Rainy, cloudy, overcast days like today…… I love them. I absolutely love them. They are absolutely the best days for thinking, introspection and self reflection. If you are a writer like me, then of course days like today are great for writing as well, my favorite past time.
I’ve been thinking a lot about myself lately. That may sound like an arrogant or extremely haughty statement to make, but stay with me. There is a point. I have been thinking about myself in the sense of self reflection and why I am the way I am. Have you ever done that? Just sat down and really thought about what makes you who you are. Have you ever asked yourself why are you wired the way you are?
I hope you still like me after the statement I made in that last paragraph. I hope that you have continued reading to this paragraph and are happily surprised to realize that my “me” moments recently have been times for self reflection and thinking. This thinking has brought me to a greater understanding of the person I am and my purpose. It has also brought me face to face with some of my biggest struggles.
I recently took some me time to think about a breakup of mine, my first breakup, my first love. Although it wasn’t very fun, I can definitely say that I really learned a lot. I learned a lot about myself, my needs, the things a guy needs in a relationship, how I deserve to be treated and the list goes on. Then I started getting down to the nitty gritty, the not so easy stuff. I started thinking about why it hurt me so badly and why it took so long to really recover after the blow. So I started to look at myself…..and boy that wasn’t easy but it was well worth the effort and time.
What I realized is that the relationship hurt so much because it left me feeling not good enough. It left me feeling less than the self I had always known. It left me with those nagging questions…… Am I good enough? Am I pretty enough? Am I smart enough? Am I funny enough? Am I enough? The resounding answer was no. Then I started to think how could one guy or one relationship do all this? How could it strip me of my identity so completely? Tick tock tick tock tick tock………..I had to do some real digging.
After some prayer, some tears and a lot of thinking, I found that this relationship that I valued so much didn’t cause me to feel this way. It added to a whirlwind of feelings and questions that I had struggled with my entire life. I have always dealt with feelings of being alone, not being good enough and just not belonging. Why? Why? Why Steph? I asked myself the same thing. I have come to realize, through my own relationships with friends, family and myself that this search for identity and worth is something all women deal with. I am sure men deal with it as well, but because I am not a man I cannot say for certain how their search for identity works exactly.
For women, however, it is one big similar quest for us all. From a young age, we are put in a our ribbons, bows and curls. We are surrounded by pink pastels and everything that sparkles and shines. We are surrounded by beauty and we strive to become beautiful. More than anything we just want to be wanted. This desire to be beautiful and to be wanted doesn’t end with childhood. It carries over into our hearts as women, which is probably why every time I have been hurt or left I always feel like a little girl again.
Two of my cabin girls at camp this summer!
In women’s quest to feel beauty and a sense of belonging, it seems like our society has begun an assault on this journey throughout history. Just think about it. Think about the number of girls who have been physically or mentally abused. Think about the number of divorces that occur each year and what it does to children. How do you think that little girl felt when her daddy packed his bags and left to start another family of his own? I can guarantee you not very wanted or beautiful.
Those are some of the more obvious ways, but it happens subtly as well. For me, my battle with belonging and feeling wanted was a slow progressive process. As a little girl, I never quite felt like I fit in. I grew up in a conservative, Christian home that I am extremely proud of, but it definitely made me different. The list of things I was allowed to do and could not do was long enough to put a big gap between myself and my peers. I was friendly and outgoing, but still I just never like I fit. I thought there must be something wrong with me. Assault #1. I grew up a little and went off to high school and the same problems from middle school persisted except the girls were meaner. Assault #2. Then my sophomore year, just as I was starting to feel a little less awkward, my grandmother, the woman I looked up to the most and felt most loved by, suddenly passed away. Then my family moved across the country to Tulsa, Oklahoma and I was the new kid. I was alone. Assault # 3. As I was getting adjusted to life in Tulsa and moving in to my senior year of high school, my best friend, Felicia passed away from cancer. Assault # 4. The list goes on and on. There was the football player who tried to use me for sex, the time my mom was diagnosed with having a mental illness, the loss of my first love….on and on.
I am not telling you any of this for you to feel sorry for me. What I am learning is that life is a complicated, messy place. We all have struggles, pain and loss. I think with children, especially with little girls, it is important for them to know that they are loved. All the circumstances I listed above left me feeling alone. They left me feeling broken. Each one added on to the unresolved hurt of the other. They made me think something was wrong with me. Not fitting in made me feel like something was wrong with me. People I cared about who passed away left me feeling alone. The guys who broke my heart made me feel not good enough and again like something was wrong with me. Broken is the word.
Every girl goes through it. Your battle may not have looked exactly like mine. Maybe it was a parent passing away or the absence of a father. Maybe it was sexual abuse. Maybe it was a dysfunctional relationship with your mom. Maybe it was bullying at school. Maybe it was a boyfriend who cheated on you. I don’t know your story or struggle, but I know we are similar. I know us girls just want to be loved and feel beautiful. We want a sense of belonging and knowing that we bring to the table is good enough.
One thing that I have come to realize is that who I am, my identity, is not rooted in the things of this world. It is something so heavenly and beyond the sphere of this world. It doesn’t change. The identity I have is in God and it never changes. It tells me I am loved. I don’t have to strive to be beautiful. I am beauty.
If you are a women or girl reading this, I hope you are encouraged to know that you are beauty. You don’t have to strive to be beautiful. You are also loved. So if you ever feel alone or not good enough, please know that voice in your head that says those things is lying. Every time you feel something in you say you are not good enough that is a lie.
My last relationship added to this lie. After it ended, I found myself comparing myself to other girls. I had done this before but now it had become so routine that it was unhealthy. We are not to compare ourselves to others. It is really crazy if you think about it. Does the beautiful boutique of roses in the vase take away from the beauty of the lilies growing in the pond? No. Think of two of your favorite female celebrities who you think are gorgeous. Now tell me this, does one being beautiful take away from the beauty of the other? I didn’t think so. Now change your perspective about yourself and understand that you are YOU. No one else can be you. If you are spending all your time trying to be like everybody else, who will be you in the meantime? You are you and no one else can compare in that area. I firmly believe that every woman is beautiful and that there is an amazingly sovereign God up above who made each of us. I hope you find this to be true for yourself.
In closing, I’d like to tell you about a little girl I met this summer. Her name is Scarlett. I was her camp counselor this summer and to me, she was such a pretty girl but she didn’t see it. One night as me and my cabin were getting ready for bed, she blurted out randomly that she was ugly. I stopped in my tracks when I heard these words. She said it laughingly but I knew she wasn’t kidding. She said it more than once. After that I started to take note of her more. I would watch as she admired the other girls or compared herself to them or followed their every move. I just wanted Scarlett to see how pretty she was. Yes, she was different from the other girls but that is a good thing.
Girls like Scarlett make me passionate about my purpose. I want to make a difference in the lives of girls and young women and help them see their beauty through the lies. I just want other girls to come to a sense of self acceptance. I know that the things I have been through have been a training field for me to help other girls. I hope you are encouraged from reading this and please, please if you take one thing from this, I hope it is that you have no need to compare yourself to others. You are beauty and that’s enough.
My cabin girls and I this summer. (From top left to right) Scarlett, Chandler, Kate, Emma, Lexie and me.