Humility: Being open to every lesson life brings, trusting that our mistakes are often our best teachers. Being thankful for our gifts instead of boastful.
Discernment: Applying the wisdom of our intuition to discover what is essential and true, with contemplative vigilance. Clarity of the soul.
Integrity: The state of being whole and undivided.
These three "virtues" have become a talisman against which I measure my behaviour and well being. If I am immersed in these behaviours, even when things become incredibly tough, my inner core is more stable and I feel a degree of freedom from the chains that wish to keep me in bondage. This doesn't mean that I am pious, lacking in humour or never make mistakes; it helps to centre me in a world where I can easily be cast adrift and tempted by the bright lights and illusions of false promises. It stops me getting caught up in people pleasing, fixing myself to fit in with you and wearing masks to adjust to each and every situation in order to feel acceptable.
Apparently some people have self esteem and a strong sense of self and never really have to work on feeling OK in the world. Bizarre I know. I was not one on those fortunate people. For me, not being grounded meant quite a lot of personality floating and uncertainty of how to act and who to be. Did you ever own an activity book where you pop out the woman in her underwear, then turn the pages to pop out further daily outfits to hang off her torso or legs? You'd fold over the little flaps to secure her new roll neck sweater and cords! This is how I used to live my life. Standing semi naked in my undressed cardboard glory was not how I felt comfortable. Throw in a dose of depression and/or mania to make it even more complex and I felt even more dissimilar and unusual than the next person. I needed a huge wardrobe of behaviours and characteristics to camouflage the real me in order to move throughout the community unseen. It's a real contradiction. Being yourself you feel invisible so you try and hide that reality to be seen as a "Normal" person, which actually makes you invisible! Yes, it's a bit abstract and totally irrational. I'm mentally ill remember.
So every day I would open my trunk of living outfits and pop on what was appropriate. Going to work blouse of academic qualifications, skirt of bravado, shoes of the opinions of others and jacket containing pockets of music you might like, I'm OK really and I'll tolerate you for fear of having no friends. Every scenario would be different so going to the pub would be a jumpsuit of fake joy, to my parents a party dress of lies and with men the mask of I'll just be what you say I should be as I really don't have a clue about being in a grown up relationship.
This is a long time ago, but formulating and constructing a coping mechanism and framework for keeping you safe takes a lifetime to undo. I had very little insight and no bench mark of what it meant to be whole, and free, and self accepting and myself. I wasn't well or emotionally bold. At 19 I was not able to say, I love and accept myself the way that I am, and I have a mental illness but it's OK as I can learn to live with it. I know when we are young we are finding out feet but in hindsight I realise I was lagging behind the pack dragging along a brain that wasn't functioning properly either.
So fast forward 25 years. What have I been doing? I've been clearing out my wardrobe. You start off with the big stuff, the really visible behaviours that are toxic for you and others. Out go the winter coats, the bobble hats and scarves. Then you work down a little deeper and find things that are maybe not as obvious but can really trip you up. The G string of shame! Small and insidious but cuts you in half if you wear it too long.So eventually I have to learn to walk around in my emotional birthday suit. I have to embrace my illness and the quirks that it furnishes me with, and trust that if you see me as I am the world won't come to an end. I can be the real me in all situations. Every now and then I might run to the wardrobe and grab a few items usually in moments of fear or anxiety. With me it's most likely to be the handbag of avoidance and purse of sarcasm.
But in order to be well I must be free of the old framework and find a new world view. I need to give myself the permission to be free and to be loved for what and who I am. It banishes the darkness and deceit and "Head traffic of lies". I read a book by Max lucado called, "You are special". You can hear it on you tube if you type it in the search bar. It is a Christian book, but it's message is for those of faith or none. It reminds me of the beauty of being unique, and that I am enough, I am accepted and I am loved.
So I focus on my touchstone virtues, put one foot in front of the other and press on into the new world. Slightly naked, but less afraid.