A client recently asked me whether or not I have good and bad days too, whether or not I too struggle to be forgiving and compassionate and wise minded at times. She was wanting to know, really, whether or not the professionals on her team were also in fact human and hence flawed.
I told her “yes”; yes of course I struggle and am not always the best version of myself.
The difference I have noticed after years of doing this work, however, is not in increased perfection but rather in increased self-awareness. Admittedly, sometimes I am not my most graceful self, but in those moments, I am generally acutely aware that I am not being very graceful. Some days I am too tired and too frustrated to use all of my resources, but in those moments, I am mostly aware that I am not using my resources. I am aware when I am being petty or self-righteous and the more I get to know myself and my patterns, the more aware I become of why I am being petty or self-righteous.
The gift of self-awareness is that once we begin to accept our true self and befriend our own limitations, we can stop punishing ourselves in countless, unconscious ways and instead begin the hard work of living into the person we want to be with compassion for the person we are.
“The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.” (Pema Chödrön)
It takes courage to look into the mirror and really explore our own fears, our own expectations, our own biases, our own motivating factors, our own earnest longings. In doing so, however, we find the opening to a life that is fundamentally richer and deeper simply because it’s real. It is the difference between paying close attention to the intricacies of the Morning Glory that blooms outside your door and simply detecting its existence from afar.
The world, and indeed ourselves, become miraculous the moment we stop to truly notice.
Deeper Connection to Faith:
Scripture says, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers (1 Timothy 4:16 ESV)”.
In watching and observing ourselves comes healing and freedom both for ourselves and for those in our circle of influence. By getting to know our deepest truths, our strengths and our growing edges, we find less need for pretence and hence more time and energy to live the life we were created for.
Questions for prayer and meditation this week: How might you practice honestly and gently getting to know yourself better? What’s one area of your life or your personality that you normally try to ignore or shy away from? What fears get in the way of truly seeing yourself?
Give yourself the gift of you this month, and always.
Nikki Holm, MA, Chaplain