Climbing Hills We've Climbed Before

On thinking I've overcome a negative pattern only to realise I've slid right back into that bad behaviour. On setting out to climb hills we have climbed before and how the experience is not quite the same as the first time around.
Kim standing in their kitchen in a long grey shirt (which is actually a nightshirt but don't tell anyone), holding a cup of coffee, staring out the window.

Last week I wrote a post in a small online community that's part of a business programme I follow about my frustration at losing followers on Instagram every single time I bring up anything political. It happens when I talk about racism in witchcraft, when I talk about feminism and I lost more followers in the two hours following my post about me being queer and my preferred pronouns being she and they than I've ever lost before. And though this Instagram post was also received with so much love (thank you for anyone who left kind words, sorry I couldn't do more than click the little heart on your comment) seeing those numbers drop still felt like a punch to the gut. I know it shouldn't feel personal and it shouldn't feel like rejection, but sometimes we feel tender and raw and it still does.

So, not quite knowing what to do with myself, I took to Slack and I wrote the before mentioned post in the community. I did it to vent my frustration and, basically, looking for a little confirmation that I would be alright. Or, that's what I thought I was doing. Because where usually breathing through the initial gut punch feeling and a little venting will make me feel better and where by the next day I'll already have forgotten I ever cared about how many followers I have on Instagram, this stayed with me. The next day, the day after that, and the day after that. And a week later I was still walking around feeling like crap over all this. Or rather, I was angry. Definitely not at the people that left, because I'm all for unfollowing and unfriending if that's what you need. So I reckoned that surely I was just burning with the righteous indignation over living in a society that upholds heteronormative structures. You know, as one does. Except it felt different this time.

That's when I looked back at the message I wrote in this community, when the emotion was still fresh and raw, and I realised that I hadn't so much shared my frustration with an outside force, but rather with my own tendency to fall back into censoring myself whenever I notice that what I have to say doesn't please absolutely every-fucking-body. I didn't say 'hey I'm just a little sad and raw right now, so let me vent here for a bit', but I said 'hey, how do I keep continuously holding myself to these high ass standards I have for myself, even when I feel a little small for a bit?'

I talk a lot about being kind to ourselves and making sure our inner dialog is supporting and loving. Not because I'm so good at it and I'm my own biggest cheerleader (in fact, I will cheerlead everyone before myself. People I admire can attest to that as they will have several 'go you!' messages from me in their inboxes). I talk about it a lot because I'm as good at pushing myself in the gutter as the next person.

I didn't wrap myself in a cosy blanket and told myself it's alright to feel big feelings after essentially coming out of yet another closet, but rather I walked up to myself with my fight face on, stabbed myself in the chest with a finger and screamed that I better not dare retreating even in the slightest. Or maybe I whispered threateningly, whichever one sounds scarier to you. I didn't allow myself to scroll through all the wonderful supporting messages and comments that I got again to take in some of that love, but rather I told myself to hyperfocus on the few not-so-great comments and absolutely blame myself for not overthrowing every single problematic construct within the witchcraft community.

Did someone say high standards?

And so now we're here, at the point in the article where I would share the big break through I had. The illuminating truth that broke through the clouds of self doubt like the most Instagram worthy sunrise that will change all our lives forever. But as you might've guessed, that's not what happened.

Rather, the biggest breakthrough here resided in the realisation that I was, in fact, harming myself with my thoughts. I've spent so much time and attention over the past few years to changing my inner dialog to being a source of kindness, compassion and support, and I had gotten to a really good place with it. I got to a place where I hardly had any negative thoughts about myself and when I did I caught them quickly. And so, I thought I had made it. I thought that I had overcome that particular hurdle and it would take care of itself from now on.

Turns out that's not how that works. Turns out it's continuous work. And so no grand sunrises, but a quiet realisation that I had slid down the hill again and it was time to pick myself back up, dust myself off (gently) and start climbing that hill again. And though that sounds exhausting, realising that we will be climbing hills, sliding down and climbing back up again for probably the rest of our lives, it is also just a matter of warming up. Of stretching and loosening those muscles. And soon you'll realise that it's easier this time. Your muscles remember this exercise. You packed a water bottle this time, because you remember how thirsty you were last time. You remember the rhythm and the motions. You draw strength from knowing you deserve so much better than the abuse you've been giving yourself.

And, though I'm still climbing this first hill, when I reach the top I might just use that as a starting point to climb up an even taller hill. And I will draw strength from knowing I deserve so much better than the abuse I've been giving myself.
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