On Luminescence and the Importance of Needs
You are light.
You may not see it. For years, I really struggled to see mine.
I understand now, that underneath the surface, I was really afraid of my own luminosity. I was afraid of leaving others in the shadows, of blinding them, or otherwise that I would be lonely if I allowed my own light to shine.
Instead, I fled to other people’s gleam like a little moth in the night. Always restless, always hungry, always confused.
It took me a long time to realise that my light isn’t a dangerous thing, and that there is room for it here. Just like there is room for yours. We need you to shine your light.
No matter if you feel dim or bright, just by being a human being, you are a shining beacon. You are luminescent, radiant, and in many more ways than one – even when you don’t see it for yourself.
There is the literal incandescence, of course, which is the thermal radiation your body emits because of its heat. This is what other people would see on a heat-sensitive camera, should you ever go missing in the woods and they send out a search-party. This light isn’t visible to the human eye – but it’s still there, and you can’t stop it unless you die.
And then there are the more abstract ways in which you are luminescent.
The way that you light the way for others. The way you light up when you talk about something you love. How you are a light-house for other people in need. How you are the light of someone’s life. How you are an enlightened being.
In its purest form, light is energy. You are energy.
The most basic law of energy, however, is that it cannot be created or destroyed – it can only be transferred or changed. And as essential this is to science, this is essential to being human too.
You are always radiating energy – in other words you are always giving.
This means that you have to receive in order to exist.
So, when you inspire others, create art, lead the way, generate ideas, care for others and shine your light in your own unique way – that energy needs to come from somewhere. You have to be nourished with equal amounts of energy in return.
Contrary to fireflies and bioluminescent algae, your inner light isn’t strictly chemiluminescent – meaning that it doesn’t just shine because of an intrinsic reaction within you. There are elements of that, of course – your personality and soul shines from a deep, deep place inside. But even the chemical reaction in bioluminescence needs to start from somewhere and is driven by energy. There needs to be a source feeding the light.
There is also a part of you that is more phosphorescent. You absorb light, you store it, and then you re-emit. This is the part that drives inspiration, creativity and creation – and here it is easier to see that the light you receive enter you, gets stored, mixed up with your inner light, and re-emitted when you create something of your own. And also here, nourishment is essential for the creation of illumination.
It’s easy to get this tangled up.
We think that we don’t deserve the light from others. We think that we are not worthy of receiving. We think we don’t need to be nourished, and that being a light for others is enough to give life meaning.
For years, I didn’t think that I had needs. On a deep, deep level, I knew I needed something and on the surface level this materialised as an almost desperate need for help, even though I didn’t exactly know what that would look like. I just needed something, anything, everything. Being desperate for something you don’t even know what is, is its own particular form of hell.
It has literally taken me more than 25 years to understand that even when I have been unable to see and accept my own light, it has still been shining. And that I have still had needs.
Learning to let my light shine freely has been one thing, but the most revolutionary practice for me has truly been to understand my own unique needs – and how I can meet them. It sounds silly, but I had to start with Maslow. For years, I was anorexic and I didn’t allow myself to need food. I also had severe sleeping problems, and although I understood that I had to sleep, I would resist it, because I feared the nightmares that would eventually come and hijack my nights. So that’s where I started. Food and sleep.
Eventually, I advanced to more elaborate and unique personal needs, such as my need for the right balance of solitude and companionship, my need for a hot water bottle on my belly when I’m anxious, or how I thrive when I’m in a visually calm and white environment. I now know that I need green plants in my home, wool socks from november to april – and poetry. I need my morning routine, a candle and a daily tarot card. I need to write.
Self-care has to start with needs – or it will be a random and even self-destructive demeanour. A plant that doesn’t need water will not benefit from more water, it will drown and rot. An animal that isn’t hungry won’t benefit from more food when what it really needs is love – it will become depressed (and overweight). And no amount of body lotion and spa treatments can make up for your loneliness if what you really need is a hug.
In order to take care of yourself, you’ve got to start with your needs.
And only when you nourish yourself with what lights you up,
can you truly shine.