You are not broken.
Look at the world around you: the dead plants, the cold evenings, the buds just beginning to rise through the frost. The moon, half empty.
So. many. people. Endless people, people in their homes with their families and their cookware and their pets and their items that hold memories.
I had an appointment today, an appointment at the doctor’s because my uterus grows in places it is not supposed to, and I paid five hundred dollars to talk to a man who could not wipe the smug, all-knowing grin off his face while he did not listen to me and was not present with my questions or my body. He talked to me for fifteen minutes and he said a lot of “I don’t know what to tell you” and “I can freeze your cervix and sample some cells from your uterus, if you’d like” and I said no to the freezing and no to him touching my body at all and I walked out, crying.
A win, because I said no to a procedure I would’ve been bullied into years ago, and a win because I did not undress or get on the table for a doctor I felt unsafe with.
And yet… a sneaky part of my mind wanted to turn it into a loss, because five hundred dollars for nothing and I should have caused more of a scene and demanded my money back and told him he was not helping me at all and no one cares about women’s health care or my body and I hate that I can still feel vulnerable in any situation.
You might recognize this voice. It is the voice that says, you are failing at this.
You are failing at loving yourself more. You are failing at being creative. You are failing at finding the successful job that you love. You are failing at making more money. You are failing at keeping your body healthy. You are failing at finding happiness, because two days ago you were happy but today you are not. You are failing at growing, because you were getting really good at being kind and patient but today you snapped at your partner.
The voice says, see? Nothing you do really works at all. You don’t know anything about life at all.
And the most important thing to remember is that this is not your voice.
It was never yours. It was given to you – maybe it was your mother’s voice, to you or herself. Maybe it was your father’s. Maybe your siblings, or your teacher’s, or your grandparent’s. Maybe it was just a result of life experiences, of needs not getting met so much that your child mind needed to come up with a reason that things were happening this way to you, and so it decided you were not performing well, or that you didn’t deserve love. Maybe you were so valued for being good at things that if you aren’t excelling today, you’re not sure what’s wrong with you. Maybe you were told you were too much, and to protect yourself from feeling like too much, the voice decided you weren’t good enough.
It doesn’t really matter how it appeared, not really.
Because this is the thing: You weren’t born with it.
You were born with your creativity, your laughter, your sexual desire, your ability to play and imagine and have fun. You were born with the desire to interact with others, to feel in awe at the world around you.
You were born with many things.
An inner critic wasn’t one of them.
Women often get taught the patriarchy through our mothers. Paradoxical, right? You might think it’d be men, or our fathers. But most often it is our mothers, saying Dress appropriately, you look like a slut. Be quiet, or boys won’t like you. Hold your keys between your fingers at night, you are not safe in the world. Don’t show your body. You look pretty like that. You don’t look pretty like that. You’re going about this in the wrong way. Don’t be selfish.
It comes from a place of love.
It comes from a deep-rooted feeling of the world is not safe, I need you to also be safe and to learn these ways of being that will keep you safe.
Your inner critic is the same: trying to keep you safe.
It tries to keep you small. If you are always wrong, then maybe you will stay quiet, maybe you won’t share your stories, and maybe then everyone will like you. Maybe you will be more pleasing to all of society. Maybe men will find you more attractive and other women will not feel threatened by you. If you feel you look ugly, maybe you will keep your body hidden, and that way you will stay safe. If you feel like you are wrong and the doctors are right, then maybe you will not cause commotion. If you feel ashamed of talking too loudly, you will not draw attention and no one will bother you. If you think what you have to say is stupid, you will not risk anybody else seeing your words or hearing your voice.
If you believe that your body is for other people to look at and enjoy, that your personality is to be watered down to be more palatable to others, and that your boundaries don’t really deserve to exist so other people won’t get mad or think badly about you, then you are left with a body and a self that belongs only to others.
You will forget that you are your own. You will forget you belong to yourself.
And if you start to remember that you do, in fact, belong to yourself. That you do get to set boundaries and have opinions and tell your stories to the people around you, that you do get to take up space in a room and be loud and cry in public and have many, many feelings, and cause difficulty for others sometimes and decide that your pleasure is a priority. If you do dare to dance more wildly and share your gifts with the world and dream bigger.
Then that voice will begin to get louder, to become more conscious.
See, you had it before, but it wasn’t conscious. It wasn’t as loud, it didn’t need to be. It ruled your mind instead; it was the only way you saw the world. Through this is the way I must be and I am wrong in these ways.
But once you start to change your mind, you will begin to notice this voice. And it will say you are doing things wrong and you are broken and your body doesn’t do the right things and you don’t even know what you’re doing and your work isn’t even that good and you need to still hide these parts of yourself from others and your friends don’t really like you that much and you will never make more money and you will never find a partner. You will be stuck in these patterns forever, and you might as well give up because you will never change them.
And this voice is lying.
It is lying for a good reason. It wants to keep you protected.
But it is outdated. Its ways don’t work anymore. Its ways just aren’t relevant, not to who you are stepping into, who you are becoming.
Look again at the world around you, look at how nothing stays pretty and whole all the time, not even the ocean, who is angry some days and calm on others.
There is nothing wrong with you.
You are a part of the world, you exist in contradicting pieces, just like the rest of the world.
A tree’s leaves die every winter, and still it grows taller.
There is pleasure to be found in the process. There is pleasure to be found in the voice, in noticing the voice and noticing how much your body wants it to be true. How much a part of you would loooove if that was the case, and you could stay small and wounded forever. There is pleasure to be found in realizing that what you are doing is working, that you are still taller and emotionally different than many years ago. That even if you didn’t think you were, you have come a long way.
And you are in this moment, reading these words, and you are okay, after all. Everything is actually okay.
All of your being… is okay.
One time I was 19 and my younger brother had just been in a car accident and was in a coma in the ICU, where he had been for a month already, and no one knew if he would recover or open his eyes ever again. And I started crying while telling this to a woman I barely knew, who had just led me through a private yoga lesson that I got for free for joining the studio, which was the only thing I thought to do at a time where all my days were spent in hospitals. And she looked at me after I told the story through tears and she said, “What if you could just be in it?”
And I wanted to be annoyed at her, because how dare she act like my brother maybe dying was something I could just be in – but it also registered as true to some part of me, and that was how I lived the months following.
It is like the Rainer Maria Rilke quote, one of my favorites: “…Live the questions now. Perhaps you will gradually, one day without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
You are in a process. You are allowed to be in the process. You are doing a beautiful job.
Notice the voice, smile at how it wants to be true, and yet it is not.
You are not broken.