“We are the only species on earth capable of preventing our own flowering.” – David Whyte
Looking back on my 20s and 30s, I realize I devoted a great deal of energy into self-defeating behaviors. When I found something that was good for me, or that I enjoyed, I would either make excuses to avoid it, or convince myself that my efforts were pitiful and therefore pointless.
I was so busy vacillating between neglecting myself and beating myself up, that it never occurred to me that I had locked my own cage, and was balled up in the corner, lamenting my situation, while clutching the key so tightly that I began to bleed.
The dawning of that realization was long and slow. I was committed to my suffering. (More on that topic in a later post.) I thought it was creative fuel. I thought it made me deep. I thought I had no real identity without it.
But, as I turned away from those who hurt and used me, who created drama and destruction in my life, and opened up to those who lifted me up and cheered me on, I began to see that I wasn’t treating myself with the respect and compassion that filled my interactions with the people I cared about. I realized that there was still one more person to cut loose – me.
I had to make some significant personal changes. I had to start being kind to myself and accepting my own mistakes as easily as I accepted the mistakes of others. I had to stop denying myself simple things that contributed to my well-being. I had to stop stomping on my creative endeavors.
These changes are still in progress. I get better at it all the time, and there is always more space to grow into.
Do I regret all of the time I spent sobbing in the corner?
Yes and no. I can’t help wondering what I might have created by this point, if I had not been so bent on being miserable. But, at the same time, that darkness is the substrate of who I am today and has given me greater compassion for suffering, a better understanding of destructive behavior, and a great deal of gratitude for making it out of that chaos, whole and unbroken, in spite of my previous certainty that I was irreparably damaged.
Because I have been able to extract these beautiful gifts from my emotional lockdown, I don’t waste time on wishing I had opened my eyes earlier in life. Instead, I focus on building a new life of adventure, courage, and enthusiasm right on top of the rubble.
Do you self-sabotage? Have you found a way to treat yourself with more kindness? I’d love to hear your story! Comment below to continue the conversation.