Do the work… But what is “the work”? In my experience, I have come to understand the work as a collection of processes and practices meant to bring about my most actualized self; for me, doing the work means moving towards a skilled mastery of who I am, my needs, and what life I am living in order to bring about my highest potential and good. Doing the work is the way to invite my biggest, most beautiful, most alive reality into being.
My becoming journey has been (and continues to be) piecewise. Like a mosaic or puzzle, learnings, lessons, and insights will click into place. Those pieces have included getting to know who I am specifically (my needs, mission, and motivation) as well as learning to trust myself and my inner healer/wisdom. Additionally, I am learning about being intentional, practicing authenticity, and also the work of belonging to myself.
“I’ll know my weakness, know my voice. And I’ll believe in grace and choice.” Mumford & Sons in Babel
In addition to being aware of our lives, being intentional about them is how we are able to choose what our lives look like. Being intentional about our lives is choosing to live deliberately and on purpose; it is another piece of the work that requires being off of autopilot.
Being intentional with your life requires recognizing that you are your own best expert; you are the expert on your life. It means believing that you have a choice about what your life looks like. In psychology they call this concept the “locus of control,” the degree to which people believe they have control over the outcome of their life. When we believe in our capability to shape our life, we unlock our ability to be intentional and mold our lives into more beautiful, true, and full realities. Believing in choice is part of doing the work; this is how we build lives we love. Being intentional means believing you have a say about who you are becoming, what your life looks like, and that you have the best insight for your wellbeing and purpose.
Without a strong locus of control, we blow in the wind. We don’t have a clear trajectory and we don’t have a life built to care for our needs. When we understand that we have a say in our lives, we have the agency to do something about it. We have the ability to journey towards what we want and to do our best work. “Doing the work” requires that we live on purpose, that we are intentional and choose the life we want to live, and that we keep showing up for the building process.
Shane Clairborne believes one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves is “who am I becoming?” When we ask ourselves this, we create space for intentionality about the lives we are moving into. Believing in choice and being intentional with ourselves are profound acts of self-love. When we take care of ourselves and do the work, we are loving ourselves. This understanding has helped me shift the cliché of “love yourself” into something grounded and inspiring instead of confusing and out of reach.
“They ask her, ‘How do you love yourself well?’ She said, ‘Make your wellbeing and healing a top priority. Have the courage to create boundaries that will support your flourishing. Listen closely to your intuition, respect your need for rest and connect with people who are emotionally mature. Being intentional with your life is loving yourself well.’” Yung Pueblo
Belonging to Yourself
For a long time, the idea of self-love felt selfish and over done to me. I chafed under the platitudes that people would say no one can love you until you love yourself. What I have come to understand is that it is not so much that nobody can love you if you struggle to love yourself, but rather it is really that you can only meet others as deeply as you have met yourself. You can only know others as deeply as you know yourself. You can only love others as deeply as you love yourself. Our abilities in the outer world are a direct match of our skills in our inner world. We see the world as we are, not as it is. And so, part of doing the work is learning how to belong to yourself, so then you may also belong to others.
Brené Brown studies belonging, saying that belonging happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world. Accordingly, belonging to ourselves happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to ourselves. When we are honest with ourselves and know who we are, we can love, choose, and belong to ourselves.
Belonging to yourself is an inside job. It requires getting clear on who we are, what we need, and clearing up our own BS. Brené says, make no mistake, doing the work to belong to yourself isn’t the easy path. Learning where you’re numbing and coping, healing trauma, learning new ways of being, it is some of the hardest work you will ever do. But when you show up and do this work, you can build a life that felt impossible before.
“True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.” Brené Brown
Intention & Belonging
Above the poet Yung Pueblo says, “Being intentional with your life is loving yourself well.” So much of the spiritual journey, the healing journey, doing the work revolves around love and taking really good care of ourselves as we are and attending to the being we are becoming. When you are intentional with your life you unlock the power of choice; when you understand the influence you have over how you care for yourself and your world, you make it possible to belong and to live your biggest, most beautiful, most true life.