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We Are One.

Finding self-acceptance through connection to Source, emotions, and art.


#TransparentTuesdays
#TransparentTuesdays

Hi friend, 

I’m so excited to share the following story of self-acceptance through connection to Source, written by my last guest author of 2023 Nadine Guliaiev. 


I hope you love her writing and art as much as I did!

Jessi


 

This article is for those who struggle to accept themselves. 


It’s for those who have learned to compare their looks to others; who haven't had a trustworthy relationship with their bodies or themselves; who forgot how to live with an open heart when life became too painful. It’s for those who think they "are not good enough,” and keep asking themselves questions. 


How can we change things? 

How do we all feel safer?My name is Nadine, and I am a graphic artist from Ukraine. This is one of my artworks:


Artwork by Nadine Guliaiev
Artwork by Nadine Guliaiev

My struggle with body acceptance started in middle school, when I compared myself to a popular girl and realized for the first time that I didn’t look anything like her. My cheeks were rounder and bigger, my chin was less defined, and my ears stuck out. From then on, I compared myself to others constantly: my face, my body, even my behavior. And it always seemed to me that they were better; that they were “good enough,” and I was not. 


As a society, nobody really teaches us to celebrate our uniqueness, and in fact it’s often legitimately unsafe for us to be our true selves. Depending on where you grow up, the punishment for authentic self-expression can be anything from chronic shame to violence or execution. So most of us never felt safe enough to try, and never had the chance to bloom into ourselves. Most of us were never encouraged to hold our differences with reverence and awe, instead of comparison and judgment. 


By age fifteen I became more “attractive” to the eyes of society, but I never felt sure about myself. I had no idea who I was on a deeper level, I didn't have any boundaries as a person, and was completely unaware of my own value and worth. So I found my way into various toxic relationships, and still hid my ears behind my hair. 


It's hard to navigate social connections when you have an aching heart and a mind full of judgment and comparison. 


I’ve been a highly sensitive, empathic, and creative person from a very young age, and was always writing poetry, painting, singing, and dancing. But by eighteen, my world became flat with depression. I viewed nature as nothing more than decoration, and I lost contact with myself and my body, which made it impossible to utilize my creativity fully and with an open heart. 


At twenty-two, I was living a seemingly "normal" life: I worked at a job I didn't like, I was friends with people I couldn’t be myself with, and I dated people I didn’t feel connected to. But somewhere inside there was a voice (one that spoke to me in feelings rather than words) saying over and over that there was another way. That there was another way to live, to love, and to express myself. That there was something more to life than what I’d been conditioned to think. 


I tried to ignore that voice— that inner calling of my essence— for some time, but eventually chose to surrender to it. I stopped participating in interactions that felt forced, and started asking myself more honest questions (and giving myself honest answers!) about my behaviors and motives. 


I quickly realized that deep down I just wanted to feel accepted as I am; to feel like enough without needing to violently refine myself for others. I also discovered the emotional pain that was lurking underneath my chronically aching body, and saw my coping mechanisms for what they were. 


This self-discovery led me to connect with people who expressed themselves authentically, whose openness and acceptance helped me open up. For the first time in my life, I understood what true connection feels like, and how healing it is when both people are vulnerable, and make each other feel seen and safe. 


Over the next year and a half, I slowly dismantled layer after layer of my social programming, which was now revealed to me to be nothing more than stereotypes.


I discovered that love is love, psychedelics are plant medicine, and the importance of protecting nature. I started eating in ways that actually nourished my body, heart, and soul, and started dancing and painting again. I stopped comparing myself to others so much, and focused on enjoying my uniqueness instead. I even traded my long hair for a pixie cut, having finally realized my belief that my ears “weren’t beautiful enough” was just one more trick of my social conditioning. 


At some point I started feeling a strong pull to psychedelic medicine, which is known for stripping away all of the superficial layers of your identity. I wanted to better understand my suffering (both physical and emotional), and maybe learn the meaning of life and death while I was at it. 


I’d need to write a whole separate article to share all the things I learned from my psychedelic experiences, but I’ll touch on a few of them, which are relevant to my story:

  • I realized that I had been taking care of and treating my body as if it was a product I was about to sell my whole life; as if my body was nothing more than merchandise that might expire soon. (This realization made me feel extremely sad.)

  • I experienced a big shift from my mind back into my heart, and realized that our minds (and personalities!) are only teeny tiny pieces of who we are at our essence. 

  • I discovered that violence exists when people disconnect from themselves (due to trauma, for example), because when we’re detached or numb in ourselves, we can’t feel how wrong it is to cause harm to others. 

  • I understood that we’re all here for a very simple reason: to experience joy in the specific and unique ways that only we humans can.


That last realization felt like putting down a heavy bag I'd been carrying my whole life. I didn't have to search for a meaning of life anymore, because I realized it’s only when we’re in pain that finding it feels important. When we’re in joy, some part of us intuitively knows that we’re experiencing the meaning of life. 


Nadine Guliaiev
Artwork by Nadine Guliaiev

My heart and mind had been expanded;  I'd received all I needed in my further self-discovery journey, and life was puzzling like never before. Unfortunately, this expansiveness would go on to face two major challenges. 


The first was when war came to Ukraine. Witnessing that level of pointless violence would always have been heartbreaking, but it was especially unbearable having just experienced such oneness with humanity, such peace, and such pure bliss. 


If I’m being honest, that war left me so low that sometimes I didn’t even want to stay on this planet anymore. 


The second was after the war forced me to leave my country, and I ended up in Germany. Here I was rejected by someone I deeply resonated with, and noticed myself slipping into my old patterns of thinking— the ones I thought I’d just healed! I found myself worrying that I wasn’t “good enough” again, and some of my old insecurities  about my appearance!


This happened in part because stress and depression act as triggers for those old mental patterns (and they might always).


But it also happened because our society is mind-based, and the mind likes to sort life into little boxes and labels. So when there's violence out there, we also tend to be violent to ourselves. And there is plenty of violence out there— beyond literal warfare, we’ve also all learned violent beliefs about race, age, class, nationality, and more!


If we want to rebuild society around the essence of this deeper truth— that all beings are equal, connected, and worthy— it’ll have to happen on the heart level, not the mind level. It will require all of us to connect to ourselves, including the full range and intensity of our emotions, and to let ourselves start feeling more deeply. 


Have you ever looked at someone or something— for example a loved one, a child, a dog, a plant, the sea, or a skyline— and seen them as perfect and beautiful exactly as they are? Maybe you felt moved or enriched by the experience, just grateful to witness them in their fullness, and with no wish to change or polish them. 


If so then you, too, have seen the world through the eyes of this essence. And it’s always right there, inside you; you just have to be courageous and vulnerable enough to let it in. 


I try to represent and symbolize this essence in my art, and to capture the transformative power of connecting to ourselves, welcoming all of our emotions (especially the difficult ones), and stripping away the defensive armor we wear to feel safe. I want my art to be a reminder that, no matter your race, weight, gender, sexuality, income, or nationality, we are all connected, because we all come from the same Source of life.


Artwork by Nadine Guliaiev
Artwork by Nadine Guliaiev

We are all connected in this oneness, a consciousness that eternally waits for you, and wants only one thing: to be seen, to be embraced, to be felt and to be expressed— in the way that only you are capable of. 


The violence running rampant in our society, from war to systemic oppression, stems from the fact that we humans have forgotten who we are on this deeper level. We’ve forgotten that the body is a process, not a product; that personality is a costume, that true power is gentle. We’ve forgotten that the meaning of life is to experience and co-create joy.


In order to heal, and change as a society, we must first remember, as individuals, who we truly are.

—Nadine Guliaiev

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