These are the very first words in the journal I've kept during my vision quest. Just that phrase on a page all to itself. A reminder of how I choose to measure my self worth.
In 2013 I walked away from a thriving acting career to work in social media. While I loved acting (and still do), success didn’t quite look or feel the way I had hoped, so I decided to move on to the dreams beyond “the dream.” It was the beginning of a sea change within me. An entire shift in identity that would eventually lead me to a deeper sense of authenticity.
Changing careers was a life choice that cleared the path for me to attend my first Burning Man in the summer of 2014. I had wanted to attend for several years, but life and finances always seemed to be in the way - it’s no easy feat to bring all your food, shelter, wardrobe and water for 10 days to a remote desert location 600 miles from home. That in of itself is an accomplishment that equates a boost in confidence. It turned out to be the most free place I had ever participated in, and again life took a turn. After tasting that kind of monumental freedom, I couldn’t just go back to my little world and not evolve. As cliché as it may sound, I began to question who I was, who I wanted to be, and what kind of world I wanted to manifest.
These questions influenced my choices from that moment on, and still do. Perhaps mine may sound like an obvious path to take, but at the time this sort of philosophical questioning just wasn’t a part of me. Understanding what it means to “love yourself,” was the first intention I set. It seemed the evident first step, because I couldn’t understand how someone could not love themselves, and yet I knew I didn’t. Or at least, I had some growing to do in this department. I began by dismantling every part of myself.
My body, my face, my hair (yes, this has always been a thing for me), my intelligence, my capacity for compassion, my talents, my sexuality, and the ways in which these informed my life choices. The ways in which my physicality made me believe certain things about who would want to be with me. The way my intelligence or talent guided me toward certain environments and approaches to making a living.
Right around this time I met a man who at the time embodied so much of what I wanted to be. His confidence, his wisdom, his humor, his physical appearance were what I envisioned as my ideal. I fell in the love with him. He did not fall in love with me. And although this was a painful period of my life, it taught me one of the first great lessons of being my new self: the capacity to love another, without any expectations, is an essential characteristic of someone who loves themselves. See, a love relationship that is a barter - I love you in exchange for loving me - implies there is a need from an external source in order to make the love exist, a kind of symbiosis. My truth, however, was that the love we hold inside of us will attract others of the same cloth, so that the relationship isn’t about an interchange, but about the creation of a dominion that inspires all those it comes in contact with. It was with time and distance I was finally able to see that what I idealized in this man were characteristics I already held.
Our sacred duty as humans is to inspire each other to be more loving by loving each other without any expectations; in this way you come to see that you truly are enough. In Hinduism there is a belief in the unity of all creation. If we are all one, then to love ourselves IS to love all others.