On Trusting Yourself

 Image Credit: Dylan Spitz

Image Credit: Dylan Spitz

“I know my call, despite my faults and despite my growing fears.”

I breathe deep and admit that the only relationship I’ve been investing in lately is the one with myself. It was necessary. It was time. It was a stage that was meant to just be mine. 

I poured into late nights. I poured into wine glasses. I poured onto quiet paths in Ohio parks. I poured and poured and poured because I needed my feet to rest on a foundation that was just meant for me. I took a stick to the wet cement and engraved a “V” because it’s the only initial that really feels mine. I forced permanency out of what I knew was temporary pain. For as fleeting as this stage in my life could be, I didn’t want it to be a fruitless one. 

We learn to start trusting ourselves the most when we’re either standing alone in the middle of vastness or when we’re standing alone in the middle of a group of people and we hold a differing point of view. I’ve had to do both. Both arenas have taught me about myself. The diagram overlaps on a simple truth — I’m uncomfortable trusting myself when the faces I stare at belong to people I love, but disagree with. 

To feel the discomfort doesn’t mean that I’m paralyzed by it or that I stop myself from speaking my truth, or even that my particular brand of passive aggressiveness doesn’t come out to play at times as a result of it. It means I’m scared. My body goes cold, my face goes white and my heart beats faster. I see ghosts from my past. I see a parade of the values that belong to me. I see words like “compromise” dance before my eyes. I feel my deep understanding of what I know to be morally right and morally wrong and how wiggle room can exist elsewhere, but not there. But practicing that level of trust in myself is easy when I’m alone, when staring into eyes I love and challenging the reality that sits between us, that’s an entirely different story. 

I’ve spent months navigating that simple truth and coming up with a happy medium that’s anchored in my humanity. Of course I’m uncomfortable and afraid when staring into eyes I love or respect and standing up for myself. Show me someone who isn’t. It’s one of the most vulnerable moments we can voluntarily introduce ourselves into. It exposes us as the believers of this or the advocates for that, it makes it clear that we’re standing on the other side of the line and that the line is calling for one of two things  —  either respect for the differing of opinions or an acknowledgement for what is wrong or right. 

Respect is always necessary, but there are times when respect needs to be followed with action, apparently. Because staying would imply complicity. Just look at our political system and you’ll find multiple examples for complicit behavior. But, I digress. Or I go back to my story instead of trying to use our fucked up political reality to divert your eyes to something other than my own fragile humanity.

I breathe deep and admit that nothing about my life has prepared me for this particular stage. We stockpile moments of confidence and success to tap into on the days when we’re at our weakest, but apparently, on our most trying days what's in stock is just not enough. We find ourselves shorthanded and left with only ourselves. I only have myself and for too long that felt like not enough. I needed time to tap into all I have to offer to myself, to a partner, to the world, and to trust that all I have to offer is me and is constant. 

I needed to work myself out of the "not enough" feeling because it was destructive and no one could do for me what I needed to do for myself. I apologized to my body, after too many days of chastising it for losing weight during a time when I needed its strength to peak, as if it asked for the stress I put it through and the meals I skipped. I hugged my heart, after too many days of punishing it for breaking even though it didn’t ask for the pain that was inflicted on it. I celebrated my mind after too many days of criticizing it for being so aware, of myself and of other’s, as if holding up a mirror to my faults and to other’s troubles should be a punishable act, instead of our greatest asset.

I attacked my own self because it was easier than sitting and acknowledging that I was more than capable of navigating through pain and finding growth and strength in it. I just honestly did not want to. Call it laziness. Call it wanting to reap for once. Call it not wanting to have to pay for other people’s sins. “Call It What You Want”

As time passed, I called it by its name — I knew I could trust myself but to know this meant that I had to hold myself to those standards. And to hold myself to those standards scared me because what if what I wanted and what the moment called for, were different? 

(Then I would have to stand up for myself, wouldn't I? Would I still be loved at the end of that? Would I be welcomed even after I challenged?)

What if I made it a habit to show up in confidence and as myself and actually got everything I wanted?

(Then where would I store the armor? The jokes I used to mask the tears and the fact that I know who hurt me? Would I still be strong? Would I still be funny?)

What if I didn’t have to armor up and protect my heart under 18 layers of New York grit because it could actually stay soft and strong at the same exact time? 

(Then I wouldn't feel shame for the fact that I see the rooted fear in people's actions where others may see cool, calm, and collected highlight reels...and if I didn't feel shame, if they accepted what they saw in the mirror, if we both loved it in its entirety, then out of love we would have to sit with the cancer instead of the symptoms, and we'd have to treat that, wouldn't we? We'd have to put in work and be brave, wouldn't we?) 

The notion that my vulnerability and my strength could coexist in my personal relationships was a foreign concept until now. I blame some of it on the projections that were placed on me and on the sentences spoon-fed to me that made them living harmoniously seem impossible. I blame most of it on myself though. 

We trust ourselves to have the backs of so many of our people, but how often do we look in the mirror and honestly say:

I know you have faults. I know you have fears. I also know your strengths. I’ve got your back. Love freely. Trust, actually trust. Try because you want to. Don’t worry about where you’ll fall or if you fall at all. We’ll just pick you back up if you do. I promise, we'll celebrate you just as much if you don't fall as we will if you do. Because you gave yourself permission to dive deep, to trust. 

To give ourselves the room to try and succeed or to try and fail it’s the best way to both honor and test how much we trust ourselves. Lately, I’ve been trying to give myself the room for both. Because what I want is on the other side of showing up. It always has been. 

I breathe deep and admit that I have never been as kind to myself as I’ve been this season. I poured and poured and poured because loving myself was my only job. I poured and poured and poured because my foundation had to be stable and anchored if the future I wanted to build on it included a home and a family. 

I poured and poured and poured because I needed to learn that I could trust myself to pour, be in the process of, try my best…all without knowing where I would end up...all while still sitting in so much love. To be in the process of, to intentionally be in the process of building, and still able to sit in love. It's a lesson I needed to learn. It's a possibility I needed to see come alive in reality and not just on paper. 

Because trusting myself was uncomfortable, yes, but since when is uncomfortable synonymous with impossible?

Since when is uncomfortable something I should be ashamed of? 

It shouldn’t be shameful to admit that I have never felt more able and more afraid than I am right now. But, I’ve come down on myself, day after day, like it is. 

So, I breathe deep and admit that I love deeply. I show up consistently. I am loyal. I know who and what I want. I’ve propped my heart out of fetal position and onto its feet but, I'll admit, it’s still standing on wobbly legs. I’m afraid. I’m doing better than I ever was because I’m afraid, I’m standing on wobbly legs, and I’m still giving myself permission to do all the things that give me life — I'm leaning into love, into vulnerability, into showing up. I'm learning my way through new habits, like not having to carry all the weight by myself anymore. I’m not retreating and self-protecting. I’m standing naked because I’ve got my back. 

I have faults. I’m not a doll to be put on a pedestal or used as a prop. I’m allowed to break and need. I’m layered. I’m successful. I've failed. I have hurt people. On my worst anxiety days I can only eat pizza. I haven’t had Domino's in 3 months. 

The good with the bad, it leaves no room for shame. The bad with the good, it leaves so much room for progress and trust.