Yesterday I taught a class in self-esteem at the homeless shelter where I work. I started by asking the class, "Has anyone taken a course in self-esteem before?" All eight attendees said no. "Great!" I replied. "I've never taught this course before either so we can learn together."
Walking into that class I was way out of my comfort zone. What a great stretch for me. Especially as I have a presentation to make later this month at a conference -- and need the practice of standing up in front of a group of strangers.
When I first stepped into the room, I was nervous. What if they don't like me? I wondered. What if they think learning about self-esteem is stupid? Unnecessary? A waste of time?
I stopped and looked at the light side of the equation.
What if my job as the teacher was to inspire them to look at this course as the most important element of the 3 week program they're enrolled in? What if I could inspire them to look at themselves through different eyes and see their possibilities, not their limitations?
What if I let go of my fear and breathed into my courage?
So I did.
The 3 hours turned out to be exciting, fun-filled, challenging and one every participant agreed was time well spent.
When I started talking at the beginning of the class, I told them a little bit about my life -- in particular, my experiences that related to theirs. Being homeless.
As we talked, I shared a little more about my story, using my experience to demonstrate that falling on the road of life is inevitable -- How we get up is our choice, because one thing's for sure, if we're in this room breathing, we're not lying dead on the road. At one point, one of the students said, but what if you did things in your past you can't forgive yourself for?
"Why would you not want to forgive yourself?" I asked.
He looked at me and said, "I don't know."
At the beginning of the class, I had told them that one of the answers I would always challenge was, "I don't know." I told them that if they used that response, my reply would be, "You do know. It's just a habit that let's you off the hook of being accountable when you say I don't know."
I smiled and gave him my response. He didn't want to give me an answer. He didn't want to face his truth, but earlier on we'd agreed he was courageous. He was in this classroom, learning, stretching, acquiring new skills so that he could move out of the shelter and into his own life -- that took courage.
"What would a courageous man reply?" I asked.
He sat up straighter. "He'd say he didn't want to forgive himself because he was ashamed of himself."
"And does holding onto shame take you closer to your goals or away from your goals?"
"Away," he quickly replied.
"Does shame strengthen your belief you are a magnificent man or weaken your belief in your magnificence?"
Without hesitating he blurted out. "I'm not magnificent."
"What if I told you I see a magnificent human being when I look at you?"
"I'd tell you have really bad eyesight."
I smiled. "You can't look through my eyes. And I have really clear vision when I see you. I know your life is a mess right now. I know you've got challenges. You wouldn't be living at a homeless shelter if you didn't. Standing here, right now, it isn't your past I see when I look at you. It's your magnificence."
I turned to the class. "How many of you have difficulty accepting you are magnificent human beings?"
Everyone put up their hands.
"How many of you believe you're awful human beings?"
Their faces looked surprised. A couple of people sheepishly raised their hands while the others hemmed and hawed.
"That's self-esteem." I said. "Good or bad. Healthy or weak. We've all got self-esteem. It's where we place our beliefs that make the difference in how we live our lives. There isn't one person in this room, including myself, who hasn't done things in the past that caused pain -- to themselves and to others. When we turn that pain into the whip with which we flail ourselves every day, we give-away our birthright of magnificence. My goal is to speak to you from my place of magnificence. To connect to your magnificence. Your past is not my issue. Right now, in this moment, is my concern. And right now," I turned back to the student who did not accept he was magnificent and said, "I see a magnificent human being."
"I'd like to believe I could be a magnificent human being," he said.
"What if just for this moment you accepted you are? How would you feel?"
He smiled. "Fantastic."
"Great! In that moment you made a different choice and allowed yourself to feel the magnificence of your being. You have the ability, just not the habit."
By the end of the class we agreed that everyone of us in the room has a magnificent core -- it might be buried beneath life's burdens but the breath of the idea was there, the germ of our magnificence was alive -- it needed nurturing, loving, caring, and cultivating.
Being magnificent does not mean life is perfect. It does not mean I am perfect or that I do everything perfectly. To illustrate my point, I shared with them the story of the day I forgot my wallet at home and turned it into my core tape, I am unworthy. (Riding my high horse, reality falls away). In those moments of sitting in Devonian Gardens feeling less than, other than, not equal to the rest of the world, I was wallowing in self-pity and denying my magnificence because I wanted to prove myself right about my core tape. For me, it isn't what I did that makes the difference to how I continue my journey -- it's how I hold myself accountable, apologize to those I hurt, make amends, refocus my thinking, love myself even when I fall -- that's what makes the difference in my life today.
Life is a constant journey of shifting perspective, growing, stepping into muck, rising above the daily grind and learning to fly. Some days, my wings feel heavy. Some days, my feet drag behind me, weighing me down. Some days, I soar.
There is a world of pessimism out there willing and eager to encourage me into giving away my birthright of magnificence. When I do, I am the one most effected. Because in denying my birthright, I am buying into the worldview that life is a struggle. Life is a grind. Life is a why bother exercise that begins in pain and ends in sorrow.
Life is a miraculous journey. Life is all I've got to live -- it's up to me to expand my wings, stretch my spirit and soar.
When I claim my birthright, I am free to become all that I am meant to be without fear, without regret, without shame. I am free.
Yesterday, I taught a class in self-esteem and stretched myself and grew.
Yesterday, I connected to the magnificence of everyone in the class and felt my world light up.
Today, I am committed to living my birthright without fear. Courageously claiming my unique place in the sun so that I can inspire everyone I meet to claim their birthright too.
In this moment, I see your magnificence. Can you see it too?
I am a fearless woman touching hearts and opening minds to set spirits free.