I started writing this blog on a sunny 74-degree Austin, TX day on the porch of the local organic grocery next to my studio while feeling a burst of gratitude for all that I have. I live in one of the "coolest" cities in America, through which the pulsating energy of SXSW currently runs; I have my own studio apartment that, while small, houses nothing but my essentials; I have a job that checks most of the boxes I need to feel satisfied; I have an amazing, supportive group of friends and strong network; I live in the same city as my family, which I see regularly.
This moment stood out because, as I'm writing this now, I'm coming down from a what felt like a debilitating anxiety attack caused by thoughts around what I don't have. Struggles in my personal relationships, the pressure I've been putting on myself studying for the GMAT, the comparison to others I've subjected myself to, unfortunately, too often as I inch closer to 30, I'm confident, led to the curled, gasping heap that was me yesterday.
Today, however, I woke up to another day. While feeling sore and exhausted, I awoke to a text from a friend whom I reached out to at my low yesterday. It read: "I wish you would give yourself some time to love and admire yourself."
This had me thinking today about gratitude and indulgence and the dire importance they are to our work and life.
During SXSW last week, I sat in on a panel of women product owners from company giants like Google, Lyft, Slack, and Facebook. One of the panelists said that one of the strongest pieces of advice she gives to women working in tech (where we're sorely under-represented) is to look into cognitive behavioral therapy practices. In other words, learn how to create a daily structure in your life to combat negative thoughts and beliefs and replace them with positive ones.
This complimented another challenge a friend gave me yesterday when I reached out for help: list out all of the things you like about yourself. Admittedly, this had me take a long pause at first. I consider myself a pretty confident person; however, personal experience has taught me that the ability to take risks, be extroverted, and come off like you know what you're doing is not synonymous with self-love. Needless to say, this concerned me.
Today, I want to recommit to staying gracious and indulging in self-love and self-admiration.
Too often, we (especially women) are taught that to focus on, verbalize, and celebrate our positive qualities is self-indulgence, which will make us come off as cocky, arrogant, and/or selfish (which isn't "feminine"). My feminist studies matched with my psychology degree and personal experience have shown me, however, that self-indulgence cannot be a choice in our lives if we want to reach the heights of which we are capable. We have to train our brains like an Olympic athlete trains their bodies to see the best in ourselves: form positive thought habits, repeat those habits, perfect those habits until we do them subconsciously; individuals who know they are worthy of love and belonging, without realizing it most of the time, demand what they need of their environments. They do not let life happen to them, they happen to life. I will continue to work to get there.
I recommit to practices such as keeping a gratitude journal, listing out, on the regular, the qualities I like about myself. I recommit this gratitude reframe for others, too: I will come from a place of love and compassion in that stressful job situation, or dealing with that person at work, at the DMV, or at the grocery store I can't stand; I will think of all the good that comes from them, feel how this softens my reactions to them, and miraculously see how then my whole reality changes.
I will come from a mindset of abundance - that it's ok to take breaks, to feed one's soul be it with music, friends, decedent food, and sleep, instead of holding the metaphorical whip to stay in line, rid myself of my humanity, and get things done. Abundance means that there is time and there are resources for all that we want. I will awake every day ready to balance my desire to save the world knowing that the only way for me to ultimately do so is to also savor it. I must know that I deserve it.
I say all of this knowing that I will have to recommit to self-love and self-admiration daily, hourly, if not by the minute. I know this is not an easy feat, and honestly one that I think will take a lifetime. However, I believe that this pursuit of happiness and joy - and cultivating this for others - is why we're put on this earth.
Elizabeth Gilbert in "Big Magic" mentions the idea of being "stubbornly glad" : the act of fighting tooth-and-nail for our own happiness in life, since no one else can give this to us. I wish for myself going forward to be more compassionate, less judgmental, more light, and more loving to myself and others; to fight to stay "stubbornly glad" and, I hope, to inspire that fight daily in others.
I hope for you too to find it in yourself to reach for that place inside of lightness, love, and to not be afraid of indulging in what it needs to foster. I need it, the world needs it, you need it. I hope to see you there.