I’m sitting here preparing for what will be my second keynote speech. My first one was last year, and as sweet as it was, it was made even sweeter because I got to do it on my home island of Jamaica.
The organization that hired me to host that workshop also hired a photographer to capture my family and me enjoying the scenery at a local botanical garden named Hope Gardens. Prior to that photo shoot, I hadn’t visited Hope Gardens since I was about 7 years old.
Being there, particularly with my daughters (that’s us on location in the photo above), brought up so many memories of my little girl self. I remembered the obligatory wooly two-strand ribbons that accented my short ponytails. I smiled at the memory of the black, patent leather purse with the barbie doll head on the flap that I used to rock with every outfit. I listened in as my mind replayed the sounds of my grandma Mavis’ voice as she showed me the various plants, and her doting at my reaction to each one.
My childhood was filled with incredibly rich experiences, and I was one of those little girls who felt loved and highly valued by just about everyone in my life at that time. The reality of how great a gift that was (and is) is not lost on me. In fact, as I’ve been manifesting more opportunities to speak publicly about my work and my beliefs, I’ve found myself telling my story, recounting my childhood, and recognizing the immense emotional wealth I amassed by being that little girl to love.
Today, I write to and speak for the little girl inside each of us that recognizes love. Not just the love we give to and receive from others, but the love we have for ourselves, and our willingness as girls to never settle for less than full reciprocity in our interactions, external and internal alike.
It’s a harsh but true reality that many little girls lose that expectation of love during childhood, due to abuse in various forms. But at heart, children—whether girl or boy—expect to be prioritized, and instinctively know how to prioritize themselves.
Have you lost touch with that instinct?
Have you swapped out expectation for hope when it come to love and value in your relationships? With regard to the way you treat yourself, what does your internal voice say?
If your Little Girl Self were to hone in on what thoughts ride your mental waves these days, would she smile, or would she fold her arms and pout her lips in protest of the bullshit you’ve been passing off as self-care?
It’s not your fault…
but you can absolutely resolve this disconnect. It can be so difficult to stay in touch with our deepest needs and our highest selves when this transition from little girl to old lady comes with so many opportunities ripe with the stench of outward focus. We are trained and rewarded for shutting out our emotions and manning up to the realities that lure us away from feeling and processing, and that distance from our insides is costing us levels of hurt and suffering far beyond our often high thresholds for pain.
Certainly, we can’t quite operate as our 7-year-old selves and expect the world to bend to our every whim–I’m clear on that.
However, as our definitions of self-care stray from paying attention to the way we want to feel, and take root in the energy of the way we should be acting, or the thing we should be doing, we lose a vital element of our selves: Our capacity to live emotionally well lives.
We find ourselves hiding from our feelings. We cover them with bigger goals and more material things, and more surface relationships, all in efforts to feel less and appear to be more. That appearance isn’t just for the outside world either; we also do it to appear okay to the woman we see in our mirrors.
But be clear…the little girl and the old woman know the real you. One because she was you, the other because she is waiting, should you be so blessed, to nurture you and remind you that you did your best.
Today though, in your role as the sacred bridge between the little girl and the old lady, how can you live in greater accordance with what that little girl deserves, and what that old lady will one day look back at say, I’m so glad I chose myself when it came to that?
I’ll be conjuring up more dialogue between your girl and your old lady in Cosby Auditorium at Spelman College next month. Can you manage to make time to talk with them? If so, follow the #lifebalconf13 hashtag on Twitter, and click below and register. Bring friends, they need to be reminded too.