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In Order to Shine

I decided to live my last four days of 25 like a shiny quarter.

I was in a yoga class, lying in Savasana and listening to the teacher’s soft voice floating through the room.

Woven into her cuing of inhales and exhales, she asked us to imagine how we wanted to show up in the week ahead.

“Imagine who you want to be this week,” she said. “Who you want to show up as.”

My mind flashed to my upcoming birthday. With only four more days left in my twenty-fifth year, how did I want to close out my quarter-century?

Age, in itself, doesn’t mark much more than your passage of time on this earth. It is not a signal of how mature you are, or how successful you are, or an indicator of where you are in life, since so many paths are different. Yet, I have also always found it a good way to categorize and reflect upon a year.

So, with four more days left in my 25th year, I decided to just feel good about myself. To be good to myself. To treat myself. To talk kindly to myself. Because, if I’m being honest, I wasn’t always nice to myself this past year. In fact, I was pretty hard on myself.

Always my own toughest critic.

In the past year, as my life transitioned and relationships shifted and formed, I often found myself dropping into a mode of self-criticism.

Thinking thoughts like:

You are not enough.

You are not accomplishing enough.

You are not kind enough.

You are not loved enough.

Not feeling like enough has been a theme for me. And this theme of “not enough” isn't something new over the past year, it’s something I’ve always had a hard time with – a place my thoughts easily jump to.

It is so easy to let negative self-talk consume your thoughts; much easier than letting positive self-talk in. I don’t know why this is exactly. Maybe we’re afraid that if we speak too kindly to ourselves we will come off as arrogant? Or self-important? Self-promoting? Yet, these thoughts are only occurring in our head. They are invisible to the rest of the world. So why not tell yourself nice things? Why not lift yourself up?

Negative thoughts and negative self-talk affects us. According to studies, negative self-talk over a long period of time can actually restructure your brain. Creating more stress and a higher likelihood of experiencing depression.

However, thoughts are notoriously difficult to control. Even when we are trying to shift our thoughts, we aren't always able to.

When I am on my yoga mat and I am reminding myself to pay attention to my thoughts, it becomes easier for me to encourage them to positive places. Yet, when I am moving quickly and stressed, or in new situations, my thoughts can be harder to reel in.

Our thoughts are a constant stream, narrating our lives and making snap-assessments and judgements about others' actions and our own personal worth. That inner-voice has many sides: kind, empathetic, harsh, mean, funny, sarcastic, critical, combative. Our thoughts provide a plethora of possibilities as to how we’ll react or attach meaning to any given scenario.

Like a puppy darting back and forth in a yard, sometimes you need to wrangle your thoughts and guide them back home. You choose the thoughts you attach to and you also choose the thoughts that you perpetuate. You are not your thoughts.

If you look deeply at your mind you’ll notice that there is another voice behind those thoughts. It is the observant mind. The part of your mind that is watching all those other thoughts go by. In philosophical texts they call this the ‘seat of the observer’ or sometimes the ‘seer.’

That is the voice you should be listening to.

If you start to practice cutting away all those puppy-like thoughts, you’ll realize that this other voice tends to be a quiet one. A reassuring one. Less like a voice and more like a gut-instinct. I imagine that piece of the mind as akin to a wise grandmother, sitting under an awning at a family reunion, softly smiling and watching as aunts and uncles argue, and cousins sneak sips of whiskey, and small children run through the yard chasing a puppy. In the midst of all the chaos, all she sees is contentment, pride and love.

I am working to open myself up to that inner voice. To not letting the negative thoughts go too long unchecked.

So, as I lay on my yoga mat, with the sun streaking across my face, thinking about who I wanted to be in these last moments of my twenty-fifth turn around the sun, I tried to picture who I could be if I was my best, most-self-loved self.

And I decided I would be shiny. Just like a shiny quarter.

Because I am shiny. And sure, sometimes I get scratched or faded. And sometimes I can be a little bit rough around the edges. But I know that the shine is there, just waiting to be uncovered.

In my 26th year, I will work to remind myself of that shine. To remember the parts of me that shine and not just the parts of me that get scuffed.

This year, I will work on telling myself:

I am enough.

To encourage my mind into places like:

I am meant for this.

I am meant for a happy life.

I am beautiful.

I am kind.

I am whole.

I will accomplish great things.

Because I am a shiny quarter. And now, on my 26th birthday, I am shiny new quarter, plus a penny more.


Read what I wrote on past birthdays:


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