We don’t realize the positive impact that we have on others, those dragging their raw hearts, shielding their eyes from the early sunrise, or those waiting for one little golden nugget.
One night, I was delaying what would likely be another unrestful sleep before waking to do it all again tomorrow. My sleepy eyes fluttered while scrolling on Instagram digging for reminders of life. Of a life worth living. There’s irony here, to be looking for hope amid vicarious agony or fragmented, disembodied prose.
My eyes stopped on a picture of a butterfly with an unfamiliar message: It’s OK to be proud of yourself even before you reach your goal.
I wanted to ignore it. I wanted to keep scrolling. But I went back and read it again: It’s OK to be proud of yourself even before you reach your goal.
It was as if those words knew my story. In a moment, they lightened the shame burdened by every breath I took, the pressures of disconnection and connection, and the terrors of being proud of myself. My story is like many stories of depression and dysfunctional childhoods. Except for this one thing: second chances. More than I ever thought possible or ever deserved.
Carrying the weight of mistakes, failures, funny-at-the-time antics, and the deep scar tissue that comes with loving and living, I needed grace. But, I didn’t know how to give it to myself. I wanted words to grant me forgiveness for how I had failed as a human being, as a lover, and as a member of society. I wanted the words to be the grace I needed, just as now I hope you find grace in my words to you. But the message of self goes much deeper, doesn’t it?
What are we telling ourselves to be proud of?
When was the last time you looked in the mirror and said, with full-hearted belief, “I love you” or on a rough day, granted yourself a few extra helpings of patience?
I’d love for someone to tell me how proud that they are of me. Of the me right now, the me I am today. I don’t want to be valued for what I will do tomorrow or in several years’ time. I want to matter because I am breathing now. I have a beating heart now. I have overcome adversity now. I am a survivor now.
Yet, I often forget that there is a difference between truth and fact. Sometimes the edges bleed together and I blame myself for the mess. But when I really stop, what is this moment telling me?
My progress is valid. It may not look like your progress or their growth, but it’s my story to own. I pushed forward despite fear, some of which shook me to my core and brought me to my knees in puddles of nausea or with streams of tears sliding down my face, soaking yet another “good” shirt. I’ve chosen to live, to survive, thrive, be my own advocate, and a warrior. I chose love over hate, discovering myself over full-on abandonment and sabotage.
And so have you.
Don’t wait until you hit the milestone to celebrate yourself, your life. Don’t let your progress become another checkmark on a daily to-do list.
Grant yourself the space to be fully human versus only dishing out points and gold stars when you actually do self-care or work on a chapter of the novel you dream of publishing.
I keep hoping I have time left to edit the pages I’ve already written or erase the ones that I want to pretend never happened, secrets layered beneath the smudges of erased pencil marks and crinkled paper. Erase this. Fix that. ‘Tomorrow I can rest,’ you say. ‘Next year will be amazing, but right now… ‘
What better time to thank ourselves for how far we’ve come, growing from our mistakes, forging forward in spite of loss, heartbreak, illness, or secrets we’ve kept locked inside because they are “too much” or because we worry about “what other people will think.”
Normalize thanking yourself for being alive and strong, for the footprints in the snow behind you. Feel the breath in your lungs rise, fall, escape, surround. Thank yourself for being in this moment, now, grateful and holding space for not just the path that lay ahead, but for the radiant courage that has been building hope and making even the smallest progress to move forward possible. Be proud of that.
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