I’ve cracked it.
After a good few weeks or perhaps months, okay maybe a whole lifetime, of varying degrees of introspection, specifically on the topic of self-love, I think I now understand much more clearly where and when the seeds for my punishingly cruel inner critic were planted in the first place.
I know, it doesn’t take a genius to work that one out, in fact I believe that our suffering begins with conception, but that aside, there are specific moments that stand out when I transport myself back to yesteryear.
The Me That I Was
It all began with a little playground game of Kiss Chase.
This is a memory that makes me laugh out loud as well as want to get into a time machine and give my little self a hug.
I was ten years old, and, being late to mature in pretty much every way possible, I had just started noticing boys. I had a crush on almost every one in the class that would last for no more than a day or two before moving on to somebody new. There was no intention behind it, just an appreciation for the opposite sex that I hadn’t noticed before.
But they didn’t notice me.
I’d innocently, and very contently, geeked my way through primary school, working on extra-curricular projects about birds and toadstools and any sort of history I could find on Encarta 94. I’d always had a big circle of girl friends and maybe one or two of the boys, but I was never one of the girls who claimed centre of attention.
There was one lunchtime when the whole class was playing Kiss Chase. I was petrified and I didn’t want to play; I didn’t feel old enough, I didn’t want to kiss a boy and I would have been much happier skipping around, picking daisies and playing hopskotch.
The game began and the girls went first – the boys sprinted off around the playground and we pursued. I ran as slowly as I could, more or less in circles, while claiming temporary blindness just to avoid having to “capture” somebody.
Then it was our turn to be chased. I ran like I was running after the world’s last bag of Tangfastics, in fact I think I beat Roger Bannister’s four-minute mile as I darted under the skipping ropes and around football the nets with a look of terror on my face. Nobody could catch me.
But when I stopped to catch my breath, I realised that nobody wanted to.
The me that I want to be
Shortly after The Kiss Chase Incident, the problem of not being “chased” had ceased to exist but the memory of it lives on inside me.
Desirability had become a thing. My own self-worth became the value of others’ judgement. My inner critic teamed up with another devil within; my perfectionist self, and together they ruled my world with one subtle “you’re not good enough” thought at a time.
In my teenage years and twenties, the mantras that they preached weren’t so obvious; I just took them as part and parcel of life and our insatiable human appetite for better.
Back then, I saw them as understated motivations and words of encouragement to get me to the gym both morning and night and to help me make good decisions like choosing a Caprese salad over a Sloppy Giuseppe – and I thanked them for it.
In my thirties, however, I’ve come to focus on awareness of self through focused introspection, meditation, mindfulness, and all the other buzzwords du jour.
I’ve started to observe how I succeed in some areas of life but fail in the one around self-love; I’m just never content.
I wanted to be super fit, healthy and strong. I wanted to be totally clued up on nutrition by reading up on dietetics and being in touch with my body’s reaction to what I consume. I wanted to be a yogi, I wanted to be a full-time meditator, I wanted to be good at getting to sleep. I wanted to drink less wine, less coffee and more water. I wanted to do all of the things for my insides that would get my outsides looking their best.
And I have been that person for a long time, but with only a part-time commitment.
The Me that I am
Alongside this introspection I’ve been putting loads of effort into doing good things to be a better me and also reading The Power of Now.
So after a week of consciously applying the principles of Eckhart Tolle’s principles to this particular category of my thoughts, I had myself another lightbulb moment.
When it comes to self-image, I live somewhere between my undesired past and my unattainable future, but never in my present.
I sat there at Yoga Tree studio in Chiang Mai with a beaming smile on my face that moment of realisiation unfolded in the reflection before me.
I am the me that I want to be.
I’ve spent weeks keeping my own promises without effort. I wake with the sun, I meditate, I journal, I write blog posts and articles, I run 5km through the busy morning traffic of Chiang Mai, I brush my teeth with charcoal toothpaste, I wash my face with organic olive oil and I lather my body in essential oils – all before 9am.
I mindfully drink my morning caffeine fix and I start the day with a smile.
After a super productive day managing a team and getting things done, my head is bursting with ideas for moving forward. And I am moving forward. I’m learning more now than I’ve ever learned before.
And in the evenings my hobbies don’t involve overindulgence of any kind – I swim, I cycle, I yoga, I socialise then I relax.
The moment that judgement stops through acceptance of what it is, you are free of the mind.
You have made room for love, for joy, for peace
~ Eckhart Tolle