For this year, I will be practicing self-validation and continuing self-love; being aware of when I am self-silencing will help me achieve my goal. I understand this will not be easy.
Society tells women to take up the least amount of space as possible, be silent, to always put the wants and desires of others first, and success is measured by your husband and children’s’ achievements.
Realizing you have the right to be here, in this place, a right to voice your thoughts and feelings, a right to put yourself first, and a right to decide your own success is an uphill battle but only the first step. Once you reach the understanding of self-worth, it is a never-ending battle of continuing to claim your space, raise your voice, put your needs and desires first, and naming your success.
Self-validation – the feeling of having recognized, confirmed, or established one’s own worthiness or legitimacy.
Telling myself that I deserve to be here (in college, in this office, taking a seat at the table), that my anger at the constant fight to be included and my shame at being dismissed – from everyone (doctors, professors, hiring managers, etc.) – is legitimate, and that my voice, experiences, and body, has just much value as others doesn’t work anymore.
Repeatedly telling myself “I matter,” or “it won’t be like this forever,” eventually sounds like an empty promise, an empty prayer, a dead end, a lie.
Hearing the same from my loved ones becomes nothing but loud, meaningless noise – filled with suffocating promises and patronizing wishes.
Constantly proving your value, justifying the space you’re occupying, and having your autonomy questioned or dismissed can take a tole out of any self-confident person. It creates doubt and cynicism. So, what do I do to de-stress and center myself?
Get in my feelings.
Recognize I’m upset. Except that I’m upset. Investigate why I am upset.
There are a couple ways I do this: walking or meditating. If walking, I choose a path that I have walked many times before; this allows me to focus inward instead of outward. Because I know the rout well enough, the sights, sounds, and smells won’t be distracting. Also, while working out my feelings, I can walk as fast or slow, as hard or light as I want, without missing a step. For meditation, I’ve found that both object and tratak meditation seem to do the trick. For object meditation, I use something that means something to me; my cane, the bracelet my grandmother gave to me, or even massaging Sadie! I don’t get to do tratak meditation very often, but when I do, I prefer the candle be as scentless as possible. For both meditations, I am focusing on something – textures or light – which helps me to calm when my thoughts and feelings become too much for me to handle.
As I said above, women are taught that their feelings, needs and desires are not as important as those around them. Often, we have little to no time or energy to put that same amount of focus and care onto ourselves – and if we do, we would feel too guilty wasting it on us. What ends up happening?
We end up burned out and spiritually and physically listless.
This society fosters insecurity and invalidates our experiences and emotions; if we do not have self-love as a priority, then we will give and give until there is nothing left for us to give. Patriarchy kills the mind, body, and soul. It is very important that we not just show ourselves self-love but believe that we deserve it too.
My favorite poem is “Today Means Amen,” by slam poet, Sierra DeMulder. When I am feeling undeserving and ugly, and nothing is able to snap me out of it, I play this poem. Whether I heard this poem a year, month, day, or minute before, I come away with a full body shiver and rejuvenated with courage and honesty for myself. I am here, therefore I exist; I matter. Give it a listen:
This moment is a surprise party,
You are both hiding in the dark,
And walking through the door,
This moment is a Hallelujah,
This moment is your permission slip,
To finally open that love letter,
You’ve been hiding from yourself,
The one you wrote when you were little,
When you still danced like a sparkler at dusk,
Do you remember the moment you realised they were watching,
When you became ashamed of how much light you were holding,
When you first learned how to un-love yourself.
Another way – the hardest way (for me, anyway) – I show myself self-love is by advocating for myself. On behalf of others, I am a lion; fierce and relentless – their needs and wants are important and they have every right to access them in any way that they need. However, when it comes to me, I am shy, unconfident, and unwilling.
I am not talking about equal access for housing, employment, education, or health – dealing with businesses and the government is easy and simple – but for situations dealing with the everyday people unsettles me. In one situation, I am a customer, a client, part of the public; for the other, I am a stranger, an acquaintance, or sometimes, a friend. Inclusion should be accessible – in all areas of life. I want to have equal access to information and yet I hesitate. I’ve found myself downplaying my needs to wants, then my wants to something non-sequential. Should I tell this intersectional feminist activist that her content isn’t accessible? Should I tell this racial justice activist that the disabled POC community isn’t able to access much of his content? Then, of course, as time goes by, it isn’t so much as questions but angered comments that go unsaid; “Why the fuck do you say your inclusive when I-CANNOT-ACCESS-YOUR-FUCKING-CONTENT! “
Truth is, I feel guilty. They’re doing so much, I’ll just let it go. They’re busy (ignoring the fact that they’ve just posted ten more status’s on Facebook and Twitter). I pretty much get the gist, I don’t want to bother them. So, on and so on. I realize that I deserve equal access – especially when they say their intersectional and inclusive; I just need to work on the undeserved guilt, on the excusing them and dismissing my wants as unimportant.
Aware of Self-Silencing
Repressing anger, making myself smaller and quieter, and constantly judge myself against the women in my life.
The more I practice self-silencing, the more my anger becomes uncontrolled.
My feelings are valid. My experiences are valid. I matter.
By showing you a smile instead of a disgusted smear that your comment or action deserves, I am silencing myself. By sitting away in the corner or staying in my room, I am silencing myself. By speaking softly and quietly, I am silencing myself. By validating and envying the women around me and dismissing myself, I am silencing myself.
I deserve to be here. I deserve to take part in the conversation. I am not in the wrong place.
I matter, I deserve to be here – this is my affirmation.
Once a week, I record myself; I talk about any situation that caused me to self-silence, and whether I continued or said fuck that shit and did me. I find this works better than writing it down; simply because I focus more on grammar and punctuation, the right word to put here and here – also, when writing, you can erase and start over. When I record, I let my thoughts come out – as loud as I want, as angry or sad or jubilant as I want. There is no time to think or second guess; just me, in a comfortable place and the sound of my voice.
I matter. I deserve to be here.
And I’ll be damned if I let you – or myself – change that.
I matter. I deserve to be here.
To the readers:
I hope you enjoyed my post. What are your New Year’s resolutions? What do you do to calm your thoughts? What ways do you practice self-care?