Lately I have been exploring what it means to express self-love. I love the idea of kindness being a radical act. Radical: relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something; far reaching. Fundamental, thorough or complete reform; supporting an extreme point of view.
One of the fundamental effects of childhood abuse is a deep questioning of one’s worth. Children are 100% vulnerable. Experience is the teacher. The receptors of sight, smell, sound, touch and energy communicate and as we grow and learn language, we form into our little selves.
I have a friend whose Mom was a drug addict and not really capable of being a mom. One day when she was 5 years old, my friend had to call the police for help, knowing her mother was not safe. She knew her mother was going to hurt herself. She feared for her own safety too. She made the call and ran and sat and waited on her bed while her mother raged in the other room. What a radical act that was. What courage that took. After hearing that story, I happened to be looking at a photo of myself at the age of 5. That is one little girl. It's hard to imagine a 5-year old having the presence and strength to make that call.
I was abused starting at the age of 8 years old. I remember as an adult taking care of a friend’s daughter, a delightful, beautiful 8 year old and I was helping her get ready for bed and we were laughing and singing. In one moment it struck me that this was a child. She was not a woman, didn’t show any signs of womanliness. How could someone have seen me in a sexual way at that age? It just doesn’t make sense now as an adult; how could it make sense to a young child?
When my daughter was growing up I found a series of insightful books written by Louise Bates Ames and Frances L. Ilg titled, Your Two-Year-Old, Your Three-Year-Old, etc. on through Your 10-14 Year Old. Unfortunately I only found the books when my daughter was around year 6, but they were very useful and I bought them all and read them voraciously. Now I am likely to buy them for friends who are about to be mothers. Imagine if it said in Your Five-Year-Old – Your child is now ready to take care of you, her mother, and is able to make intelligent, hard decisions that will impact both of you for the rest of your lives. Or, Your Eight-Year-Old – Your child is now ready to be a sexual being and will understand when family members approach her as one.
Does it matter how it happens that we feel unworthy? Does it matter why the thoughts of self-criticism appear? Most women question their own self-worth even if they have not been abused. What does matter is how we feed those thoughts and keep the beliefs going in the many unkind and critical ways we talk to ourselves and treat ourselves.
For me a radical act of kindness is looking into the mirror and giving myself an appreciative wink. It is saying out loud that I love my pale, translucent skin as I rub delicious oils into my legs. It is remembering all the places my legs have taken me along with my sweet feet that allow me to wear fabulous shoes! Thank you legs; thank you feet. It is signing up for an improv class, where my main task is to be present and respond to whatever is put before me. It is going to bed for 8 hours of sleep. It is not only building the fire, adding the logs, but feeling the warmth.
These things don’t sound radical, for sure, yet when repeated they affect the fundamental nature of how I live in my head and in the world. Can you think of a radical gesture of kindness for yourself?