There was a time in my life that I felt like I had nothing but questions and absolutely no answers. I found myself alone, in a relatively unknown town, questioning who I was, what I was doing, and why I kept making decisions to repeatedly get me in situations where these same questions kept coming up. I felt like I was trying really hard to understand what I was doing “wrong” to keep feeling so lost. Even with years of therapy under my belt, I still felt completely clueless and had no direction.
This is the downward spiral that has a way of taking us deeper and deeper into more of the same stuff. It’s easy to get stuck in a loop in our heads. The mental patterns of questioning why things are the way they are then grow into feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, and instability–all of which stem from the judgment of the situation and the self.
What almost immediately follows that judgment is an overwhelming feeling of shame and embarrassment for who we are, where we are, and the false idea that we “should be” someone or somewhere else. It is because of this shame that we often find ourselves unwilling to open up to those around us. We may even find a desire to shrink back into ourselves, not willing to come out, to be known, or to be visible to the world.
If we can find the courage to break out of the false security that we feel when we hide from being seen by others, we find the power of healing through community. First we establish with ourselves that we are worthy of being seen and heard, that we matter, and that we have value. Then that belief feeds into those we spend our energy with from day to day. The community that helps us to heal will be one that challenges us but most of all one that helps us to feel safe to be who we are, one that we can trust, and one that helps call us out on our own stuff in order to help lift us up.
It is through connecting with others that one first begins to understand the principle of Ahimsa which is the practice of non-violence or non-harming. On some level we understand early on that there isn’t a benefit to harming those around us. Even as children, we know we need each other and we don’t want to see each other hurt. We know on a deep level that we are stronger together than we are on our own and it is a natural desire to want to connect. What’s fascinating is that many of us are better at identifying harm towards others more than we are at seeing how often we harm ourselves.
The practice of Ahimsa absolutely includes refraining from physical violence to those around us but what about the more subtle ways we hurt ourselves and others? The way we tell our stories, the way we gossip, the words we use in thought or in the form of a joke, the way we treat and talk to ourselves and each other are also significant parts of this practice.
Being part of a strong community that encourages support, that helps to lift each other up, that gently calls each other out for falling back into unhealthy patterns, that understands kindness and love can be more powerful and extremely terrifying at the same time is, in my most humble opinion, absolutely essential to self-healing.
Without allowing ourselves to open up, to share that which scares us the most, we can easily stay stuck in our heads, playing the same loop of thought patterns that have us convinced that we are alone and no one else will ever understand. By avoiding the discomfort of vulnerability we also miss the opportunity to test our true courage, the choice to strengthen our resolve, and ultimately to let others in.
Because self-love and self-acceptance can often be found first in how we treat one another, take a moment to recognize if you are talking to yourself the same way you would someone close to you. Remember that you are worthy of the same kindness that you afford others. If you find yourself without a community in which you feel safe and that you can trust, notice first your beliefs about yourself, your value, and your worth. Those who are meant to support your journey of growth will reveal themselves to you in time but it will be up to you to do the work, make the effort, and let yourself be seen.