For the longest time I carried this old book with words in faded black and grey. Oh I know the words to this book by heart. The words would tightly wind around me like they could somehow become the essence of me. And maybe they did. After all if you carry something long enough, it subconsciously colors more and more of you than you’d like realize.
Somewhere amidst years of relationships, perfectionism, and a culture that breeds shame & fear I had accidentally begun to wear the words to this old book. Garments strung together with words and thoughts of my person not being truly likeable or loveable. Or deserving of it for that matter. Specifically, that if someone really knew me (and saw all the things I don’t say) they would back pedal so fast that heads would spin. The idea that I looked good at first glance to people – smart, a bit sassy, and cute – but that the underneath wasn’t really that great after all. No reason to really stick around. That my path boasts of too many jagged corners and questions. That my faith is too doubtful and hopeful all at once. That I have carried too much for too long to put it in the hands of someone else. The ever lethal dichotomy of somehow being too much and not enough all at once.
My spirit isn’t really dark, but those words would color it in all the darkest shades. Dark and smudged like an old photograph touched too soon. No, on a few occasions I’ve had people off handedly mention how they perceive me, and I’m embarrassed to say it’s usually all I can do not to stare at them with my mouth awkwardly gaping because their words are heartbreakingly kinder than the ones I internally hold onto. Their words are softer, filled with life, and are actually a better depiction of how I really am.
Too many of us are walking around with the ugliest of pictures of ourselves in our frayed back pockets. Pictures drawn with lies and overly critical pens. Honest introspection is valuable, but you are worthy of loving regardless of where you find yourself.
I said out loud my own lies the other day in the most off hand manner I could muster. I sat there silent, afraid my face would give away how petrified I actually was to hear the response. And someone who knows me better than most looked me straight in the eye and quietly told me that my words were absolutely heartbreaking, and that it was maybe even a bit messed up to believe those things about myself. I was caught off guard and felt a bit unnerved in my vulnerability. But I know I’m not the only person who needs to ask these fears out loud. Or the only person who needs to take a lighter to that picture in their pocket and replace it with one in the colors of kindness, truth, and grace.
So what are the words you can’t quite imagine uttering out loud to another set of eyes staring back at you? The words iced with fear and coated in shame. The words you’re desperately afraid someone will someday say out loud and finally solidify the crushing weight of doubt and worthlessness you’ve been carrying like some hidden gem.
Maybe you don’t have someone in your corner that you can whisper to the words and fears that press in all around you. We’re all alone sometimes and that’s okay, but I don’t want you to be alone in this. It’s too important and so are you. I’m in your corner as much as someone possibly can be from the other side of a glowing screen. I want to hold your doubts and fears so they don’t feel so heavy and you can watch them fade. I want to reach across the sticky coffee table and grab your hand and tell you how everyone really sees you: brave, lovely, capable, and fiercely wonderful. You are all the good things even if that’s not the message etched into your being yet. Keep learning to love yourself; it will take you so many places.
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