I was good at self-care: I got pedicures, took yoga, and made lunch dates. Still, I had a nagging feeling of “not enough.”
We receive cultural messages of “more,” “better,” “different,” or “improved.” Rarely are we told we’re okay just as we are. This affirmation must come from within. It’s a strange paradox: until we accept ourselves as we are, we can’t make the changes we seek. When we reject whole parts of ourselves, these places never heal.
Earlier in my life, I confused self-acceptance with self-care. The latter involves externals; the former involves internal intimacy. I was good at self-care: I got pedicures, took yoga, and made lunch dates. Still, I had a nagging feeling of “not enough.” Years of meditation taught me to sit with my uncertainty, fear, and self-judgment. I saw (and still see) places where I resist, and it’s these very places where I remain stuck. I won’t become unstuck with a good glass of chardonnay and new yoga clothes. I move forward by meeting myself right where I am. Even if I repeat the same negative habit a thousand times, I can begin anew: notice, forgive, and grow.
It’s natural to look outside ourselves for approval and love. Much of our conversation, consumption, and achievement is unconscious code for “am I okay?” But externals can’t provide the balm we need; they can’t show us—deep in our hearts—that we’re okay. We must do this for ourselves.
To me, mindfulness is a practice in staying—staying present, open, and connected—whether life is wondrous or heartbreaking. It’s a way to be my own best friend. Because pushing away my uneasiness takes more energy than staying with my experience as-is. Learning to stay is one of my greatest life lessons. It lets me access the difficult and savor the positive. It opens my heart in all directions. And it allows me to be more present and attentive to people I love. When I meditate, or simply stay with myself during tough life circumstances, I arrive at the front and back door of myself. I trust that I am okay, as-is.
David Whyte writes, “One small thing I’ve learned these years, how to be alone, and at the edge of aloneness how to be found by the world.” To heal, we must feel what we feel. Sit down in aloneness and cultivate our capacity to be with everything. This is done little bit by little bit with patient, persistent effort. Gradually, we trust in ourselves—in our enough-ness—even when life is difficult. And from this trusted “edge of aloneness,” we connect with the world in a more wholehearted way.
This practice doesn’t require fancy equipment, new clothes, or perfect conditions. We can start right where we are: Meet ourselves with kindness, take an honest inventory—honor and accept our raw places—and move forward with love and intention. Because we’re human, we will falter, but we can be brave enough to begin again.
Joy Jordan is a student and teacher of mindfulness. Her work takes her into prisons, corporate offices, schools, and community classes. She tries to live life with a curious mind and an open heart, which means her most important work is on the meditation cushion. You can find her words, photographs, meditations, and e-courses at BornJoy.com.