Because I'm good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, *I* like me!

There are two big emotions I’ve chosen to work through since my move to New Hampshire, and it’s not always been pretty finding just how much these two feelings have overtaken parts of my life. My decision-making process. My ability to be present in the moment. Fear and shame grew to be deeply rooted in my subconscious, and it’s taken a lot of difficult reflection to begin snapping out of their toxic spells, but I’ve come to a point where I no longer wish to give that much power to these emotions. All these things I’ve ever been ashamed of… where did that come from? I really wanted to find out what was at the root here, and when it finally got to the point where I was ashamed of having so much shame… I figured facing it head on to wipe it all away wasn’t going to be easy, but anything had to be easier than drudging through all of these awful, belittling feelings til death do us part.

There were two types of shame I often struggled with: the first of which I’ll call real shame (for lack of a better term) like the disbelief I felt when reflecting back on what an absolute bully I was for many years in school, and other skeletons from who I used to be; the other is what I came to call perceived shame—that is, shame I projected on myself with little or no basis in reality. This is not to take away from the VERY REAL feelings of shame and pain that can be produced—it can be crippling!—but these things I was ashamed of, these things I felt must be hidden from others, were ultimately creations of my mind. An ego feverishly hard at work, fruitlessly attempting to control how others saw it.

I’d manufactured this version of myself in my head that thought he was superior to others for any number of reasons… an ego with a polished, practiced narrative that had it all figured out. A defense mechanism that protected me from the difficulty of looking at why I judged myself and others so harshly. Always fun and jovial on the outside, but inside, I was constantly consumed with how others were perceiving me. Constantly feeding off of feedback cues, desperately scanning for signs of acceptance, love, and worth. “If they knew these things about me, they’d see the true me and see that I’m a fraud and they won’t love me and nobody will ever love me, therefore I’m worthless…” is probably along the lines of what my subconscious spiral was. It became so prevalent that it felt natural to think like this, despite the fact that it looks pretty ridiculous and farfetched right there on the screen, doesn’t it?

To lean into this negative thought spiral, to see why it so effortlessly triggered itself during most interactions, I made a list of all the (unsurprisingly superficial) things I’ve ever been ashamed of It’s incredible how silly it all sounds… the things you can measure yourself up against others with… the things most consumer media is obsessed with reminding you all about. You’re deficient and they’ve got the cure, they say. (Don’t buy it!) These things I obsessed over, as if they somehow defined who I was and who I would always be… that I’d never be able to escape them and that I was better off hiding part of who I am rather than letting people see the real me. The whole me. I was denying part of my essence, failing to face it, to fear acknowledging it, never learning or growing from it. Wanting desperately to be vulnerable, to open up, but always afraid I’d say something someone didn’t like.

But when I finally gave in to the fact that I could not control how others perceive me—no matter how hard I try!—I also engrained in my brain that I could control my actions, my reactions, and my own feelings… that this love and acceptance I was seeking could only come from one place: it must come from within me, otherwise I’ll always be seeking it.

“What we learned in childhood is ubiquitous throughout our entire culture, and taught to each crop of new humans: ‘Love is a commodity that lives outside of you, and you must be good, do it right, behave, and perform properly, in order to receive your share.’ That is the lie of love.” —Allan Hardman

After much searching, a couple pivotal explorations with psychedelics (more on that later), and lots of and listening and learning from cherished friends and trusted guides… through several breakdowns and countless breakthroughs, I can now say: Even with all my imperfections—real, imagined, or somewhere in between—I am my own unlimited source of love, I accept myself completely, and I am worthy of giving and receiving love.

And with that acknowledgement of unlimited love comes an overwhelming sense of relief and peace within me and around me, the positive effects of which I feel more and more each day. That simple statement allowed me to let go of so many things I’d been inadvertently holding onto, and it’s been immensely liberating. It was the underlying fear that I’d be unloved which was causing this shame and this desire to control my image. (If only they could see me this way, they’d love me!”) And now that I’ve tapped into this bottomless spring of love, acceptance, and self-worth, I can take that control back from others and focus on making my actions, reactions, and feelings more positive and coming from a place of love.

In facing my shame and fear with love and forgiveness for myself, without judgment or blame, I’ve derived great strength, confidence, and a knowing that all the qualities I possess—”good” or “bad” or otherwise being inconsequential—are part of what’s made me who I am. There are things I can choose to change, there are things I can’t change, but no matter how others may judge me, I can choose to focus my energy into being the best me I can be rather than what I think someone else might want me to be. (And really, who the hell knows what other people are thinking? I feel as though I barely know what’s happening in my own mind sometimes!)

Haters gonna hate, and if someone thinks that the best use of their time is judging me (or anyone else for that matter), well… go right ahead. But if you do, are you prepared to take a serious look at what it means to acknowledge that as the best use of your time? I bet there’s a list of about a million other things that would be a better use of everyone’s time! And I bet there’s another list of things you’re ashamed or afraid of too. Here’s hoping you can make something positive of it! Lovers gonna love.

The text and images of this post were created by, except where noted, and are released for use for non-commercial purposes with proper credit/attribution/linking under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0. Photo taken at the beautiful Massabesic Audubon Center in Auburn, New Hampshire.