Photos c/o Neshan Naltchayen
Emily Jansen lives in Washington DC, where she is a business communications manager, writer and philanthropist, inspired by her experiences volunteering in East Africa and representing Fortune 100 companies to foreign diplomatic corps. She enjoys cooking, traveling, playing piano, and participating in triathlons and cycling races. Someday soon, she hopes to write a book, as well as start a foundation focused on empowering female entrepreneurs through technology.
What does “loving yourself well” mean? We live in an age that has brought the roots of vulnerability to the surface of public life.
Our social channels show us how to celebrate our imperfections with hash tags like #leaningin #risingstrong and #shepersisted. We know better than ever how to love ourselves well.
But, do we?
We are always dissatisfied with something – who we are, what we want to be and how our stories are playing out. Does our curated vulnerability bring true satisfaction? The world stamps its “likes” on our posts, but deep inside we find that we can’t.
As I finished my first year of grad school, I looked forward to spending the summer in California and taking a breather from research papers. I was worn out from saying yes too many times and tired of striving and performing.
I was soul-weary. Heading west, I knew I needed a re-set. It took time, humility to recognize limitations, and frankly, self-permission to strip the layers of activity masking places in need of deeper healing.
I slept in and read books.
I drank good wine.
I listened to music performances.
I wrote poetry at coffee shops.
I quit running and did yoga.
I ditched my heels for Vans, and skipped the hairdryer.
I got lost in art museums and forgot the time.
I talked to strangers at coffee shops.
I prayed a lot…not focusing on requests, but remembrance and gratitude.
I rested from expectation and self-inflicted performance.
One day, I read this phrase by St. Augustine: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” I had read it so many times, but was freshly reminded that true rest and love will never come from me, but from abiding in the love of Someone who offers complete acceptance.
Hebrews 4:9 says, “There remains a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest.
”Make an effort to rest? Strive and rest don’t seem to go together. It doesn’t make sense.
But it does. We do not naturally lean towards resting. We lean towards proving — to ourselves and others — just how loveable we are.
When we stop striving to be enough, we declare what is already more than enough – God’s love.
For me, self-love doesn’t start with adding on – it starts with stripping away the effort, lies, and motions.
When I try to be more vulnerable with God and others I can actually begin to rest and breathe in His voice and love for me.
Truly, raw love is refined and real, and when we stop trying so hard, we realize we are happier just being.