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Self Approval...

I am not sure that I ever really thought about it.  Whether or not I approved of myself, the way I behaved, how I reacted to things, what I said, where and how I showed up.  I am not sure that these things were ever important to me, or really even registered until much more recently...

I am sure that I spent the first several decades of my life trying to ensure that YOU approved of me, and it didn’t even matter who YOU were.  I spent every day, all day, trying to win the favor and pleasure of pretty much everyone who crossed my path.  I was always pandering to authority.  Perceived or real.  And it was my mission in life, every single day, to gain your approval, love and favor.

I have been trying to figure out exactly when that stopped for me...and of course, it didn’t stop completely.  I still care way too much what YOU think of me.  But I feel that the growth has been that, since I have a finite amount of fucks to give, I made a decision to finally start giving some of those fucks to myself.

I have reviewed my life (not regretted or bemoaned it, but reviewed, rethought it) for decades.  And I am sure that the scale began to tip in my favor (and not until) I got sober.  I am quite sure that all of my living before sobriety was aimed at you.  What you thought, what you felt, what you liked, what you didn’t.  I didn’t have a core.  I was just out there transforming myself, a great shifting landscape of Erin on the daily.  You told me who I was, how I was and how I should feel about myself.  It was pretty much all you.  And my behavior was pretty abhorrent a great deal of the time so it was easy to see where you thought I needed some work, some change and to catch a fucking clue.

And I really wish sobriety had been enough to give myself the approval I needed, wanted and desired.  But it didn’t.  I just got sober and then set about approaching you in pretty much the same manner, minus all the drunken debauchery.  I still ran around like “will you give me self approval?  Please...really, I need it and I believe that it is yours to provide, because I am severely lacking in this department.”

And so life carried on with me attempting to manipulate and control your ideas of me, which only allowed me to become that which you told me I was.

But that got old.  Fast.  

I began, slowly over time to cull back my life and approval of myself and make decisions that felt right for me, despite all the great disapproval from you that I received.

The next big one was when I left DC and moved to the middle of the desert alone.  And lived out in the middle of fucking nowhere for two years by myself.  Everyone thought I was crazy.  Everyone thought I would be back.  I knew I wouldn’t.  There was even a betting pool on how long I would last.  I should have gotten in on that one...I would have won handsomely.

I knew my time in DC was over.  It was time for me to go.  And I cared more about my need for something other than what I was getting.  I needed something that couldn’t be found in the life I was living.  And I left and I changed and I evolved.

Next it was marriage.  I dove into that like it was some sort of relational salvation.  I think because I fucked up my first attempt at marriage and commitment so amazingly badly, I felt like I would never get the opportunity again.  So I became my mother.  Military wife, military life.  I was the good wife, having kids, staying home, doing all the things.  And I was happy, until I wasn’t.  When I look back on this time, it was like trying on a new look to see if it worked for me.  And it didn’t.  It really didn’t.  I didn’t love military life, really much at all.  (And neither did my mom, which begs the question as to why I didn't heed all her many, many warnings...) I engaged because it was comfortable because it was my upbringing.  I didn’t know, until I recreated it for myself, that it was definitely not for me.

And with my rejection of that, so too the marriage fell.  I selected a mate that had many fine qualities but did not really understand me at all.  I mean, how could he really?  I didn’t understand myself and I had outsourced my happiness and self approval to him.  And so when the incongruence between who I was and who he told me I should be grew to a chasm, I had no choice but to really look at a lot. And I have gained a great deal of self approval in my decision to leave that marriage.

Finally, it was leaving that job almost two years ago that rounded this last bend for me.  I didn’t know it when I left, but I changed.  I took back my need for approval as being something that was outsourced to you and him and them.  And I took it on as something innate that only God and I could provide me.

I am sure I ruffled a lot of feathers.  I know I lost some friends.  And that was very hard and sad and I wandered quite lost for a period of time.  Making poor dating decisions repeatedly mostly because I was trying to find a new handler.  Someone who would tell me who and what I was and would finally give me the self approval I so craved.

Spoiler alert - that was a fucking disaster.  But apparently one that I needed to survive to come to this place I am now.  A place where I care most about what I think about myself.  That I am living in line with my own spiritual principles, my own self care, my own idea of who I am, what I am and how I show up.  It isn’t perfect.  I work too much, I spend way too much money on clothes and shoes.  I have a self care routine that is ridiculous.  But, I am the happiest I have ever been.  

I think in order for self approval to flower and grow and take root, you need a gatekeeper and a gardener.  You have to fence yourself off to some degree to keep out the predators, the critters that will pluck you dry, the itinerant droves of insects that will cause a blight where there once was a healthy and thriving landscape.

And I had tried to hire those things out. Outsource the job of gatekeeper and gardener in my life.  I thought if I could have someone else give me self approval, gate keep the people who are not worthy of my time and prune the dead growth and cull the fields for more rich harvests, I would be happy.  And ok.  And I would finally have self approval.

Seems so ridiculous to me now.  I mean, how did I ever think that someone else would know me better than I know myself.  That someone else would be interested in this job, I mean they already had themselves to look after, why the fuck would a healthy person want to take on the management and care of my life?  Good questions...for which I had no answer until more recently.

It has been a long road, convoluted and sometimes quite dark and twisty.  Treacherous even.  But I have plodded through, moving myself forward with each attempt and each attendant failure.  I have finally learned that you cannot outsource your own happiness.  And apparently self approval is included in that whole endeavor.

Today my life is exactly the way I want it with what is available to me at this time.  I show up for my responsibilities, I create, I work, I practice the very fine art of self care,  I challenge myself, I grow, I change, I love.  And while my life doesn’t include every single thing that I could possibly want, I feel like I am pretty fucking close.

The fucks I give most are the ones I give to myself.  And all those fucks that I used to give to you, and your opinion or thoughts or judgments, are now staunchly reserved for me.  To dole out to myself or others I deem worthy and fit and proper.

It has taken a lifetime, mine.  And it has been worth every single dead end, every single false start, every single thing that I fucked up so badly that I worried that I would never recover.  To land in a place today where I know, with all that I am, that self love is a prerequisite after all.  Self approval only comes after finding the courage to love yourself as you are, flaws included.  And then endeavoring to take your life back from the naysayers and judgers and the people who pretend to give great fucks about you, but really they don’t.

Self approval comes, at least for me, in this sweeping expanse of my life where I love myself and I approve of exactly how I am living and care little to nothing about what all the YOUs think...or say...or judge.

There is great contentment to be found deep within this human body and struggle.  And I am pretty sure that self approval is the trophy for all the shit you have to walk through to get here.

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