I had a major revelation a few nights ago. Not only did I come to terms with the fact I am human, I finally embraced this seemingly obvious fact with open arms.
Both the accepting and appreciating part has been a challenge for me. I’ve spent thirty-six years being socialised to admire people who achieve super-human feats and listening to constant praise for people who do extraordinary things. There’s no wonder I’ve been striving to join the ranks of these heroes standing high above us mere mortals.
This all became apparent when I sat sobbing on the couch of my counsellor last week about something I felt deeply ashamed of.
“Lean into that feeling,” my counsellor told me in her calm, therapeutic way. “Now what is that emotion trying to tell you? What part of you is it touching?”
I did as I was told, closing my eyes with my legs and bare feet crossed on her comfortable linen sofa, attempting to press right against the emotions and thoughts I was experiencing.
“I’m afraid people won’t love me anymore, or they’ll find me disgusting,” I replied, dabbing at the tears that were rolling down my cheeks.
“Do you want to be seen as perfect?” my counsellor offered, striking yet another chord as I reached for a second tissue.
“Probably,” I chocked, taking a moment to recompose. “I guess I’ve always felt the need to be super-human or better than everyone else to feel worthy.”
“Worthy of what?” my counsellor probed.
“Worthy of love and belonging,” I croaked.
My counsellor allowed these words to settle as I sucked in a deep breath of truth.
“And what if the opposite were true?” she offered gently. “What if being human made you more worthy of these things?”
Thanks to the help of my counsellor, I’ve been learning so much about myself over these past few months. I’ve identified my desperate need for love and connection like every other human on this planet, and when I fear rejection and disconnection the most; I tend to run away and isolate myself.
The best example of this was when I decided to hike the PCT in 2012. I felt particularly unworthy of love and belonging at that juncture in my life, so instead of facing rejection or disconnection from the people I love, I fled to a foreign part of the world to reinvent myself. I was also endeavouring to prove myself worthy again by completing an admirable feat like walking from Mexico to Canada. But when the gratification and ego boost of the achievement wore off, I began my search for worthiness all over again.
I’ve been repeating the same patterns of behaviour throughout the past few years of my life, hiking other trails like a hamster on a wheel, running miles without moving forward emotionally. I’ve grown and changed in other ways of course, but earlier this year, amid one of the greatest shame crises I’ve had since 2012, I moved to a small town in British Columbia and isolated myself again.
All I wanted to do was escape to another trail, and wished I hadn’t already completed the PCT so I could hike it over. But deep down, I knew hiking every trail on this continent wouldn’t make me feel differently about myself. I had to stop running and face the underlying issue, open my closet of demons, and fight those bastards head-on.
This has not been an easy journey. On some days I feel I’m moving forward, and on others more like I’ve regressed. Mental healing isn’t tangible like hiking a trail. There’s no delineation of progress, no mile markers, resupply towns, or border crossings. Advancement is subtle, and sometimes so indistinguishable you might not even detect it. But a few nights ago, while brushing my teeth before bed, I was struck by a change in my perception.
I was examining my face in the mirror as I usually do, studying the bags under my eyes, the wrinkles across my forehead, and the unwanted hair above my upper lip. I also noticed with my hair tied into a ponytail, I was exposing a mole I’ve always hated just under my hairline. I’ve spent years of my life adjusting my hair in an attempt to cover that mole, yet at that moment, I didn’t feel the need to do so. In fact, for a brief second, I felt affection for that raised cluster of cells on the fringe of my forehead because it proves that I am human.
That benign pink mole is a part of who I am – the imperfect, human Rozanne who is worthy of love and connection like everyone else. Accepting such a minor flaw may appear insignificant, but admitting I’m human is a major milestone in my healing.