I happened upon this beautiful image earlier today and it really struck a chord. I noticed all the colors and the twists and turns. The intricate detail and how we can focus on a small detail or appreciate how it all comes together to form the much more beautiful whole.
We are all patchwork people. A beautiful quilt of all the places we have been and the experiences we have had, woven together by the thread of our shared humanity and fragility. Every little patch of fabric representing a unique story, a moment in time, an event in our lives. When examined in isolation, they don’t look like much, but put all those patches together and you will marvel at the creation.
But getting to the point where we can appreciate our own patchwork, is a journey of discovery, forgiveness and love. So, if you are perhaps having difficulty loving and accepting yourself or letting go of your past, here are five practical things you can start doing right now, to change that:
If we get too caught up on looking at the detail on one component of a quilt, we can’t appreciate it in its entirety and see how each of the individual pieces contribute to the beauty of the whole. The exact same thing happens if we fixate on a specific experience or something that hurt us – it keeps us from being able to see the lessons we learned or the growth we experienced and how we have changed as people. We don’t see the full picture and we don’t realize that even those pieces of fabric that aren’t as pretty, contribute to the overall work of art.
It’s an affliction of the human condition, that we tend to hold on to so many things that no longer serve us. We hold onto anger and hurt and resentment. We hold onto beliefs and patterns that keep us playing small. Hell, we hold onto shampoo bottles that don’t have enough shampoo for one more hair wash! What is wrong with us?!
If you have watched even one episode of “Tidying Up” with Marie Kondo, you will know the power of letting things go and decluttering our physical space. Those benefits extend and multiply when we do an emotional spring clean.
I know it’s not easy, but I look back on my life and some of the worst moments. Those were the moments that really changed me and helped shape me into the woman I am today. I cannot wish those moments away because then I would be wishing ‘me’ away. All I can do is to acknowledge that there was some pretty messed up stuff that happened and I wish it hadn’t have hurt me the way it did, but I can release it with love and be thankful for the lessons.
Hands down the hardest one of all. I think when we think about ‘forgiveness’ as a concept, we think about it all wrong. It doesn’t mean that we never got hurt and it sure as hell doesn’t mean that we should allow toxic people who hurt us, back into our lives. It is a service to our souls to forgive and to free ourselves from the hold that the past has over us. Until we are able to forgive others and ourselves, we will always be victims and prisoners of the past. We will always get in our own way, trip ourselves up, self-sabotage and se ourselves into playing small.
We all battle negative self-talk. We are overly critical of ourselves and downright mean. We speak to ourselves in a way we would never tolerate from anyone else. I have numerous tips on how to deal with negative self talk, but one of the most powerful tools I have found, is to immediately stop myself at the first sign of those negative and critical thoughts and to replace those instead with three powerful “I Am” statements. I remind myself that I am kind and strong and resilient or that I am a loyal friend or a supportive colleague. I remind myself of all the good things that I am and pretty soon that mean girl inside of me has nothing mean left to say.
Sure, we all have goals and dreams and we want more for our lives. But we need to enjoy and be grateful for the things we already have. The more we focus on things we are grateful for, the more things we find to be grateful for. Sunshine, warm weather, an afternoon spent with a good friend. A home and food on the table. A strong and resilient body or an intelligent mind and a kind heart. Just stop and take some time at the end of every day and list at least three things you are grateful for. I do this with my children every night and I am in awe of some of the things they say and their levels of mindfulness and self-awareness, even at such young ages.
We all need to stop sleepwalking through our lives, weighed down by past tragedy and regrets, fearful and playing small. Start celebrating your triumphs over adversity. Start recognizing all the amazing things that you are and start being grateful for all that you have. You, my fellow patchwork person, are a beautiful work in progress!