One of the things I remember from childhood was being told, "You are smart and beautiful." Mostly by my mother Carmen, aunt Irma and sister Stephanie. It didn't matter what anyone else thought about me. Nobody is smart or beautiful in everybody's eyes. My world -- those closest to me, as a child -- believed in me.
Those words sunk into my chest. Between them and the sense of safety I found in my home and community, I felt I could do anything. The world would take care of me.
I could unravel, like a flower, exposing my affectionate soul to the sun and being fed, day after day, water and light.
It wasn't the words smart and beautiful that mattered. Instead it could have been "kind and creative" or "generous and truthful." It was that Love was behind them. The most powerful force on the planet. The deepest human need. Through their words and how they chose to see me, my deepest human need was being met.
Acknowledgment is some of the most potent medicine for relationship and yet very lacking in our culture. It is as if we are supposed to pretend we don't need to feel appreciated. We're dying for it, yearning for it, yet encouraged to suppress this longing. We are led to believe we can be fed instead by external resourcing, often commonly referred to as addictions.
When it comes to children, we rock: "Gosh Ariana, you are a marvelous piano player!" we might say to a 4-year-old pecking the ivories with two fingers. But when it comes to adults, we withhold it from ourselves and each other, robbing life of this most simple aspect of affection, and then walk around wondering why we feel empty, unappreciated and broke.
So sure, go buy Valentine's Day cards. Let your children make them. Show love. But for God's sake, don't deprive yourself of it for the rest of the year by forgetting that every day is Love Day. Every day is a day to give ourselves and others the most basic human need there is: the knowing that we are loved, and capable of loving.
Stop suppressing hugs. Open up to their joy and oxytocin.
Stop criticizing people. Start seeing and appreciating their beauty instead.
Quit the insecurity act. You could die tomorrow. Your child could die tomorrow.
Don't withhold the love that, on your death bed, you'll know was the only thing worth living.
Any acknowledgment -- any love -- you withhold from others is withheld from yourself.
Let yourself unravel for love, instead.
Love looks good on you. Withholding it does not.
There are four forms of acknowledgment, the most common and therefore least uncomfortable for most people, is Voluntary. So go ahead, close your eyes and peer into your heart and see what wants to be said. Voluntarily offer somebody your appreciation. Who can you tell that you love them right now? That you think they're generous, considerate, or courageous? That you admire their work ethic, creative persistence or patience?
Then mark your calendar to do it again in March. And April. And on. Make it a habit.
And if you're empty, because you've let your own beautiful batteries become discharged and forgotten to take care of your own needs, then take a deep breath and lay it on yourself. If you don't feel fully acknowledged and appreciated, don't look outside yourself for it first. Look within. What do you long to be appreciated for today? What would help recharge your batteries? Is it... I acknowledge myself for being an attentive mom.... or I acknowledge myself for being passionate about the welfare of animals... or I acknowledge myself for being a ripe, juicy and divine expression of wonder... (It's totally that one, huh?)
Those ready for some potent medicine -- in relationship with self or other -- are invited to join Leaning into Light for our upcoming 90-minute phone workshop on The Power of Acknowledgment, Sunday February 28th, 10:00-11:30AM PST. Cost is $28 per person. Limited to 20 participants, first come first served. Sign up here.
We will do a deep dive into the domain of Acknowledgment, covering the four types of acknowledgment and how to work with them. Participants will leave with the ability to move through life feeling acknowledged and appreciated, and the ability to share that with others so that they feel acknowledged and appreciated. How's that for a power-packed 90-minute dose of Love Month medicine?
Jessica Rios, Founder of Leaning into Light, is a mother, coach, lifelong letter writer, and eternal fan of Mr. (Fred) Rogers. This deeply personal blog and our free recorded conversations are devoted to one of her greatest passions: illuminating the beauty of the human spirit.