Have you ever felt there are too many sides inside of you? Have you ever felt you don’t fit in and the requirements to be so-called normal are impossible?
What if our imperfections are absolutely perfect?
For instances, there’s the quiet side who speaks softly and there’s the vicious side that can inhale the sun and spew fire if need be.
There’s the fearful side, likened to a fierce wild stray who sees others as the enemy. We might growl to keep someone away.
As for me, one minute I can speak rose and turn the petals into magic but push me too hard and I will scratch you with my thorns.
My creative side carries me in between here and there and sometimes, I can’t figure out how to return to zero.
So, I stay there. It’s usually a mystical space where candles burn upside down and clouds become the ground. I swim far and deep because I breathe better underwater than in the air.
There have been more days than not during the last two months, where my mind and heart have ached during COVID-19. It’s a visceral reaction.
Even my skin feels triggered from my ‘depth of processing’ which Dr. Elaine Aron, founder and researcher of highly sensitive people, (HSP) refers to as one of the four characteristics of being an HSP.
In addition to my own thoughts, I’m picking up on a collective fear, worry and grief.
My sensitivity is on high alert. I honestly didn’t think I could be anymore sensitive — but I am.
Dr. Aron, describes HSP’s as individuals who “[have] a sensitive nervous system, are aware of subtleties in [their] surroundings, and are more easily overwhelmed when in a highly stimulating environment.”
What’s more — how will I move forward? What will my new normal look like?
I know for sure I can’t go backwards, and that’s good.
What is self-love? How do we learn to love ourselves? Are we born with this knowledge? What are the influences which teach us to love ourselves?
I’ve often wondered how some people can be comfortable and love who they are. How they respect their ideas, ways, and choices. They don’t seem the least bit bothered by their quirks; instead they embrace them. So, it would seem, self-love also needs a dose of self-worth and self-confidence.
When I researched about self-love, I pulled up over 1,240,000,000 sources. That’s a lot of humans seeking, writing and explaining the meaning of self-love.
As a licensed mental health therapist, I have discovered that for most people, self-love is a skill we develop during the course of a lifetime. We learn to love who we are and accept our faults as well as our gifts.
Over the years, I’ve learned the most about self-love from a small handful of trusted mentors, therapists, teachers, and friends who I admire for how they love themselves. Their modeling and guidance have helped me find my own inner appreciation. When we see what self-love looks like in another person — and through a lot of practice, acceptance, and encouragement — we eventually see it in ourselves.
To demonstrate the concept of self-love, I read through hundreds of quotes from my research and decided the following seven quotes captured the essence of self-love and what I’ve learned from each.
When sadness comes, welcome her as you would joy. She has a message too. Joy is simple to share; there’s something warm to hold onto.
But with sorrow, there’s an abyss that struggles to find the narrowest ledge. Grey drains to empty. The sands underneath shift with torrential rains. Midnight stays, and songs lay low with the bass of sorrow’s belly.
Sorrow is a warrior’s instrument reaching inside and using rib to strum heart. She is alone. Thoughts can drown there. Tiny opaque birds will peck at the remains of the shedding skin too small for what is to come.
In sorrow’s snare spiritual growth isn’t vertical; it wanders like plankton far out to sea – lost and speaks a language of eyes-closed-dreaming-wild. Its words burn defeat.
Sadness will engulf all successes and erase them to a dried shell abandoned on a beach. And there, the carcass waits for life to circle through.
Sorrow’s tears are the sea healing what feels insurmountable. The passage of time ends to let wind blow through the hollow holes of loneliness.
Only those who can recognize will hear the oboe’s lament. A bittersweet song of hope.
I’ve been thinking about what is it that I do as a licensed mental health counselor. How can I describe what I offer?
And so, in my truest heart-space, I looked to nature for guidance and started to daydream.
Within minutes, two hummingbirds followed by two wild bunnies appeared. I watched and observed. All were playing and zipping in and around the bushes and trees and vying for the feeder.
Hopping, darting and exploring.
And I said to myself, “Oh my! That’s it!”
I am a sensitive creature and quick to notice as I follow the process of my counseling clients. I’m intrigued with what isn’t said as well as what is said.
I listen carefully as if I have two large rabbit ears twitching and sniffing the winds and I believe in their pain and stories that too often haven’t been.
I notice the tone of my clients as they walk, smile, laugh or shed tears.
I hold open space or circle it down to keep it safe. I let their voices rise or whisper.
Together, if need be, we ‘die’ and explore the depths of pain, abuse, worries, and fears. I feel images and see feelings and share what has risen.
We create a bond of sacred space where authenticity and trust can truly grow.
Sometimes we use art or music and let the spirit of colors and shapes and sounds speak what words can’t. Other times I’m reminded that questions don’t always have immediate answers; however, we wait together and explore to see what is your deepest soul’s truth.
Carolyn Riker is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) in private practice. She is also an author of three books. Her most recent book is "My Dear, Love Hasn't Forgotten You."