Girl Talk: Honoring Ourselves

I call it “breakthrough” when we as women finally learn to accept, honor and love ourselves as we are.

Iyanlya Vanzant wrote a book and a poem by the same name, One Day My Soul Just Opened Up.  At the beginning of the book is the poem, and one verse reads:

One day, my soul just opened up

There were revelations, annihilations and resolutions

feelings of doubt and betrayal,vengeance and forgiveness

memories of things I’d seen and done before…

Vanzant’s book takes readers through a number of things people in general, but women in particular, seem to struggle with: self-acceptance, acceptance,  setting boundaries, dealing with disappointment…and she offers exercises that readers can do to begin the process of doing whatever we need in order to have …souls that open up.

Dealing with those things, “things of the soul,” as they were, are those things which can help us know and love and honor who we are. That book, along with Wayne Dyer‘s latest, Wishes Fulfilled,” have been food for me.

From the beginning, I always compared myself to others. I was too tall, too skinny, I had a giant gap between my two front teeth, I was smart, but not as smart as “the smartest” in the class. I continued making comparisons and subsequently rating myself lower than I wanted to be …until fairly recently, when “my soul just opened up,” and, as Ntozake Shange wrote, “I found God in myself.”

There are reasons why we women tend to compare ourselves, but none of them make much sense.  I find myself wondering if our lack of respect for ourselves in this area is the same reason or lack of respect that keeps us in relationships, romantic or otherwise, that are not good enough. We remind me of Edith Bunker, who really was not treated very well by her husband Archie, but who was always running to serve him. I mean literally running. No matter how much she ran or showed obeisance to him, she was never worthy of him treating her like a wonderful woman. She was, instead, an “object,” his wife. She acted as though she felt she had no inherent worth, and that all she was good for was serving her husband.

There isn’t anything wrong with having the kind of love Edith had for Archie, but not at the expense of honoring ourselves. I am a pastor; I honor the people I serve, but I realized I was suffering from the “Edith Bunker” syndrome, honoring the people I serve more than I honored myself…and I realized I was doing myself great spiritual damage and was not doing my ministry any good, either.

It was clearly a breakthrough, and I was able to see how my behavior had spread into all areas of my life. I was honoring people who did not honor me, and I was making some people a priority in my life, who had made me an option in theirs.

It is amazing how many of us as women keep ourselves in self-imposed spiritual and emotional prisons. Our souls are not open, but are, rather, closed tightly. Behind those closed doors we keep so many feelings that are instrumental in keeping us at the edge of life instead of being immersed in life, while we yet have the chance. For the longest, I knew something was off-center in my life, but didn’t know what it was…not until recently. As a child, I didn’t feel honored or liked in my family; it seemed that I could never do anything right; I looked funny…and all that baggage became feelings that I carefully folded and carried around inside me.

Life is a little too short for that.

And so, for the rest of my days, however many those may be, I am going to “walk in myself.” I am going to appreciate my gifts and use them, and not worry about what I don’t have and what I cannot do. It really doesn’t matter. There is plenty I can do…and will do.

This morning there was a thunderstorm here, and as the rain fell and the thunder and lightning played an amazing symphony of sound, I realized that we women have symphonies in us that nobody has ever heard; they don’t have a clue there is so much in us because we have kept those parts of us hidden. We have sublimated our gifts, trying to please others who cannot or will not be pleased, and trying to be what we will never be.

God is waiting for the symphonies.

A candid observation …