Today, I had the honor of doing a virtual presentation for a large company. I had originally been connected with them through my work with AFSP, but today they asked me to speak on Women and Mental Health; We need boundaries… and boy did I need to hear my own words.
The presentation started with reflecting on the importance of mental health. I then read a segment from an article written in 2018 on the need of boundaries instead of self care by Pooja Lakshmin, MD (fyi, she just released a book on self-care and I can’t wait to read the copy that I just bought). After some reflection on what stops each of us from setting boundaries, I then asked them to consider if they have self-empathy. So often we practice empathy for everyone else but ourselves and it is important to see how this is critical to setting boundaries (I always love using a scene from Inside Out to talk about empathy).
I ended the presentation with the idea of accepting all parts of our self, not just the shiny parts that are worthy of social media. In a time when every aspect of life seems to be documented for others to see, it is easy to not see the struggles, the tears, the shattered dreams, that are part of the journey. Without seeing the struggle of others, we feel our own struggles are not the norm and in some way our struggles mean we are failing.
I remember the moment when I realized instead of trying to get rid of my anxiety (anxiety that has been with me since as long as I can remember), I needed to embrace it. I thankfully got to the point of loving the anxious part of me. I learned to see it not as a hideous part of me, but instead of a critical part of me that has gotten me to where I am today. It is only when we learn to fully embrace all of our being, all of our past, all of our journey, that we find freedom. I used a segment from the movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (story of Mr. Rogers) to ask others to reflect on appreciating all aspects of life.
I ended the presentation asking everyone to spend five minutes writing a letter to themselves. I asked they write what they are longing for others to tell them. The reality is if we don’t say it to ourselves, we won’t believe it when others tell us.
During the five minutes, I started writing a letter to Amy. As words flowed out of my pen, I realized as much as I lead others in this process, I had not taken the time to say what I needed to hear. The last few years I have been bombarded with posts, tweets, public comments about me, my character, my ethics, from individuals that don’t know me. I thought I was handling it well until I started writing a letter to me… I realized I had forgotten to handle myself with the compassion and empathy I give others. I realized I hold the words of those who don’t really know me closer than the words of my soul… and as I reflect, I have to believe I am not the only one who finds themselves in this place. If we don’t extend empathy and acceptance for all parts of ourselves, we can’t expect anyone else to…. I am thankful I got asked to present to others because the reality is, I needed it more than anyone.