You are welcome here. You are home. We begin every service with a version of this sentiment, and this reassurance every week is a powerful one to me. It says, “we will take you into our hearts with open arms and open minds,” and it has never failed to make me feel safe and warm. Finding my way back to this congregation, where I have so many childhood memories, has truly felt like a homecoming for me.
I have struggled with varying degrees of social anxiety since I was a child. My anxiety tries (and succeeded for a long time) to convince me that I don’t belong anywhere, and that what makes me different from those around me makes me a pariah. I have learned that what my anxiety tells me can’t always be trusted. I have also found that in order to feel welcome anywhere, I have had to learn how to be more welcoming toward myself.
What has helped me to do this is to pay attention to what I do to welcome others. I feel that curiosity plays a big role in this; I believe that part of welcoming another person is having the desire to learn who that person is at their core, what makes them feel joy and sorrow and everything in between, and what similarities and differences you share. Another part is having a positive regard for that person, respecting and embracing their inherent worth and dignity, despite not knowing the answers to those questions.
So if you, like me, struggle to be welcoming toward yourself – how can you turn a negative judgment you have of yourself into curiosity about where that judgment comes from and whether it serves to help you or hurt you? In what ways do you respect and embrace others that you can practice turning inward?