Worthiness

I’ve been living most of my life trying to prove to myself that I’m a good person, while secretly believing I was garbage just because others told me that.  That’s a staggering realization, but necessary.

All during my school years, I kept thinking if I just make the best grades, just do enough good deeds, just love others enough, I’ll transcend the distance between “living garbage heap” and “actual worthwhile human.”  Meanwhile I was rotting inside because I had taken in others’ jealousy and hatred and believed it; I believed having a good opinion of myself was conceited, and I didn’t want to be conceited because conceited people were inherently “bad.”  I desperately did not want to be thought of as bad, so I tried to be good in all the ways I knew how.

And yet, in spite of this, so many different people over the years told me I was trash and suggested I should kill myself–how could all those people be wrong?  The majority opinion carries, doesn’t it?  I argued that case so many times in my head during my growing up years, and every time I was convicted:  I was indeed trash and had to earn any love I dared to want.  No matter how many people told me I was good, I knew the “truth”–that I was inherently a “bad” person, and that’s why others were mean to me.  I came to believe every person I ever met would scorn me and seek out ways to hurt me as soon as they found out I was imperfect (read: unlovable and worthless).

I am almost completely freed of these poisonous ideas now, and it feels pretty amazing to be able to have a good self-belief at last.   I no longer have to be perfect to feel worthy of love.  I no longer need to earn others’ friendship, or put myself down.  I am imperfect but not unlovable, flawed but not worthless.  Others’ opinions of me do not override what I know about myself–that I exist for a purpose, and that I am loved no matter what.

What ringing truth in my ears, truth filled with so much love that it makes me weep.  Just feeling worthy of love felt so impossible when I was younger, and now it’s a gift I can actually believe is mine to open.  I still am astounded at it.  When you finally believe you’re worthy of love, it helps you exist without being afraid, without having to rely on others’ judgments–and it helps you see others as worthy of love, too.  It’s a freeing experience.  💕

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Surrender

One of the things that’s been coming to mind with surgery looming is the idea of surrender. Specifically, surrendering the care of my body and talents to God, since He gave them to me anyway.
 
To preface this: I’m not in any way saying I magically have no more fear. I am afraid of losing so much during this surgery–afraid of losing the ability to bear children later on, afraid of losing my voice just as I’m rediscovering the joy of it, afraid of losing my very life on the operating table. So many things can and have gone wrong for others during operations like these, and no matter how many positive stories I hear, the horror stories linger longer.
 
But I have solace in this: God has blessed me greatly with these gifts, and I am just now rediscovering them, being lifted by His wings to a better place in my life. My story does not feel complete yet–there is more to come, more learning and healing to do, more glorifying to do. God would not have given me this voice and led me to private voice lessons if I wasn’t supposed to sing for His glory in the future. God would not have allowed the cyst to be discovered if He did not want me to survive it. And God would not have spared me from the tornado I drove into (!!) if my work on earth was already complete.
 
There are so many more factors at work here that I can’t even see or understand, but even with my limited wisdom I can see God has been transforming me, and that transformation is still happening. I have to surrender control of all these things to God, to trust that the same God Who blessed me with talents and life itself is the same God Who ordains healing, the same God Who guides the surgeon’s hands. No matter how much I worry, I still can’t take as good care of myself as God can and does on a daily basis. He has already prepared the way.
 
Exodus 23:20 “See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared.”

Excuses

Excuses are like clothes to cover shame.  Whatever we feel ashamed of, whatever we feel guilty about, whatever we feel like we have no control over, we use an excuse to cover it. But I don’t believe this is the mark of a weak person.  I believe this is the mark of emotional damage, of a wound that needs to be healed rather than hidden.  We come into this life gloriously naked in all ways, including the emotional self, and only over time do we learn we need to make clothing for ourselves–make excuses, to hide what others long ago thought unseemly and disgusting.

What we must not do, then, is rip away others’ emotional clothing, especially in public.  “You’re just making excuses” is another way to tell someone “You’re a bad human being, you’re inferior, you’re worthless,” and it will only make them dress themselves in more layers to hide from us.  Instead, we approach them as if those excuses cover wounds–because they do.  And just as we would dress a physical wound with soap and water, ointments, and bandages, we come prepared to do the same with someone’s emotional wound.  We come with compassion, forgiveness, and respect, acknowledging the excuse even as we cut it out of the way.  We say, “I do not judge you.  You don’t have to be ashamed anymore.  You don’t have to be afraid or guilty anymore.  You don’t have to be trapped anymore.  You do not have to hide.  You are loved.  You can be free.”

How do I know?  Because this is what enabled me to feel worthy of love at last.  Ripping away my emotional clothing never worked; meeting me with anger and condemnation only made me worse.  All that ever worked for me was love, respect, compassion, understanding, and forgiveness.  And I don’t think that’s just a “me” thing.

A Little Wink from Heaven

Today, I found my wedding veil at a local bridal boutique. I went in not really expecting to find “the” veil, but maybe just to get an idea of what they had in stock. I looked through elbow- and fingertip-length veils, not really finding anything…and then, I heard a whisper: “look at the one on the wall.” Hung on the wall behind the shorter veils were their longer veils, the ones that hit the floor (chapel, cathedral, etc.). The one in the center was ivory, similar to my dress.

Just for giggles, I asked the saleslady if I could see that one–I didn’t expect to like it or want it, but I figured I’d at least try it on. Well, I pretty much knew I liked it as soon as she began to unwind it from the hanger. Not giving away any more details than that, but I will say that in my head I was comparing it with my dress’ details and thinking it would look good, at least.

We put it on, I walked around with it a bit, and soon after that I was buying it. It was that quick and easy–even the owner said “That one must have been here just for you.” Much like my dress, it wasn’t what I had thought about buying at first, but after I saw it, there was no other real contender in my mind.

However, I haven’t told y’all the best part yet. I brought it home and compared the veil to my dress–I expected there to be a little color and style difference, since I am no decorator/fashion maven, but I thought I could make it work anyway. Instead, I found that the color of veil and dress EXACTLY matched, as if they had been designed to go together…even the little details matched much better than I thought they would!! These two items were bought at separate stores, in two different states, at two different times, yet they were perfect together, and this veil was the last of its kind in the store, to boot.

After everything I’ve experienced, I know enough to know when Mama’s been at work arranging things again. No wonder a cardinal flew over my car as I drove down the driveway…I just winked at it and said, “Thanks, Mom <3″

The Fight Against Nonsense Advice

I did not choose to be abused.

That simple fact shouldn’t be a starting place for an argument, but it is and has been since I was a child. I have been told so often, “you choose to be a victim,” but it is patently NOT TRUE for my life.

For instance, did I choose for a family member to continually violate my privacy and body boundaries from the time I was born? NO. I was a baby, then toddler, then child–I had no authority nor physical or cognitive power, and thus DID NOT CHOOSE to be abused.

And did I choose for authority figures at school to ignore my cries for help when I was being hurt by other students? No. I was a young child and then a tween, with no authority. I could not control what ADULTS in power (who were SUPPOSED to protect me at school) chose to do or not do. I did not choose to remain abused, but it was forced on me.

Did I choose for other students to restrain me, beat me, mock me, humiliate me, choke me, etc., during school hours? No. I was a young student, and when I fought back to defend myself, I was punished every time. I vehemently did not choose to be abused, but it was forced on me.

I learned early on that defending myself led to punishment and shame. I learned that many times, authority figures and other adults are the ones abusing, and thus I would not have any power or legal grounds to fight back or choose differently for myself.

These were horrifying situations, and so I did what I could to survive them–I had no choice but to allow the abuses to continue. I had no personal agency, no ability to choose differently.

Now, as an adult, I am finally freeing myself of those constraints which I learned so well in childhood. I am learning that as an adult, I can remove myself from negative situations without fear of shame, guilt trips, or punishment from “authority figures,” because I have personal agency equal to theirs. I can tell someone no without fearing they are going to hold me down and choke me for it. But it has taken much therapy, counseling, and self-discovery to be able to make those choices for myself. Even though the abuses happened in childhood, their impacts have been long-lasting–I continued to believe, until I was 33 years old, that I could not tell anyone no without immediately being physically and emotionally assaulted. I was still living under duress, convinced that everyone I knew was out to manipulate me into being what they wanted, and to punish and threaten me if I didn’t conform and comply. So I behaved as if I had no personal agency, even as an adult, because I KNEW NO DIFFERENT. Only now, at 33, do I know different, and I am now acting accordingly.

There are still some who will probably believe that I’m “making things up,” that I’m being “dramatic,” that I’m somehow still “choosing to be a victim.” To them, I say: You will not convince me that I am weak, inferior, or bad. I refuse to be victimized by your shaming and judging camouflaged as (bad) advice. I am making the choice every day to be free of others’ opinions of me, and to be free of others’ unwanted advances, desires, influences, etc. I am free for the first time in my life. So you can take back that “you choose to be a victim” nonsense. I don’t buy it, and I don’t want that garbage on my mental property. That’s my choice.

Removing Negative Influences

In June of 2017, I made a decision to begin removing negative influences from my life…which has now changed my thinking entirely.

One major part of this was to stay off social media for a month, because it was something I spent a lot of time on and thus was absorbing into my thoughts. But I also avoided news articles, drama-filled YouTube videos, reaction posts, political scandals, etc. I also monitored my speech and thoughts for gossip and general negative opinions, and actively replaced them with thoughts and words of love and compassion.

Once I had been doing this for 30 days, I realized that many of the things I had been involving myself in were keeping me focused on the unending badness and wrongness of the world and its people. By liking, commenting, or even looking at these things, I was silently agreeing, and these beliefs led me to wrong conclusions about my own ineptitude, worthlessness, and failures.

But I no longer believe in the badness and wrongness of myself or the world after this exercise in removing negative influences. Even just 30 days without focusing on news, politics, and other people’s drama truly lightened my load and changed my perspective. I have used my “unfollow” button quite a bit to remove unnecessary drama, and I have also quit sharing news/politics memes and jokes-as-veiled-complaints myself, to stop adding to other people’s negative influences. (You wouldn’t believe how many Facebook posts count as negative when you REALLY look hard at them…and there are many who know full well I was a prime offender back in the day!).

What I have learned since then: because my inner world is no longer being polluted with these things, I am now able to make positive changes in myself and the world around me. This is not merely “changing my attitude;” this is a radical change in my beliefs about myself, God, and the world.

I felt then, and I continue to feel, as if I was congested for a long time and am now finally able to breathe freely again. When I was “congested” with negative influences, I believed I deserved no better than to feel bad, and my attitude toward life and others reflected that. I felt guilty for existing, and was constantly told by others I wasn’t doing well enough–that my “attitude was bad” and thus I was a bad person. In response, I was constantly seeking ways to escape the mental and emotional pain of that belief–by serving others sometimes, and sometimes by falling into addictions to Internet and gaming. I just wanted the pain to stop, and I didn’t feel worthy of life.

Now the “congestion” is clearing out; I have realized that I am loved and accepted by God, that my past mistaken practices do not define the rest of my life’s course, and that even when I fail in the future, it still does not change my status in His eyes. I am a worthy human being even if others do not see me as worth anything. The memories of extreme pain and suffering do linger on, but they lessen in severity every day as I actively face each memory and deal with it appropriately. I am healing by dealing with my past (NOT locking it away), and by separating myself forcefully from the negative concepts which were infecting me.

I describe this as a sickness because it is–it is a sickness I believe is infecting others, too. I believe that there are many people today who are living like I once did, congested with guilt, shame, and fear, and believing that they deserve no better. I believe that they too are seeking escape from that pain and infection any way they can. And I also believe that these are worthy individuals, no matter how sick they feel or how undeserving they may appear to others.

I cannot truly speak for anyone else, nor can I claim that there is a one-size-fits-all cure for humanity’s ills, but I can treat all others as worthy individuals, as Jesus would have me do. THAT, I believe, is how we may yet begin healing our world–by first understanding that we are worthy of compassion, forgiveness, and grace, and then treating everyone we meet as worthy too. ❤️