The Stories We Tell Ourselves and the Tapestries We Weave

(This is a piece I wrote and submitted to Elephant Journal. The piece is on their site, and I would appreciate if you could head over to their site and heart and/or share the piece. The more views it receives the more likely I will be able to continue sharing ideas with EJ. Thank you! ~Shel)

Why we should practice self-reflection, self-study, and share our truth.

Have you ever had difficulty with internal dialogue or self-talk? You know, listening to the voice that is sometimes a complete ass hat?

Sometimes I struggle with an ever-present inner monologue, creating stories in my head—stories of unworthiness, negativity, fear, and anger. The stories can sound something like, “Someone covered class for me last week. What if students stop coming to my yoga classes because they realize I’m not good as a yoga teacher, and I’m not actually worthy of being their teacher,” “My body is a waste. It’s not worthy of taking up space,” and “How can I help people see that their bodies want love and compassion if I struggle with mine?”

From an early age, I have had a remarkable ability to weave threads together and create a tapestry of untruth. For years, I was not able to see that I was telling stories. I truly believed all the things I was telling myself about me and others. By all means, these tapestries were not only created with threads I spun and dyed myself, but also from threads given to me by others, like comments from strangers, biases that were taught, beauty standards, social media, and many other sources.

Recently, I landed in a place where I was creating a lot of negative stories. I was struggling with my body image, fighting the urge to reinstate my gym membership, change to controlling my food intake and choices, and telling myself I wasn’t good enough in most aspects of my life.

One day, I decided to post about it on Instagram to share this idea of storytelling and untruth with my classes. For me, sharing my thoughts when I have felt stuck, no matter what the thoughts were about, has helped me find answers. After sharing these concepts online and with my students, I was thrown back to my college days.

During college, I studied Architecture and Interior Design. In my design studio and art classes, I was taught and required to justify all the decisions made during the design process. I had to constructively criticize and critically think about my projects. When asked, “But why did you…,” the answer, ”Because it’s neat,” or, “Because it’s pretty,” or, “Because it has pop,” or any other surface-level answer was not acceptable because they were subjective and based on opinion. If those answers weren’t acceptable in those hypothetical situations, then why was it acceptable to give my self-surface level, superficial, subjective answers to the stories being woven into my head?

This ignited my inquiry of “but why.”

But why was I struggling with my body image? But why I was struggling with self-worth?

The first couple of answers were the surface level answers—those easier to believe and digest because one doesn’t really want to get to the actual reason since one would then have to feel and learn something. With each “but why” I was able to look at each thread I had used. Inspecting the threads qualities, characteristics, and if it actually added anything of interest to the overall tapestry. As I looked at the threads already in the tapestry, I was able to observe and analyze what was really there, and decide if this was worth saving, or it if would be best to remove it from the loom and start fresh.

The practice of questioning our stories and asking “but why” is the practice of Satya (truthfulness)—one of the Yamas (ethical guidelines for living; one of the eight limbs of yoga).

This self-reflection and study allow us to decide if the story is actually fact or fiction. It allows us to go deeper within ourselves, see our truths, and then share those true stories. Sometimes, this inspection of our self is uncomfortable. Sometimes, it requires that we ask harder questions and receive unsavory answers. It’s not just the stories about ourselves that we can begin to question, but also the stories we tell other people.

What are the stories you tell yourself? What are the biases you’ve been taught to believe? What are the threads used in the tapestries you weave?

Can you start to ask, “But why?” Can you start to look at the qualities of the threads in your story’s tapestry? Self-study and reflection will allow you to speak, live, and share your authentic self with others, even those who’ve lived a different life than you. It will guide you as you continue to weave and display the pieces of art that represent who you truly are.

Dear America,

**Disclaimer: If you want to focus on light and happier topics, raising vibrations, or sending thoughts and prayers, then this post is probably not for you.**

 

Get your shit together. I thought the worst thing I was going to hear yesterday was the attempt to access the National Security Agency campus at Fort Meade, which resulted in an officer being shot and three suspects taken into custody. Instead I turned on the news yesterday afternoon to a special report of, yet another, school shooting. This time in Parkland, Florida.

What will it take for legislators to change gun laws? I’m sure that statement has caused someone reading to think, “She’s a freaking snowflake. She just wants to take guns away from all of us. She has no idea what she’s talking about. She’s probably never even held a gun.” I learned gun safety and how to shoot at about 10 years old. My dad, now a retired Air Force Master Sergeant, took my brother and me out to one of my grandma’s pastures with a handgun and a scoped rifle and taught us not just how to shoot, but how to handle the guns safely, and afterward we saw him store the guns away. It’s a skillset I have, but a skillset I wish I will never have to use. I feel the same way about my CPR/AED training.

I see no problem in someone wanting to hunt, shoot crab apples, or have a firearm as a form of home security, if that’s what speaks to them. However, I see no reason why any civilian needs a military grade weapon. I don’t understand why anyone can purchase a gun (in some cases) without having a background check done. Some people have equated guns to cars. Each is a tool that can be used improperly. People will argue that teenagers get to drive cars, but they forget to mention each state has different requirements for new drivers. In Missouri, teens get an instruction permit at 15, at 16 they receive an intermediate license, and finally at 18 they receive their full driver’s license. Each level of licensing has certain requirements that must be met before going to the next. This means a teenager has three years of training before being left to their own devices behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, whereas you don’t have to have any training to purchase a gun. A person a only required to wait three days for a background check, and in some cases they don’t even need a background check depending on how the gun is being purchased.

Along side a need to change gun laws, the country needs to work on the stigma around mental health. I just heard on this morning’s news coverage that the shooter’s mother had passed away the year before and he was depressed, and that the family who took him in got him a job. Not therapy, not appointments with a counselor, but a job. As if a job could help someone get over the loss of a parent. The access to mental healthcare is deplorable. So much of it is not covered by insurance, and fees are too high for a lot of people to afford. Many interventions focus on relieving a symptom and not actually working on the root of the problem.

People are taught that asking for help is shameful, weak, and that they just need to “let go” or “get over” what is bothering. We especially need to listen to young people when they say something is going on and observe so we notice changes when they aren’t comfortable saying something is going on. I remember being at a physical exam for junior high cheerleading, and the nurse practitioner looked at my fingernails because the governing organization for cheerleading in Missouri has a length limit for nails. The nurse practitioner berated me for chewing my nails and asked why I did it. When I replied that I did it when I was stressed or anxious which was all the time, I was laughed at and was asked what I had to be stressed about. The stress of having to get good grades? The stress of having heavier homework loads all the time? The stress of getting all my school work done and participate in extra curricular activities? The stress of peer pressure around sex and sexuality? The stress of bullying? Maybe instead of blowing off what a child is telling you actively listen to them. If further intervention is needed, try to help provide that.

Oh, what’s going to happen to the students, parents, teachers, staff, administrators, and community members effected by this? What help will be provided to them? They are going to be dealing with the trauma from this event for a very long time. Long after you forget about it and move on to the next tragedy even though you tweeted “#Neverforget” they’ll still be dealing with the psychological effects of this event.

You say it’s not time to talk about these things. That right now we need to send thoughts and prayers. Your thought and prayers won’t do shit to resolve our country’s problem. Your thoughts and prayers won’t increase the ability to prevent this from happening, AGAIN. Changing gun laws, increasing access to mental healthcare, and bettering interventions are what’s needed, among so many other things.

 

Sincerely,

Appalled citizen

Welcome to 2018

Welcome to 2018

 

Spring is a time of birth or rebirth. Summer is growth and maturity. Fall welcomes the preparation of rest, release, and death. Winter is stillness and space, the in between.

It’s in this space people begin to reflect on events that happened throughout the year. This reflection is not necessarily a bad thing. It allows people to see the changes and evolution that took place. But during this reflection, especially as the New Year draws closer, people start to dwell on their “failures,” their “inadequacies,” their “not good enoughs.” It’s here people get caught up with their thoughts. People allow their time to be consumed by these thoughts, and it becomes addictive. I don’t know if we, as humans, are wired to focus on what we consider bad, or if over time we’ve trained ourselves to do this, but as we get stuck on these negative thoughts we start to develop methods of punishment so we don’t “fail” again.

We typically disguise this punishment as New Year’s Resolutions, i.e. start a new diet, lose an unattainable amount of weight, workout eight days a week. We set a bar so high that accomplishment is impossible. Then the cycle continues when we inevitably cannot put a check mark next to an item on our to do list. Our struggle with negative thoughts and resolutions isn’t helped by the bombardment of “New Year, New You” advertisements or social media posts. You are enough as you are. You cannot change your Self.

What if instead of focusing on the negative we choose to be grateful for the positive or the lessons learned from negative experiences? What if instead of punishing ourselves for our “shortcomings” and focusing on removing something we set an intention for what we would like to gain or focus on in the new year?

My intention and focus is Acceptance, Organization, and Self-Care. You are welcome to share in this intention, if it resonates with you.

Welcome to 2018. May everyone find peace, love, and happiness throughout the year.