Do you really want to heal? This is a sincere reflective question to connect with our motivation for change. Do I really want to feel stronger, more connected, healthier, and whole or am I too attached to suffering? Do I want to unlearn some old patterns and evolve?
As I learned about allostasis and nature’s anticipatory optimization (not corrective feedback) that continues to spur us forward, it highlighted just how important what we fundamentally believe about ourselves really is. When we get stuck and unable to change in meaningful ways, it is often because of what we believe - or don't - at our core.
Here are nine individual rights, that if we believe them, embody them, and live fully into them, we can feel how we want to feel more often. You have the right to heal. You can feel whole.
You have the fundamental right:
1. To exist and take up space. You have the fundamental right to be here – for no other reason than the fact that you are already here. You may have been made to feel small or non-existent at some point in your life which may have led you to feel the need to stay small or puff yourself up to overcompensate for the small feeling. You may have believed you needed to do this to be loved; but your worth cannot be diminished. It is never less than another’s. You have the right to take a full breath at any moment. You are sacred.
2. To have needs and wants. Needs and wants may be spiritual, emotional, or physical. You may have learned that you can have needs but not wants, or perhaps that you should not have either. You may have learned you can have needs and wants with conditions in place. You have the right to both, and you get to define what they are. You can have respect, love, work, play, and fulfillment. You can live with deep integrity in how you care for yourself with boundaries, nourishment, and kindness.
3. To be separate and also belong. You have the right to join and participate, and also to separate, rest, be still and silent. It is your right to be apart from others, individuate as a person and express your uniqueness. You belong exactly where you are, right now, without needing to contort yourself to fit in. You have the right to healthy communication that helps you connect and disconnect as you want or need to. You are connected even when alone.
4. To not know and make mistakes. You have the right to learn and grow. You have the right to not have an answer, to not anticipate all the things that may go wrong or become obsessed with preventing them. You have the right to be unsure, to change your mind, and to have your own answer for yourself. You have the right to be imperfect, make mistakes, and still enjoy life. It is okay to fail. You have the right to try new things without knowing what will happen. You may leave problems unresolved. You can adapt and change and mature throughout your lifespan. You have the right to be different than you were a minute ago, to stretch yourself, and awaken to something new. You have the right to transform.
5. To be ordinary. You also have the right to not stand out, achieve, or be more extraordinary than you are naturally. You have the right to be “as is.” You have value without needing to “arrive” anywhere personally or professionally to feel special. You are a paradox: broken and whole at the same time, a sinner and a saint, wounded and healed, ordinary and extraordinary. You can stop striving and embrace yourself without more self-improvement. You have the right to grow organically without becoming the best. You have the right to stop achieving and lie fallow.
6. To love and be loved how you want. You have the right to unconditional tenderness for yourself. Your inherent worth entitles you to dignity and intimacy. You have the right to love who you want, how you want, and continue growing in this way. You have the right to be kind to yourself, to express compassion and gentleness, and to relax into this. You can move through life with an open heart, giving and receiving support. You have the right to infinite intimacy with this moment, which is enlightenment.
7. To find your own path and tell your story. You have the right to follow your heart to live authentically. You are your authority. It's okay to complain, to hold a different opinion, and to speak it aloud. You do not have to go along with the status quo or anyone else’s insistence about how things are or who you are. Find wisdom from your own lived experience. Trust this.
8. To live with contentment and ease. You have the right to deep relaxation, gratitude, and to live with more simplicity and less effort. You have the right to experience the full spectrum of emotion - grief, pain, anger, loss - and still connect with inner peace and joy. You have the right to equanimity and contentment at any moment despite your circumstances or feelings. You have the right to open and follow your heart toward whatever is next.
9. To connect with beauty and freedom. You have the right to experience nourishment and joy, to find the ordinary extraordinary at any moment you choose. You have the right to see the sacred in everything, to live creatively and experience pleasure every day. You have the right to drop any façade or pretense and live freely. Live creatively and release prefabricated ideas and constructs about yourself, the world, or God. You have the right to assume the best about yourself and connect with beauty. This is part of awakening.
If one especially resonates with you, practice mindfully walking "As If" you already believe it fully. May you live into these rights with awareness and courage.
Written for the Women’s Retreat, August 2022, Mercy Center Auburn, California. (Your Right To Exist and 8 Other Individual Rights You May Not Know You Have)
Special thanks to Cheryl, Kaelyn, Amanda, Lisa, and Trisha for your brilliant insights.
Photo by Johnny McClung/Unsplash.