My parents gave me a jar filled with over six hundred small slips of paper written with conversation and writing prompts. This is the one of my responses:
As a culture, we often focus on things that we do not like about ourselves, either collectively or individually. We are too sedentary. We are too addicted to highly processed fast food. We are too distracted, too plugged in, too concerned with what the next celebrity fad diet is. We are paying too much for health care. We are Just. Too. Busy.
It is too easy to get carried away with what we are too much of. There seems to be no space for rest, no space to get a breath in edgewise among the midst of the chaos around us. The cacophony is full of negative chants and combative murmurs. It is no wonder that we have become more and more reliant on quick fixes that can do more harm than help.
So where do we go in the midst of this? Where can we find a space to breathe? How do we live, never mind hope to thrive in the midst of this distraction? How do we learn to find things we like about ourselves again?
What do I like about myself? The list of what I don’t like is much easier to write. It sometimes gets played on repeat in my head and I cannot shut it off. But to stem the tide of don’t likes: I seek those things that I do like.
I do like my ability to play with just about any kid I come in contact with.
I do like my pastoral instincts of deeply embedded empathy and compassion.
I do like my passion in singing, especially when I pull out all the stops and let the sound fill the room.
I do like my joy, the joy I receive from others, and the joy I have on my own.
I don’t know what your list will look like, but I hope you begin to build one on your own. The more we learn to forgive ourselves and learn to like the parts that are good about ourselves, the more we will be able to like others, and learn to love them as well.
Imagine how we could transform our communities if we learned to notice the things that were good in us first. We seek to be good, we yearn to find health, we long to express love to those around us.* We are hungry for justice just as much as we are hungry for a space to find rest.
I find the more centered I am, the more I am able to share love with others even when I am exhausted. I can only share the gifts I have for compassion and empathy and play when I am not running on less than empty. I find that energy when I can learn to like things about myself, and about those around me. If I am always focused on the negative, then that is all I will ever find. So instead, I seek to find things I like about myself, so that I can love those around me more deeply. Love shines in the darkest nights and draws me closer to my community. Love allows me to find beauty in the world. And that gives me more to like.
*This is my sister’s theory: “we all long to love.” She claims it belongs to the universe.