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New Beginnings

New Beginnings

Learning to Love Myself


This week’s Torah portion, Bereishit, is when we start to read the Torah from the beginning. Starting all over again? Hardly. We’ve been doing this for centuries. Yet every time we read the Torah, we discover something new. We learn of a different interpretation, delve into a deeper meaning, find some new association with our personal lives.

I’m feeling fortunate for my own Bereishit experience. While I’ve been discovering myself for thirty-seven years, I recently attended a retreat that was an opportunity for me to connect with my intimate self. There were many gentle reminders to think with my soul and not with my brain. It was a great effort for me, turning off my logical brain—inducing the state of submission that was needed to tap into the spiritual, intuitive part of myself. There was nothing shocking or earth-shattering about my discoveries. Instead there was a nurturing and supportive environment where I could face myself, my hopes and dreams, my demons.

I tapped into a part of myself that’s generally under wrapsI tapped into a part of myself that’s generally under wraps. Mummified, really. This part of me, in case you’re wondering, is my integrity. My authenticity. Not that I’ve been living a lie, but I haven’t been so honest with the world, not even with myself.

Sarcasm has been a good friend of mine. Well, I used sarcasm to mask my feelings, and sarcasm controlled me. My sarcasm was a result of resentment and judgment. It was a way for me to feel sharp and angry, rather than sad or wounded. In my perception, I was choosing to emanate an image of strength over vulnerability. Vulnerability was weak, the lesser, the underdog, the victim—certainly not the person I was.

I’m wondering where this association of vulnerability and helplessness stems from. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen strong people abuse their power over weaker people—physically, emotionally, socially, religiously and financially.

How can authenticity exist without vulnerability? I don’t think it can. I’m learning that there is strength in vulnerability. The strength that comes with truth, with being genuine with myself. I may want to run away from the sadness I feel, but I desperately want to stay in touch with my truth. My truth is that I sometimes feel inadequate and ashamed and overwhelmed and vulnerable. I can allow myself to feel these feelings and the sensations they bring, and not worry about the behaviors, words or judgments of others.

My safety, my self-worth, is not dependent on—nor is it affected by—others, only on my own perception of my own reality.

I did a lot of writing between sessions. Most of this post stems from writings that came to me early on in the program, along with the following letter I wrote for my daughters. It’s called “What I want for you.” The reason I’m sharing it is because it’s ultimately what I want for all of us.

To my beautiful little girl, I love you so much.

What I want for you:

I want for you to find love, but first within yourself.

I want for you to look in the mirror and see beauty, but more than that, when you reflect upon your inner self, to see how beautiful and special you are.

I want for you to feel good about decisions you make, and to own those feelings. Don’t let anyone else claim ownership to your decisions or to your feelings.

How can authenticity exist without vulnerability? I don’t think it canI want for you to respect yourself. If a little red flag goes off in your mind, or your stomach feels queasy, pay attention. Trust your intuition; it will save your life. Your intuition talks to you through many different parts of your body and soul. Try to be open to them all.

I want for you to ask for help when you need it.

I want for you to feel safe.

I want for you to never be ashamed.

I want for you to believe in your abilities.

I want for you to always be honest, especially with yourself.

I want for you to know that the love I feel for you is bigger than words, and it hurts so much, but I wouldn’t give it up for anything in the world.

I want for you to always feel that there is a Higher Power watching over you.

I want for you to raise your families with these examples, not just with the words.

I want for you, someday, to be able to say, “My mommy lived like this.”

Sharing this is a big step for me. I’m leapfrogging from acknowledging these thoughts, to putting them on paper, to publicizing them. I’m claiming ownership to my feelings. When I am true to myself, I can be true to the world. I don’t need small talk or distractions. I need myself and my feelings. I accept myself the way I am, imperfections and all. I recognize my qualities, my abilities, my achievements. I am endurance. I am commitment. I am capable. I am vulnerable. I am honest. I am good. I am safe. I am free.

Chana Lew lives in Brooklyn with her husband and seven children. She is passionate about self-respect, authenticity, all things birth, informed choice & fresh, clean food.
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E.L. Brooklyn, NY October 24, 2011

New beginnings indeed Beautiful article! Reply

desiree hamaoui aponte ft lauderdale, FLORIDA October 18, 2011

I needed to read this today I'm finding it hard to breathe and put my feelings into words right now. After reading this i am speechless, it is as if someone just bottled me up and wrote this essay about me...Your letter to your daughter is perfect and she will cherish it forever. All i can say is thank you so much for sharing and allowing others to know they will be okay too..... Reply

Zeta Lewis Cape Town, South Africa October 18, 2011

New Beginnings Thank you soooo much for sharing this, its just what I needed and wished my mom had told me when I needed it, so I will pass it onto my daughter and hold true the real author, and thank you for a new beginning for us all
Loe and Light Reply

Evelyn Krieger Sharon, MA October 17, 2011

Your children are fortunate to have such a mother. Reply

Chavi Epstein Columbia, S.C. October 17, 2011

AWESOME! Chana What a fabulous article. What an incredible journey and what courage and generosity of spirit that you are sharing it with us.Your writing is electric. Deeply moving and totally empowering.Thank you for your leadership role in illustrating how to heal ourselves from within...and for showing us the practical stepping stones of how someone can reveal their 'inner moshiach'. Reply

Tziporah Mayim October 17, 2011

Sweet Freedom! That was so beautiful. What a treasure this legacy will be. Reply

Anonymous McKinney, TX October 17, 2011

Learning to Love Myself I so enjoyed reading your post. It sounds like you are growing by leaps and bounds. I'm sure that many of your readers can relate. Beautiful writing and wishing you peace. Reply

Marcy Scottsdale, az October 17, 2011

New Beginnings This is a wonderful article, and I will learn from it. Thank you! Reply

Anonymous brooklyn, ny October 16, 2011

go chana Great writing! Reply