This is for all the people out there who are having a hard time right now. This is for all the people right now that don’t feel like they are at the inspirational part of their life story, they’re in the fire swamp battling the ROUSes. This is for all the people that are finding it challenging to wake up each day and do the basic things they need to do.
You are not alone. Many of us are right here with you in the swamp.
You are worthy of care and you deserve to have your needs met.
You deserve to be celebrated, no matter where you are in the cycle of your life.
You are worthy of healing, connection, love, and support.
I don’t know you, but I can 100% say I’m proud of you. I see what you’ve been through and it was A LOT. I admire how you’ve made it through, imperfectly perfect.
If you’re not currently receiving these feelings of support from the people and circumstances around you, it’s not your fault. It’s not because you did anything wrong or that there’s anything wrong with you. It’s because today’s hyper-individualistic society is designed not to provide those things. It’s a feature, not a bug.
It takes a village to live a life. It takes a village to celebrate wins, help people feel proud of who they are, and feel the deep comfort of intimate friendships and connections. It takes a village to give people the space and time they need when things aren’t going well to rest, reflect, and recover.
We don’t live in that village right now. We live in a system that intentionally and systematically isolates us from that connection that we need, and studies show that connection is a vital ingredient to living a mentally healthy and well-balanced life.
Because we’re all in living a fucked up system, it may feel like you are failing. It may feel like you could be doing a better job than you currently are. Don’t listen to the lies, you are not failing. You are a soul temporarily residing in a body, during a particularly isolating time in history, doing your best. You are resilient, kind, deeply compassionate, and worthy of help when times are tough. I mean, here you are, getting up each day, doing one thing at a time, and getting through. I am proud of you, my friend. You are a miracle, and deserve to be celebrated, just as you are.
I’ve been outlining the chapter in my book on mindfulness and self-acceptance (Did I mention I’m writing a book?!) and it occurred to me that many people have the wrong idea of what acceptance and self-acceptance really mean.
I hear people say all the time, “I should love myself more” or “I should just accept my job/relationship/life and be grateful for what I have.”
That is not the right way to do acceptance.
Any thought about your life that starts with “I should” or “I need to” isn’t self-acceptance, it’s self-abandonment. It’s pushing aside your own feelings, desires and intuition for the sake of trying to be happier.
Let me suggest another way.
Acceptance (or self-acceptance) is when we accept or notice what’s coming up for us right now, without creating a story about how it should or shouldn’t be. It’s also accepting what comes up without any ideas of how or why it should be any different.
It’s like a combination of noticing, acceptance and embodying. It’s thinking, “This is what’s happening right now” with no further commentary or evaluation, just embodying the feeling, sensation or thought that’s coming up and being in it.
Here’s an example:
Many women I know (and some men) don’t like the look of their bodies for one reason or another. I’ve heard so many well-meaning people talk about body acceptance as learning to love your body just as it is. While I don’t disagree with this in theory, if we try to jump straight from “I don’t like my body” to “I accept my body as it is” we’re going to be bypassing a lot of important feelings and thoughts for the sake of how we “should” think about our body.
Here’s what I propose instead. When you have a thought or a feeling along the lines of, “I don’t like my body” just notice that you are thinking that. That thought isn’t bad, or wrong, nor should it be any different. Simply notice and accept, “I am having a negative thought about my body.”
When you’re able to have a thought like that without a judgment that you should be thinking something different or feeling another way about your body, when you are able to be who you are right now, without any judgment that you should be thinking any other way than you are, it opens the portal for true healing.
Not bypassing healing or “should” healing, but real healing. Compassionate healing.
When I think the thought, “I don’t like my body” and accept that I am feeling shame, I then can tend to and care for that part of me that feels bad. I don’t need to change it, I just need to care for it. I can sense into what I need to hear to comfort myself in that moment and say the exact right thing to myself. I can say, “Well of course you don’t like your body, Megan, there’s a billion dollar ‘beauty’ industry and a whole patriarchal culture invested in you feeling unworthy. They lie. They make money and retain power off of those lies. You are amazing and your beauty is so much more than the shape of your body. Anyone worth their salt will see that, and you should, too.” (That’s just what I needed to hear in that moment — your version of comfort and validation will sound different. But feel free to steal mine if that works for you!)
In that moment, I start to genuinely feel better about my body. It’s not bypassing or platitudes, it’s a genuine shift in what I think about not only my body, but the world my body exists in.
I’m not accepting my body, I’m accepting the thoughts about my body and through that acceptance, I can find what I need to think or hear to heal that shame I feel.
Let me give you another example. I recently moved to a new city where I don’t know many people. It takes time to develop friendships and create routines and I’m still in that process. Even though I know that’s true, I still feel lonely sometimes. This week I had a friend visit for a few days and after they left, I found myself alone in my apartment and my feelings of loneliness got intense. Rather than try to change it or think of all the good things about my new situation in this place I’ve wanted to move to for years, I simply accepted the feelings of loneliness.
“Okay, I’m lonely.”
I sat with the loneliness for a while. I observed it, noticed what it felt like in my body, where it sat and where it moved to. I kept thinking, “Here I am, I’m lonely” or, “I am feeling loneliness right now” without trying to fix or change it. And eventually, I was able to bring some love and compassion to myself. I thought, “This is okay, I just moved here. This loneliness is signaling to me that I need connection, I need community. I’ll find it. It’s important to me, so I know I’ll keep making small movements towards caring for myself this way.”
In that moment of sitting with the loneliness and accepting it, my view towards it shifted. It’s not that I felt any less lonely, but I saw it as a signpost for what’s important to me — connection and community — and I then felt the peace of knowing myself and the pride of making moves towards caring for myself and meeting my vital needs.
Only after pure acceptance can we crack open the door for compassion. If we jump to judgment or a “should” statement, we leave no room for self-compassion. And the door to true healing is compassion, both for ourselves and others. So I invite you to accept what comes up for you, even if it’s not pleasant. Sit with it, don’t try to change it, and accept that you are a human being having this thought or feeling, that’s it. Pure acceptance, just being in the moment of what’s arising. After a while, you’ll sense into what you need to know from that. What message is important to heal you and bring you even closer to that beautiful state of self-knowing and self-acceptance? There’s no greater love than knowing, accepting and validating where you are, right now.
It’s been a chaotic last couple of years, hasn’t it? Global pandemics, the rise of fascism, and disconnection from so many of the people and things that keep us sane and grounded. So many familiar things are falling apart, and I know that I’ve had to figure out new ways to find happiness and connection in these unpredictable times. As with anything new, it’s been a bit of trial and error.
But there are 4 things that I know will help and that I keep coming back to over and over.
- Mindfulness. The ability to be in the present moment and have the ability to access two parts of me (the part that is having the experience and the part that is compassionately observing the experience) has been invaluable. When things are rough or when things are good, I can witness myself having that experience from a place of wisdom and compassion. When I am feeling scared I can be scared and at the same time, send compassion and love to the past of me that’s scared. When I’m feeling joy I can actually register that joy and make a mental note of how happy I am, which rewires my brain to seek happiness. It’s sort of like a magic trick – being two places at once – and it’s one of the best tools I know for coming back and caring for yourself in hard times. It can create a new perspective that’s different from the trauma reactions you’ve had in the past.
- Learning to love your pain. I know, I know. That sounds terrible. But hear me out. I know mental anguish sucks. Anxiety, loneliness, feeling out of control, it all sucks. But those places where we feel pain are signposts to where we need to let in love. Doing shadow work and finding the places where you’ve been hurt can also be seen as finding the places where you can open up to love. This can be self-love (goodbye inner critic!), love from others like friends, pets, etc, or a connection with source, the ultimate field of unconditional love. It’s not easy, and we often put up barriers in those shadow places because we’ve been burned in the past, but as Rumi says, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
- Being kind to yourself. I don’t know about you, but I say horrid things to myself that I would never dream of saying to anyone else. Years ago, I made a vow to myself that I would not say anything to myself that I wouldn’t say to my best friend. I’ve found that when times get tough and we feel like we’re not doing a good enough job, those voices can get stronger. Anyone feel like they’re not doing enough when really, it’s a pandemic + past trauma + late-stage capitalism + a society focused on disconnection under the guise of hyperindividualism? Coming to love ourselves takes work in the face of all of this is an intentional act and takes patience, love and care.
- Having a spiritual practice. You can call it God, source, the universal field of consciousness, or the flying spaghetti monster, but the ability to tap into this energy and feel it in your bones and feel how much love and support there is for you out there is key. No one can do it alone. But sometimes we don’t have the perfect people around at the perfect moment to help us. That’s when a spiritual connection and a deep knowing that all of this will be okay can come to the rescue. You are part of something so much larger than whatever is going wrong. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a pit of despair and the only thing that gave me relief was the sense of grace I get when I meditate and intentionally connect to that field of consciousness. We’re all just little holograms of God, running around having incarnate experiences. And those incarnate experiences can feel BIG and overwhelming at times, but it is not all that we are. We are so much more than that and you can access that expansive feeling anytime you want through your spiritual practice.
If you want to know more about any of these 4 tools or want help learning how to use them in your own life, I’m teaching a course all about them and it starts next week. If you’re curious, drop me a line or check out the webpage here: https://megancaper.com/uth
How do I love me? Let me count the ways.
Ask anyone who’s been in a long term relationship what the secret to success is and they’ll likely mention two things: You have to work at it every day and you have to make your partner feel special on the regular.
That’s sound advice, but it’s advice we rarely do in our relationship with ourselves.
Do you work on making yourself feel special every day? If not, why not? We all need to take time to celebrate and love on ourselves daily. It’s important because if we’re only relying on other people to make you feel special and loved and it doesn’t happen, it can trigger self-critical thoughts of being undeserving.
You (yes, YOU) deserve to have something happen each day that reminds you of how lovable, worthy, special and awesome you are. You are a beautiful ball of sentient stardust (shout out to @domesticblisters for that description) and you absolutely should be reminded of this, daily.
Let me tell you a trick for how I started doing this for myself. First, if you don’t already know your love languages go here to find out your top two or three. My top three are acts of service, words of affirmation, and receiving gifts.
Next, figure out ways that you can do these things for yourself! You’ll have to get creative here. How can I perform acts of service for myself? Well, I can hire someone to clean my house every few weeks. Or order food delivery once per week. What about words of affirmation? I can make a list of all the things I’m proud of myself for that week. Receiving gifts? Easy – I make sure if I see something I like when I’m out, like flowers or a yummy smelling candle, that I either buy it at the moment or add it to a list I have on my phone of stuff to get myself later.
If I find that it’s been a few days since I’ve done any of these things, I make a point to do it. And when life is especially sucky, I make a point to schedule them in. After my last break-up, I scheduled weekly flower delivery for myself for a few months and wrote myself encouraging notes to be included with the delivery. Every damn time I looked at those flowers, I smiled.
Now, I want you to pay very close attention to your inner critic when you start to do this practice. If I’m at the supermarket and I see something I’d like as a treat (a gift for myself) and I think, “Oh, that’s a nice thought, but I don’t really neeeeeeed it,” then I stop and take stock. If I saw my best friend’s favorite candy bar in the whole world at the market right before I was about to meet up with her, would I buy it for her? Of course I would — I would be so excited to do that for her! So, why wouldn’t I be equally as excited to do that for myself? If there’s any part of you that tells you you’re not “worth it”, there’s some shadow work to do, right there. I recommend bringing in your inner caregiver or protector to help you work through feeling undeserving or not worthy.
Because my friend, I promise you that you are worthy of that and so much more.
I hope you try this out and let me know how it goes. Like any change to our belief systems of self-concept you may have to “fake it till you make it” and almost force yourself to do small acts of love for yourself at first as the inner critic “I’m not worthy” voice comes up. But once you make it part of your routine, and part of who you are, then your daily practice of letting yourself know how special you are becomes one of the best parts of your day.
If you want to know more about how exactly to translate your love languages into things you can do for yourself, then check out my group course starting on April 25th, Unconventional Tools for Healing. We go into this in-depth and you can get personalized coaching from me on how to do this to make the most positive impact on your well-being.
One of the most insidious aspects of growing up with emotionally unavailable parents is that I didn’t have models of how to be cared for. I didn’t grow up with examples of what it’s like to be comforted when I felt vulnerable, sad, afraid, or ashamed. I also didn’t have examples of what it was like to have a cheerleader, someone who became happy and proud on my behalf when I worked at something important to me.
Without external models of how to be cared for in these ways (comforted and encouraged) I couldn’t internalize these models into my own self-concept. This meant that in times when I was feeling upset or needed validation or encouragement, I didn’t have an inner voice that could give me these types of messages, because I didn’t even know what these messages sounded like.
This didn’t just happen in response to external circumstances, either. When my inner critic would start spouting off, there was no competing voice in my head. Without any other narrative, my inner critic would run rampant and I’d end up feeling awful.
I decided to create another voice in my head, one that was supportive, validating, kind and encouraging. I didn’t want to call it my inner parent because the word parent doesn’t have the best connotation for me. So, I called it my inner caregiver. I used polysensory mental practice to create a new voice in my head that said all the things I needed to hear, all the emotional nutrients I needed but never got when I was growing up.
I soon realized there was a big problem. Sure, it was a great idea to have a part of me say all the right things, but what were those things?
Like I said, I never had a model. If I didn’t know what comforting and loving language sounded like, how could I start to talk to myself this way? I looked to parenting books, positive psychology research, and nonviolent communication and restorative justice models for their language.
I knew my inner caregiver needed two ways to respond to my inner critic, as the comforter and the protector. The comforter says things like, “I am proud of you,” or “You don’t have to be afraid anymore. I’m here for you.” The protector keeps my boundaries with my inner critic and says things like, “You don’t get to talk to Megan like that,” or “No. I don’t receive that message.”
I’ve used this model with clients as well. Each of us has different needs for who this new voice needs to sound like, and even for its name. Inner caregiver works for me, but for others, they need an inner nurturer, inner mentor, inner big brother or sister, inner parent, or an inner protector.
The messages we need to hear are all different too. I was raised by a narcissist, so I need to hear that I am valuable and worthwhile. Others may need to hear that they are prized for who they are, or that no matter what they do, they will never become unlovable.
Your inner caregiver (or protector, nurturer, etc) is a powerful way to develop self-compassion. But discovering what it is you need this voice to say can be hard for all of us who never heard these things from our own parents. We need to look elsewhere.
I invite you to gently and lovingly start to look for messages that feel good to you. They may be loving messages, anti-bullying messages, messages of worthiness or lovability. You may hear them in real life as you watch your friends parent their children, you may hear them in a movie as one character comforts another, or you may sense them deep down as that thing you always wanted to hear from your parents or caregivers, but never did.
You’ll know them because when you hear them, you’ll have strong sensations/feelings in your body and emotions will bubble up. These are the messages that are speaking loudly to you — they want to be part of your inner self-talk and your self-compassion routine.
If you don’t know where to begin finding them, here’s a place to start.
I’m still working on developing my inner caregiver, and now have both a woman and a man’s voice in there helping me feel worthy, loved and safe. If you like the idea of having this loving and protective voice in your head and want some help and guidance through the process, this is one of the things we do together in my Unconventional Tools for Healing group program. I’m running it again, starting in a few weeks on the 25th April 2022. If you think this course is something that would give you the information and support you need right now, I invite you to join us.
Mindfulness is one of the bedrocks of mind-body healing. Without it, you can’t accomplish any significant healing on a physical, emotional or spiritual level. I want to look at what I mean by mindfulness and then give you some examples of how it integrates with other healing tools.
Mindfulness is really two different things: the ability to be in the present moment AND metacognitive observation of this moment.
Being in the present moment means you are only experiencing what is going on right now in your environment, body and mind. Mindfulness is our natural state when we are feeling calm, relaxed and connected. When you are mindful, you don’t get swept away in thinking of a conversation you had earlier today, or lost in worry about how things may turn out in the future, you stay grounded in what is actually happening right now.
Metacognitive observation is the gentle, nonjudgmental acceptance of what’s going on in the present moment. It’s observing the situation and our reaction to it without adding any mental chatter about why it may be “right” or “wrong”. When you are mindful, you notice thoughts come up and say to yourself something like, “Ah! It’s worry. I’m worried about how my presentation will go tomorrow.” In this way you are not getting lost in spiraling thoughts about the worry, but rather you observe the worrying thoughts in a nonjudgmental way.
Mindfulness is a prerequisite to almost any other type of healing work because without the ability to be present and observe what’s going on and our reaction to it, we won’t be able to identify or change harmful thoughts, belief systems, or patterns of reactivity.
Mindfulness is the tool we can use to self-diagnose our own maladaptive patterns.
Without mindfulness, we’ll continue to engage in these patterns unconsciously, and the true nature of our difficulties will remain hidden from us. Doing healing work without the foundation of mindfulness is like going to the doctor and asking for treatment without having identified any specific symptoms other than “I don’t feel well”.
Mindfulness is the basis for the best healing tools for stress and trauma. For example, thought work is based on being aware of both our thoughts and our emotions at any given time. Cultivating our inner caregiver can only happen if we can catch our inner critic when they’re in action. You can only develop your intuition in a present and open state. Even physical healing from illness or injury only happens in the parasympathetic “rest and digest” nervous system state. (Note: if you’re curious about any of these tools, I’ll be talking about all of them in the next few weeks!)
Not only that, but mindfulness is incredibly healing on its own. Observing your own emotions, thoughts and reactions from a place of gentle, nonjudgmental acceptance can be the key to undoing years of bullying, emotional neglect and other trauma. Being in the present moment allows us to look around and see what’s good, safe and inspiring right now in both our internal and external worlds.
However, if you’ve experienced chronic stress or trauma, mindfulness may be much harder for you. You may feel pulled out of the present moment by anxiety, depression, hypervigilance or dissociation. For people with anxiety or depression, it can be challenging to observe our thoughts and feelings without internal mental commentary. People who dissociate may not even be registering what’s going on at all, and it’s impossible to observe experiences that you aren’t even aware of. In fact, people who have experienced chronic stress or have C-PTSD may spend most of their time in these other states, which can make both mindfulness and all of the other healing tools that stem from it that much harder to access.
If you’ve tried mindfulness or meditation before and it hasn’t worked for you, then I’d like to invite you to join me for my upcoming group course “Unconventional Tools for Healing” where I’ll teach you my trauma-informed take on mindfulness, and teach how to finally be able to get to that calm, relaxed and connected state even if it’s eluded you in the past. And from that state, miraculous healing can occur
Click here to learn more and feel free to reach out if you have any questions about the course or if it’s right for you.