Nine Ways Forward #1 : Oxygen
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I always start my enneagram session with what I think of as the philosophy of the enneagram – a thing that runs under behind and through all the talk of the nine types and wings and reactivity and ego. It is this simple statement:

Right here, right now, you are enough.
You are good enough, worthy enough, loved enough, valuable enough.

Whatever you think you not enough of, I am here to assure you that you are. As you are, right here, right now. At home, exhausted and irritated from a long day. In bed, worried about what tomorrow might bring. At your desk, stressing about a deadline. Reading this months after it was published because your overloaded inbox is too hard to face. Alone, in the dark on your couch eating cereal for supper – again – because suddenly nothing seems worth the bother. Guilty taking a skip day to just get some peace. How ever you are right here and right now, you are good, worthy, loved and valued. You are enough.

You are enough, as you are, stripped bare of your roles and your jobs and your causes and your impact and your work. You are not valuable because of what you do or who you are to others.
You are valuable because you are. Simply because you exist.

Take that in for a moment. How does it feel to hear that? Are you arguing with it? Is your mind full of reasons why it’s not true? Do you feel the urge to brush that statement off as the “kumbaya” portion of the article? Are you suspecting I am some flakey fraud and this newsletter will be nothing but regurgitated platitudes? Are you angry?

That’s totally natural.

The first time I heard it I was furious. I was at a retreat and I was so angry I almost got up and left in tears. A small part of my brain, way back under all the emotion and reaction knew there was nothing to be angry about. That didn’t stop me from seething for the rest of the day. But I hung in there and now I am asking you to do the same. Later, we will explore some of the deeper reasons we push back against the idea we are valued and loved as we are but for now let’s look at a more obvious reason.

We are surrounded – everyday – with messages that we are not good enough, lovable enough, worthy enough as we are. We live in a world that values what we bring more than who we are. We are defined by what we do and who we do it for; we even define ourselves by what we do. The message we are not enough unless we buy the right thing is the basis of the marketing industry.

It’s tempting to blame capitalism or consumerism but take a moment and think about the messages you receive from friends, family and colleagues. Unfortunately, the very organizations and groups that work to dismantle oppressive systems and build new ones are sometimes the ones expecting us to work long hours and to work them tirelessly, intensely, passionately and uncomplainingly.

We even justify “self-care” by pointing it will allow us to better help others. How many times have you gotten the oxygen mask talk? “Just like they say on the during the airplane safety talk: put your own oxygen mask on before helping others’ with theirs.  You’re no good to anyone if you aren’t healthy.” Do you hear the subtext there? You deserve oxygen because you need it to help others.

Bullshit. You deserve oxygen because you effing need it. Full stop.

As Audre Lorde said, caring for yourself “is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Self-care is not a radical act because it allows you to work more, volunteer more, help more. It is a radical act because it runs counter to a society that treats people – including you – as commodities.

Chances are if you are reading this, you are engaged in work that is addressing a situation created because our society doesn’t consider a certain group of people good enough or worthy enough or valuable enough or lovable enough. Valuing people as they are, right here and right now is a radical act.

And it starts at with you.
Reflect on these points over the next couple of weeks. Use them however they work best for you: journaling, personal reflection, in conversation with others, as discussion points in a meeting.
  • Where have you heard the message “You are not enough unless …” lately? Who was saying it? What were they telling you to do to be considered good or valuable enough?
  • When have you given someone else that message?
  • When have you given yourself that message?

Each day for the next few weeks one of these sentences out loud to yourself;
  • “I am loved and valued just as I am, right here and right now.”
  • “I am good enough and worthy enough just as I am, right here and right now.”
Notice how it feels to hear it. Notice any push back. Notice if one sentence is harder than the other. Don’t worry about arguing with yourself or changing how you feel. Just notice.
Next Issue
  • An Enneagram Primer

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Not familiar with the enneagram? Find out more here.

Want to know more about me or Nine Ways Forward? Check out my website, Building Ebenezers

If you have more questions, email me directly.

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