This is my Valentine's Day love note to you. As you scroll past post after post of articles encouraging you to change yourself to find the love of your life, this is all about finding the greatest love of all, like Whitney Houston said, inside of yourself. I'll share how I've learned to do it and how you can learn to be true to you, too.
Last week I sent out my newsletter about the temporary discouragement I was feeling. I intentionally wrote and sent that post after a long sabbatical from writing to create space for people who were struggling similarly and also to normalize the ebb and flow of life as a human being. With so many coaches posting from perfectly manicured and manufactured profiles, I wanted to send something real out into the ether for people who crave authenticity--and I don't mean the kind of "Authenticity" that's being sold by heterocisgender, upper-middleclass, able-bodied white coaches and "thought leaders." I know those folks know their own versions of suffering but they don't speak to me and my experience in this life at all. I just can't relate to them. I think that's why more and more people of all identities are following me on social media. I hope so, anyway.
Newer readers and followers don't know that I started my coaching business in 2009 and wrote long and often, day after day, sharing pretty much everything about my life on Facebook and in my blog which was sent to my newsletter subscribers. I also wrote for GoodMenProject and on Medium. You can read the archives of that writing online at any time.
And then, when I started my gender transition in 2012, my life took a turn I didn't expect. I lost a lot of the support I had before (or thought I had). During this incredibly challenging life change, I kept trying to share and give support and inspiration like I'd always done but over time I came to see that without enough resources for myself, I wasn't really able to provide what I had been giving before.
That whole "put your oxygen mask on first thing" is real. There's no avoiding it. We can't pour from an empty cup and my cup was not only empty, people in my life kept asking for more and more and I, in my desire to help, ran myself into the ground trying to give what I didn't have for myself. This eventually led to burnout and then resentment. I came up to the edge of that and knew it and saw the need to take a break.
So these past two years or so, I've taken time away to restore and renew myself to give to the world what I want to provide. If I wasn't able to get it from others, I knew I had to learn to give it to myself.
And that's what I want to share with you today: how to move toward being true to yourself as the best friend you want and need so you always have all the love support and resources you need 24/7.
I'm not saying you shouldn't seek friends and other support systems. We certainly can't exist in this world alone. But learning to be discerning about relationships is crucial because people have so many different motivations for being in our lives and it isn't always to give us what we need. In fact, because so many people don't know who they are or how to take care of themselves, relationships often take more from us more than they provide. I don't mean to sound pessimistic but rather compassionately candid.
People don't prioritize themselves and their mental and physical health and they end up putting more negativity and dysfunction out into the world. We often confuse this with some statement about us and who we are. And I want to reassure you, it isn't about you at all.
The behavior of others that stems from their own lack of self-awareness, self-love and self-care isn't a reflection of you or your worth or value. When people flake on meetings or dates or long-term commitments or friendships or work partnerships or hell, even political process and (dys)functionality, it's not because you aren't important or worthy. Rather, it's because you and I are in relationships with people who are not attuned to their own needs. People can't give us what they don't give thsemselves.
This is such an easy concept, right? Easy words to read and digest. But it's taken me almost three decades to learn and accept much less practice with any sort of regularity.
And that's what my post last week was all about. It was about me learning this and forgetting it and coming back to it, which is the path of the bodhisattva that I've chosen.
Some readers or followers confused my confessions of temporary discouragement, which is just part of being a normal human being, with being in severe distress or even a cry for help. It wasn't that at all. I shared the honesty of being in that place to normalize it with real words for whomever needed it. And I did that to be true to myself and what I was feeling to inspire that in others. It was interesting to notice how people reacted to that sharing and I'll write about that soon.
The value in sitting with and being true to ourselves, no matter what we're feeling, is immeasurable.
When we can honor the shifting, changing nature of our internal landscape, we can hold that space for others.
When we can celebrate our emotional highs and lows, we can honor when it's happening for others.
When we can walk the tightrope of being human, we can guide others along as they navigate it.
When we can sit with grey and not need to force it to become black or white, we can encourage others to embrace this perspective as well.
When we can eat food for fun and to feed our bodies, we don't have to worry what others do or don't eat. We don't need to convert anyone based on our viewpoints but we can honor what feels right and true for us.
When we can go to bed because we know it serves us, we don't have to worry what people think about us.
When we can go for a walk because we know the human body needs exercise to thrive, we can abandon old habitual thinking that exercise needs to "hurt" to be effective.
When we can be with our own company and not need to be in a relationship or need the company of another person to feel whole or valuable, we can be present to how wonderful solitude can feel.
This is what being true to yourself means. It means knowing yourself and being ok with who you are, even when you don't look or seem perfect to others. It means loving the process of your transformation, even when it doesn't meet the expectations of others. It means honoring what you need and want and seeking it out in places or from people who are ready, wiling and able to provide it.
It means learning to provide it for yourself via healthy habits with food, sleep, exercise and other methods of self-care.
As Valentine's Day approaches, seek out as many ways as possible to nurture this intention to pay better attention to yourself to become the source of love you want and need to give to yourself first and then, if you want, to others.
Be true to you to be the best friend you could ever have.