The Importance of Our Sacred Personal Space

sacred personal space tree in a lake
Photo by Faye Cornish

Maybe you want to be left alone while taking a shower without anyone screaming at you from behind the door. Maybe you have a certain ritual around breakfast time or nobody else can make that perfect coffee/meal that you love to have every day. No matter who or where you are in the world you’ve formed sacred places, ritual and objects.

what does it mean for something to be sacred?

As an artist, I have a favourite mechanical pencil. I’ve made so many beautiful artworks with it and invested so much attachment that I tense when somebody tries to reach for it. Why doesn’t any other mechanical pencil feel the same to me? Why doesn’t this one feel as unremarkable as any other mechanical pencil?

To put it simply, I built up a personal value around it. This is my personal belief and though that simple object shines like a beacon of sanctity in my eyes, nobody else can tune into that bond. Sometimes not even when I mention it.

In essence, having something be sacred means that it has value, there’s rituals, cleanliness and some type of order surrounding it and there are certain lines that nobody should cross.

You might think back on your sibling that coveted a toy or a computer that they never allowed you to touch and you’d think that this ‘sacred thing’ business is a waste of everybody’s time, but I urge you to think again.

There are things in the world that all people hold sacred. In civilized societies we never step over the line of killing, stealing or cheating. The few people that do cross these imaginary boundaries are shunned and punished for it.

Then there are much more subtle situations that don’t necessarily involve basic human rights or laws. We don’t just waltz in a freshly cleaned mall or hotel lobby with muddy shoes, we greet our acquaintances with a smile and always try to dress well when going to work. There are devout people in the world who would rather humiliate themselves and go to greater lengths of discomfort not to pollute mother nature with their litter, to respect their family traditions or to defend a victim of oppression.

These are the obvious ways in which sanctity is necessary for our survival and wellbeing. But what about the ones that are invisible to us, or even the ones we lost? The growing rates of apathy and depression may be related. Having dealt with apathy myself I can relate some of the most common occurrences for me.

I sit down at my desk and I promise myself that this time I’m going to paint or write a story. No matter what it is I find myself pushing against a hard wall of “what’s the use?”. It is normal to want to get some sort of recognition from other people for artistic work. However, even if I finish it, my art does not give any real value to anybody. What’s the point if there is no value in it?

And there are far more crucial values that we’ve lost. Like how to give compliments and encouragement. Our parents are some of the biggest culprits of this. They failed to uplift our little achievements and give us encouragement over and over again during our childhood. And it made us grow up believing that we’re worthless in the world.

When a person grows up with the concept that there’s nothing valuable about them, they will end up going through life feeling lost, confused and with deep sadness. We all seek to serve our fellow man with the gifts we’re born to give (talents’ aspirations, interests) but these gifts are part of our individual identity. And when our identity is trampled, devalued and desecrated, we end up believing there’s nothing we can offer.

So what’s the solution?

If the sanctity of an object, activity or person is a belief in our individual or collective minds … then all it takes is to make a new belief. How easy is it to make a new belief?

Let’s take the example of entering a new community. Whether there’s a new workplace, a new classroom or you just joined a new discord server, people will tell you the DO’s and DON’Ts and you’ll simply assimilate them.

What about eliminating old beliefs?

This is the hardest part of all. How can anybody replace an “I’m worthless” with “I’m valuable” when all their life they had copious amounts of proof that they’re the former? As with all things, awareness of it is the first step. Identifying which beliefs don’t serve you can be healing in and of itself. Most beliefs we carry around are those that we’re not even aware of.

There are many ways one can change their beliefs and the Internet is always a good-enough resource for your research but I’m going to mention one of the most important practices for my own wellbeing:

Healthy boundaries.

Having something sacred means that certain lines should never be crossed. It may come as a shock to you but we tend to treat ourselves very badly. We do things for our parents, friends and bosses, we indulge in HAVE TOs during our day, we allow hugs from people we don’t really want to get close to, we keep in contact with toxic acquaintances and we always reject the things we really want to do because “They’re not important”.

Learn to say “No”. As scary as it looks, the more you say no to the things you hate doing, the more you acknowledge your own worth and value. The rewards for this practice are unbelievable!

I remember the first time I said “No” to a visit from my mother, I felt a weight lifted off my chest and the sensation of freedom and the vitality was unexpected and ecstatic! Don’t be afraid of the consequences. The people around you might act out of proportion for the short term but they always come around and realize that everybody had more to gain from it. It always turns out well! And, of course, there’s always the “Do what you really feel” advice.

Apart from your personal value, is there any reason why anybody should build beliefs like this for things in their life?

Our rituals offer us a sense of order, stability, peace and fulfilment. There’s a lot of chaos in the world that makes us tense with fear and distrust others. The more sacred things we have the more peace and stability we’ll feel during our day. To an extent, of course, it pays to be flexible.

But apart from that, adding value to things we hold dear to our heart like beauty, accomplishments and activities that bring us joy can greatly improve our wellbeing. For example, having to see a painting on your wall that represents something you love like the sea, the depiction of a beautiful muse or the metaphor of freedom through the flight of an exotic bird can add small amounts of happy thoughts and attitudes that will cumulate into long-term effects over the years.

Right now, we’re all being pushed into scenarios we hate. Like having to work a 9-5 job for a company we don’t believe in. Reorienting our efforts into something that we’re more likely to value naturally (friends, beauty, nature, etc.) can rejuvenate our will for life.

Fun fact! The people that built the most numerous amounts of sanctity value in your life are likely women.

  • Don’t jump on the bed, you’ll break it!
  • Don’t play with your food!
  • Don’t throw a tantrum in public!
  • Wear clean clothes!
  • Respect your elders!
  • Message me more often!
  • Why didn’t you bring me gifts!?
  • Don’t raise your voice at me!
  • Don’t come home late!

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