racist hiring practices. You can buy from companies that are owned and run by BIPOC—Black, Indigenous, and people of color. Every single day, you can make choices to advocate for LGBTQIA+ communities, for immigration reform, for the rights of women to earn the same as men for the same work. Fierce love demands daily small steps from each of us in order to love the world into healing. These small steps add up to make a better life for us, and a better world for all of us.
Find Joy Purposefully. It Is the Water of Life.
What gives you joy? To notice it, to write it down, to deeply feel the moment is to cultivate it. To cultivate and claim joy is itself an act of resistance. It’s a worthwhile daily spiritual practice. Joy will keep your heart pumping with love, your mind cooking with ideas, and your body jazzed with resilience for this journey called life. Joy fuels the resistance and resilience required to make a better life and a better world.
On any given day, your joy might be quiet and peace-filled, tucked way down in your belly. Your joy might be extroverted and raucous, making you dance, sing, and shout. Do you with your joy, be you with your joy, feel it your own way. Every day, like brushing your teeth, focus on it, find it, be fueled by it. It’s inside you, waiting to resource you. To build your resistance and resilience. It will support you, whether in your movement-building or when making sandwiches for your children. It will help you stand up for the other and stand in line for an inoculation. Joy powers kindness; joy begets joy.
Joy is an essential need for the thriving of the human spirit. Without it, we are diminished and too often left with the festering of our wounds, resentments, and fears. Joy is that feeling of well-being, pleasure, and happiness that accompanies us as we move through life. It alters the way we see the world, its people, and ourselves. Joy tints our perspective with optimism and the confidence that we will go through the hard things, and though we might be bruised or battered, we’ll come out on the other side. Joy is the wellspring of resistance, the water of life. Now, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and smile from the inside out. There, there it is. Can you feel it? That’s joy!