I was sitting down to eat my lunch today and my phone started to light up. I had planned on studying while I ate so I was tempted to ignore it but it was from one of those friends that you just love so much you can't ignore a text. I open the text and the first sentence was "don't take this the wrong way but..." Oh crap. I hate messages that start like this I took a deep breath, said a small prayer for understanding and read on "How are you always so self confident and assured." I literally laughed out loud at this message. WHAT?! She really thinks I am always so self confident? She must be crazy. However, she wasn't entirely wrong. I do not hate myself anymore and I know what I want (most of the time, unless my boyfriend asks me what I want for dinner then I got nothing) so I tried to compile a few pieces of precious advice that are engrained into my daily routine and soul but a list seemed so shallow so instead I wrote her a letter....here we go....
My precious and beautiful friend,
Thank you for the deep laughs and dear moments we have shared. You asked me a simple question today-how am I always so self assured? Oh dear one, how I laughed...I am so far from that. I am flawed, I fail every single day. I feel unsure of relationships and my value when compared to those around me. I go to the gym and see these pretty girls and don't want to look in the mirror. I lose my temper or watched netflix instead of studying and then want to kick myself for wasting precious time. But, a key difference between me and the girls around me is something that happened to me about a year ago. I became broken.
You told me that you were tired of feeling like you were not enough and it felt as if someone punched me in the stomach. I wanted to cry for you because I know that feeling all to well. That overhanging doubt that seems to shadow every single thing that you do. I remember not even being able to sit in my room alone without thinking that some how I was even doing THAT wrong-that I wasn't enough and never would be. So, I concocted a plan- do not be alone. Jump from relationship to relationship and show them that I am enough. Be a people pleaser with my friends so they would call me first when something went wrong and I would always be in the know. Be a straight A student so my parents could brag that I go to the best public school in the country. Do all the homework so teachers know my name and think "yeah that student is going place" and in the midst of this brilliant plan the weirdest thing happened. I did not feel like I was enough...actually the opposite I constantly felt worse and worse about myself. Like I wasn't measuring up so I would try harder and harder and it kept pushing me further and further down.
And then it happened-I snapped under my not enoughness. I developed an eating disorder that rocked me to my very core. I was sitting in my counselors office after months of seeing her and feeling like I had no break throughs and then it was like the clouds cleared. I had to make a list of two things: what I am and who I am.
What I am included my temporary titles. Those that I cherish and value but that cannot ever define me: I am a sister, an aunt, a daughter, a student, a worker. The who I am is what really rocked my world, because it is the very essence of my being: I am smart, I am kind, I am hot tempered, I am an adventurer, a wanderer, I am curious, I am me. The realization of the things that have always been locked inside of me changed everything. However, knowing those things and applying them are completely different. I could not just make a list of these things, read over them and then BAM suddenly feel like I was enough. I knew something had to change and so I did the scariest thing I have ever had to do...I became alone.
I broke up with my boyfriend-not because I didn't like him (lets be honest I liked them all-even the losers) and not because he was a bad guy, but because I knew I was with him because he was my validation that I was somehow enough. He was the one who kept me from having to be alone, he kept me from having to deal with the heartbreaks from the last one, and he gave me someone else to focus on. I had to ignore the temptations to jump back into a relationship with the next guy because he was the same thing-oh he was fun to flirt with but he too was just outward validation. Those relationships were not about being in love or finding someone to be with but rather about proving that I was good enough, sexy enough, desirable enough, fun enough, just enough-to somebody, anybody. I quit being a people pleaser and it was amazing how quickly those "friends" dropped like flies. I quit striving for straight A's and began to just try to enjoy learning. I did what work I could in class to get the information but not at the cost of my health. And, in the midst of this transition, the worst thing in the world happened....I got sooooo lonely.
That is exactly what you wanted to hear isn't it? I know it sucks. But it was in that loneliness that I found this self confidence that you say you see when you look at me. In this place of loneliness I was able to look around and find those things that made my heart beat faster, my smile reach my eyes, and made my life feel full. I realized the sunset was not any less brilliant without a boy beside me to enjoy it, I found that the ocean was not any less vast without friends to document every single moment with, and I found that I enjoyed reading-I enjoyed history, and classics, and autobiographies. I found that hearing about modern day human trafficking made my blood boil and gave me a cause to fight for and I found that I am obsessed with fair trade products.
And then, once I was alone and no longer looking to please anyone and not looking to feed anything but my soul the most amazing thing happened. Those people who were supposed to be (or remain) in my life began to trickle in. I was able to listen to people talk without listening for some kind of validation towards myself but rather hear what they were truly saying. I was able to belly laugh so hard my side ached without caring who was looking. I read books on history and autobiographies that made the gears in my head turn faster than they had ever turned. I was able to sit in the quad and genuinely enjoy the time alone and hear the beauty in the silence of nature.
Once I was completely alone I was able to build the life I had always dreamed of from the ground up. The people who were supposed to be in my life began to fill my time and space and with them came more joy than I had ever imagined. I was able to fall in love with a man who treats me like a princess, not to validate who I am, but just because he can. I was able to give of myself and drain myself completely in service to those around me. To revel in the act of service. I was giving of myself simply because I could, not so they would once again assure me I was enough. I was able to travel to distant cities by myself meeting lifelong friends along the way. But, being enough came from being alone, from being lonely and making a commitment to that.
I pray one day you see that you are enough. There is no one like you in this world. There is no one with a laugh that has that melodious sound, there is no one who is excited by the same things, there is no one who can think the unique things you think or love the way you love. There simply is not. But, you are short changing the world and yourself if you think being what others consider "enough" will ever grant you that inner peace.
As long as you are expecting someone else to validate that you are enough you never will be. It is only once you have reached that place-where you adopt you quirks and temperament and humor and interest and love that you will find that peace that lets you wake up every day and run through the chaos. I do not have it all together. There are still days I practically beg for someone to tell me I am enough. I determine if a picture can stay on my instagram by how many likes it gets. And sometimes I cry because my boyfriend didn't tell me I was pretty that day. And those moments are ok too. Because without those little dips in the road we could never appreciate ourselves on those other days-we could never see how far we have come or laugh at the journey it took us to get there. My self confidence comes from giving every single ounce of myself away not so someone else can tell me I am enough but because I already know that I am.
I love you dear one and am here for you along your journey. It is the most beautiful one you will ever embark on and also the scariest but I hope you take it sooner rather than later because it is here that you find true thankfulness, sincerity, and fullness of life. Best of luck....and don't forget: you are enough, not because I told you that you were today, but rather because you are simply you.