beauty in the tears

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After a very heavy crying session, I wiped my eyes gently with a tattered tissue and found myself staring at my reflection in the mirror. My automatic thought?

I look beautiful. Somehow I look more beautiful even after I’ve cried.

Pink cheeks, pink nose, full lips, watery eyes, yet in the light the tears make them look almost silver. How can I even look this pretty when I’m in such agony and pain?

But so it is, and as ashamed as we are in this society to show our emotions and tears, I was taken aback by the thought that by being in my emotions and expressing them, I became more beautiful. I looked raw, real, authentic. And there is something attractive about that, something in that that morphed my face into embodying and actualizing the beauty I hold. The mask I consistently maintain and my “I have it together” demeanor seem to dampen it, and I didn’t realize it until the moment I stared at my tear-streaked face.

You hold so much beauty in just allowing you to be you, in your emotions, in your pain. The truth is, I don’t have it together. I struggle, and feel so deeply that it hurts, and I can’t bear it on my own. I make mistakes, I fear, and I doubt. And perhaps it is that vulnerability that makes me beautifully human. Beautifully me.

There should be no shame in your feelings, if they are a part of who you are… if there are what make you even more lovely.

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practicing self-love

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I never make New Years’ resolutions, because I believe that you can take on the battle of change toward life and growth at any moment of your life, regardless of human constructs of time.

But this year I did make a resolution, as my new commitment fell along with the coming of the new year. My commitment: practice self-love and self-acceptance at every moment and turn. Even when I make mistakes, fail, or fall short… I will love and accept myself as I am. Always.

As I begun to take on this heavy endeavor, I soon started to realize the severity of how critically I viewed myself, cut myself up, for anything and everything. For not doing something right, not speaking as eloquently as someone else, not being stick-skinny, hating my reflection in the mirror, my eyes, my lips, the fact I suck at math, my own tendency to be so critical, even with myself. This list could go on, but of course it could, because when you want to hate something or someone, you will always find something to hate. Yet the same goes with love. If you view through the lens of “I will love this person,” you’ll then start to see the beauty they hold. It boils down to what lens you wish to put on when you look.

So I’ve been trying to re-orient my mind, my perspective, which is a constant effort, as I’ve become quite adapt at being critical with myself. But in doing this, a feeling of liberation has been easing its way into my being, little by little. Maybe I’m made this way for a reason, for a purpose. God is using every bit of me for His good, to be an encouragement to others. I used to hate myself for being “too sensitive” or being “so emotional” with people or situations, because that was what I was often criticized for. But yesterday, I came to a huge discovery: what if being sensitive, or having a deeply caring heart is my nature? What if my purpose is to feel deeply? And thus all of this time, I’ve been letting others get to me and subsequently letting myself deny my true nature?

Loving yourself for who you are is a huge act to take on, one that I cannot break down in a simple post. Perhaps I may in future blog posts. But one of the lessons I am learning so far is that loving yourself fully means allowing you to be you. Even if you’re not where you want to be now, allow yourself to be in this moment and this space, and accept yourself for who and where you are. Because being you as you are could very well be your nature, and in that, you can effect such wonderful good and light in this world. I believe we should always strive toward change and growth, but in the same hand, allow ourselves to be in the present, whichever stage we are at. Because there are great things to be done, wherever we may stand in our path to self-actualization.

resolution

                      s543

Unresolved feelings. Loose ends. Throbbing scars. Heavy silences. Suffocating gloom.

There are the things that come to mind when I think of my hometown.

Last week, I went back to my hometown partly to visit an old friend, but also to seek resolution, to breathe new life into a tattered story left hanging, to re-acquiant myself with an older version of me, one that I have been trying to deny for years after I left. If I were being honest with myself, I have been trying to prove to myself, and to those people of my past, that contrary to what I was made to believe by everyone around me, that I am worth something, that there was more to me than what they believed.

But I see now that that was a fool’s errand. As I sat at a coffee shop, staring pensively out of the window at the glum clouds and barren desert, I arrived at the conclusion that has been staring at me in the face for a long while: what I am looking for is not in the place where I grew up.

Resolution resides within myself.

Case in point. I continue to live out my past in the things I do, the decisions I make, the way I perceive the world, myself and the people I encounter. The fears, detachment, anger, voicelessness, inner suffering, despair… these things live inside of me, and nowhere else. The only logical conclusion then is that the healing I seek therefore must be instigated from within.

Since I was young and up until I was 21, I lived a numb existence and hated myself, mechanically tearing wounds into my heart and soul in the way others have done to me. Despite all that has passed, my resolution became clear to me. I must love myself and believe in my worth in its entirety. I can only become whole if I accept all parts of me, including those parts of my past that I hate and attempt to forget or reject. I must put each piece of me back together, and say, “You did the best you could with what you had. You hung in there. I love you and accept you, exactly as you are.

We cannot self-actualize, reach our potential, be who we are meant to be, until we accept and love our whole selves. Before I thought moving on and focusing on the present and future were all that mattered. Yet to embody true self-love, you must accept everything about you, including your past mistakes, failures, and all of those “ugly” bits, and tell yourself, it is all beautiful. I am beautiful. And I accept all of these imperfections as perfectly me. I can still do so much with my imperfect self.

Telling ourselves this is difficult if we do not readily believe it. But it is part of the healing process. We fake it till we make it.

For the rest of my visit in my small, desert hometown, I held onto young Anna’s hand with gentle care, and kept reminding her that no one else defines us now. Not our past, all those people we knew, or even this town. We are in control, and we are beautiful. We’ve got this.

reaching your potential

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Are you squandering your potential?

This question reverberated through my mind as I was driving home on my last day of class. Sometimes we forget to see our potential when we get locked onto the past or even the present.

An epiphany had hit me. Memories fell out of my subconscious and onto my lap, forcing me to see the truth. I’ve been squandering my potential.

Like when I turned down a scholarship program. Or when I downgraded myself to certain part-time jobs because they were easier to get, rather than reaching for the ones that fit my experience, yet much harder to obtain. Or when I settled for dating men I didn’t feel much connection with, because they gave me attention. Or all of those times during my adolescence I never told someone how I felt and kicked myself long after with regret. Even with my attending a Master’s program, I always felt like a big fish in a small pond. My professor swore that I would’ve attended a Ph.D program.

As I sat with these choices, I began to see the common denominators: I did not believe in myself, or in my potential. I only saw the worst of me, and took that as truth. I was scared of change. The unknown. My fears had been ruling over me, taking control in more ways than I could imagine.

The truth was initially hard for me to swallow. But I told myself that this was a disillusioning antidote I had to take. I’ve been taking the easy route. Settling for small successes had been easier to me than choking down the possibility of huge failures.

Lately, I have been feeling dissatisfied with myself and my life… and I finally realized why. Contrary to what I believed I was doing, I was not living up to my potential.

I wholeheartedly believe that each of us are gifted in an infinite amount of ways, holding our own seed of potential. One person is not better than the other, just different… just as we see a myriad of flowers in the large garden, each holding their own kind of beauty. For most of my life, I saw myself as a tiny, negligent bud that no one gave much heed to. But now I see that I didn’t give myself a chance to grow, to bloom. Sure, I may have grew up in desert with minimal nutrients in my life, but I’m still here, alive, with a frantic need filling my chest, pushing to burst and bloom with all and everything in me. I want to live me.

I’m sure I’m not the only one. I bet there are others out there too who have felt just like me, telling themselves that they don’t have much to offer and they don’t have any potential. But those are all lies. You do have potential, and beauty. You just need to give yourself a chance. Maybe all of this time, you haven’t, and believed the lies some people told you. But you need to ask yourself if you are living the life you’ve dreamed of, that aligns all the way down to your inner soul… or if you’ve only chosen the easy route. Perhaps out of fear, or not realizing that you could do much more than what’s been in your comfort zone. But by taking the easy route, your potential never comes alive.

I now have my Master’s degree, but I have to keep going until I feel my vivid petals bloom fully and every inch of me touches sunlight. Even if it means having to face large failures. I don’t want to be dissatisfied with myself anymore, or keep feeling like I’ve settled. I have a lot of “ambitious” goals on my plate right now, but I’m sick of squandering my potential.

Jonathan Safran Foer wrote: Sometimes I can feel my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living. All those could bes are heavy. Don’t let the weight break your spirit and soul. Believe in yourself. Become all that you have the potential to be. Don’t let anyone hold you back, not even yourself. Live the life you’ve dreamed of.

perks of being sensitive

After recently (and really, throughout my whole life) having been criticized for being “too sensitive,” feeling “too much,” and letting emotions get to me, I’ve gotten to a point where people’s words have stuck to me and become to sound like my own. Without thinking, I’ve started to beat myself up for being the way I am, for caring, when everyone says I just shouldn’t. Suck it up, Anna, and stop being so sensitive. Why do you let yourself react and feel? The sad part is, I didn’t realize I was doing this until I came across this quote:

I used to dislike being sensitive. I thought it made me weak. But take away that single trait, and you take away the very essence of who I am. You take away my conscience, my ability to empathize, my intuition, my creativity, my deep appreciation of the little things, my vivid inner life, my keen awareness to others pain and my passion for it all.

Even if everyone around me looks down on my sensitivity, in reality, it’s one of my greatest strengths. And how wonderfully validating that is to hear. 🙂

the two selves

                     Naty Chabanenko

It’s the same with people. You put up disguises, masks and decorations so that all they can see is your version of the perfect self, with flaws covered and hidden away. Because people will make assumptions about you, whether it’s right or wrong, whether you like it or not. Since you know you’ll always be judged, you don on your delicately placed mask so they will take your disguise as who you are. But if the onlooker is astute enough, he or she will see past your dogged attempts to hide. The masks protects you, but if you take it on for too long, its artificial quality will become you. You’ll begin to appear false, fake, cold and weak. You become one without bravery and courage. You stop seeing yourself truthfully… you become incapable of loving yourself.

But if you make no effort to conceal your flaws to the world, people will recognize the real person. The real you. You appear genuine. Honest. You are unapologetic in who you are and take no shame in being that, flaws intact. Paradoxically, you become a mystery, an enigmatic thing. And people grow curious, is there something more? They see you for your true potential and find security in your being. You do not become a false image as is the fate of wearing a mask… you simply become you, for all you can be. In the act of being real, you begin to love and accept you.

In this society, it seems that it is much harder to be real than it is to maintain an image. Yet as you get older, you’ll grow weary and the mask will crack. Perhaps, now, it is already cracking. And you are right, being the real you is certainly a battleground in of itself as well. But if virtues are our tools to carving our future and identity… then authenticity and honesty will be the order of my day.