The following is a transcript of a Raised Catholic podcast episode. To listen to the episode, click here.
Today is episode 108: True Self
Hi friends. Today I have a story to tell you about my hair. And you might be wondering, rightly so, how a story about hair could possibly belong on a faith podcast, but I’ll ask you to bear with me just for a minute, friend. This story that seems to be about hair is actually a great metaphor for the journey of self-discovery and acceptance, and the many pitfalls, traps and detours we can make along the way of embracing just who it is that God made us to be, and who we actually are, so I hope you tune into the many details in this story, because hair here is a symbol or metaphor for the ‘self’ that God made us to be, and so I hope this weird, silly story is helpful for you on your own journey. Listen in.
Okay, so, I have curly hair. It has always been curly, but I did not always know this.
When I was a little kid, I guess my mom washed my hair with whatever my she bought at the grocery store, likely store brand shampoo. I then combed my hair, and it dried out in the air while I lived my little-kid life. Once I became aware of my hair as something I needed to take care of, sometime in elementary school, I guess, my Mom advised me to “train it” and this meant just continually brushing it in the way I wanted it to go. She meant well, as most people do, but as you might guess, this ‘beating my hair into submission’ method did not really work. My wavy hair just got frizzier and bigger with all that brushing.
Once I was in high school and college, I started looked around at all of my classmates’ ‘big hair’ – it was the early 90s, after all, and I decided a perm was in order. That’s what everyone else did, and so, I reasoned, that’s what I should do, too. We so often make decisions about ourselves based on comparison with others, don’t we? Well, I knew for sure that whatever my hair was, and I still did not know what it was, but I knew that whatever it naturally was, it was not good enough and neither was I. All I wanted at that time was to fit in. Maybe you had some of those same thoughts in your own adolescence or maybe, like me, you still battle these kinds of thoughts from time to time, but anyway, I spent time and money to subject my already-curly hair to chemicals that it did not need and a new style which I still did not have any idea how to care for.
In my early motherhood, I cut my hair short because with all the caretaking I did for my babies, I just did not have time to care for myself. Hair seemed like one of the easiest parts of myself to let go during that time, but it certainly was not the only one.
Later, I would try straightening, subjecting my hair to heat and damage just to keep it under control, to make my hair something that it was not and never was. And I like playing with this look, still, but truthfully, for me, straightening never works for very long. The wave or curl starts to come through the minute my hair comes in contact with any humidity at all. There’s no stopping nature, after all.
Recently, I’ve started growing out my hair and embracing my curls. My wonderful new hairdresser is helping me, and also, side note – she laughed out loud when I told her about that perm because she knew I had curly hair from the minute she laid eyes on me! Well, in time, I’ve learned about ways to care for my curls and how to define them, bringing them out, and I’m getting lots of compliments, which is very nice. I’m still very much in process and honestly, still messy at times. I tell friends that the slow rate at which I’m learning about skin and hair care means that I will look completely put together by the time I get to my funeral. More importantly, in this process, I am learning to like what it is that I see in the mirror, and that something I really hope for you, too.
The journey of knowing and caring for my curly hair is ongoing. To this point, it’s taken time, education, good curl crème, good conditioner, and a diffuser for my hair dryer, plus a continued openness to learning, so time, willingness to invest in myself, experience, grace, and tools. And weirdly, these are the very things that are what is needed on the path toward embracing our true selves too: time, willingness to invest in ourselves, experience, grace, and tools.
So, how can we learn to embrace and care for the parts of ourselves that we might have, in the past, tried to train or tame or cut off altogether? What are the tools and experiences that might help us in this work that is so much more important than hair?
If you were born and raised Catholic, you may have been taught that how you appear, or how you fit in or how you can change yourself according to someone else’s standard is the measure of your worthiness, but what if the authentic ‘you’ that God formed and knew before you were born, the ‘you’ whose very hairs God has numbered, the ‘you’ that He made in His own image, is good, is enough, and was enough all along?
What if we learned how to know our true selves and to care for ourselves as we actually are, as beloved children of God with dignity, rather than how we think we should be, with all of the shame and striving that goes with that? What if we invested in ourselves, gave ourselves the gift of learning through introspection, prayer, reading, spiritual direction or therapy? What if we took care of our bodies, minds, and spirits as they actually are today, and really loved and honored every part of ourselves? How would that change how we live our lives? Honoring our true selves as created and beloved by God is the path to well-being today and to growth for tomorrow, too, but it is not an easy road and I know that first-hand.
So often, we run from ourselves, and we strive to be ‘better’ or ‘different’ and that’s all very natural and human but what if our journey was less about improvement and more about wholeness? I guess I just want to say to you today, friend, you are worth the journey of self-discovery, and of the investment of time and resources it takes to learn how to care for your true self well. We all are. Like everything in Creation, God made us, and He called us ‘good’. God who has counted the number of hairs on your head, knows you completely and authentically and loves you more than you can know.
I want to close by reading a psalm over you today. As you listen, just close your eyes, and take in the wonderful knowledge of God’s detailed, complete, and overarching love for you, just as you are.
This is Psalm 139
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.
Ah, amen. Thanks so much for being with me today, friend. If you need me, you can find me on Instagram @kerrycampbellwrites or on my blog at mylittleepiphanies.com. Thanks so much for rating, reviewing, subscribing and most importantly, sharing this podcast with a friend. That really makes a difference in growing our community, so thanks. If you’d like to support this podcast financially, there’s a way for you to do that in the show notes, along with some resources related to today’s episode, so do check all of that out, but before we go, let’s pray together.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.
God, you made us, and you called us good. Help us to know and care for our authentic selves well, and on this journey, help us to know that you walk with us. You call us by name, and you love us at each step along the way. We pray for us and our dear ones today in the name of Jesus and wrapped in the mantle of Our Mother, Mary, amen.
Thanks for listening, friend. Take good care of you, and I’ll see you next time.
This week we explore the journey of self-knowledge, self-acceptance, and self-care through a relatable metaphor.
If you’d like to connect with me, find me on Instagram or on my blog. If you’d like to help support this podcast financially, there’s now a way to do just that, and thank you – visit me on my page at buymeacoffee.com! Thanks as always for sharing, subscribing, rating, and reviewing, as this helps our community to grow!
Thanks as always to my friend, Peter Vaughan-Vail, for providing the beautiful harp music you hear in this and every episode.
Here are some resources I hope will help you to engage with this week’s topic in a deeper way for yourself:
1. Song: Who Am I, by Casting Crowns
2, Podcast: Good Inside: The Voices Inside Our Heads, with Dr. Becky and Dr. Dick Schwartz on the theory of Internal Family Systems – a good primer on this helpful topic!
3. Children’s Book: Near: Psalm 139 by Sally Lloyd-Jones – this is a fresh and beautiful retelling for children of all ages
4. Lyric Video: You Are Enough, by Sleeping At Last
5. Podcast: The Humble Parent, on Kelly Corrigan Wonders with guest Julie Lithcott-Haims. What’s the upside of knowing how little we know?
6. Instagram follow: Barb Schmidt, @peaceful_barb
7. Book: Let Your Life Speak, by Parker Palmer
8. Article: Self-Love: The Importance of Learning to Love Yourself, by Seattle
9. Sacred Space, a daily prayer/meditation site run by the Irish Jesuits