“You are amazing just the way you are.”
Call me selfish, but that is what I wanted to hear.
I heard it from my husband, and I knew he meant it. I was grateful for that, but I wanted to hear it from somebody who was not related to me. At that time, I was not convinced that my worth extended beyond the borders of family.
But I heard nothing, except for the voice in my head that was constantly screaming:
“YOU ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH!”
I heard that phrase loud and clear when we were the only family amongst all of our friends who did not get a plate of cookies from the friendly “Halloween Ghost” who was circling the neighborhood with goodies.
I heard it when my child was the only one his age in our tight-knit apartment community who was not invited to participate in the preschool co-op, and when he asked me with tears in his eyes why he could not attend. (I was sure that it was me who was not wanted in the group – not him.)
I heard it on many occasions when I took my kids to the playground where several other moms I knew were watching their kids, and nobody said a single word to me. Instead they talked about all of the things that they did without me, even though I was standing right there.
I sometimes heard it when I fell short of the domestic achievements that came so easily to the homemaker extraordinaire’s whom I loved and looked up to. As hard as I tried to emulate them by baking bread from scratch and canning bushels of fruit, my bread often failed to rise (and my kids asked Santa for store bread for Christmas because they hated my version of the homemade stuff), and I just did not enjoy the exhausting process of canning fruit.
It played in my head like a broken record when my strong-willed children tested every ounce of patience that I had, leaving me feeling like a failure at the end of countless days, weeks, and months.
For years I felt like a fish out of water and often asked myself what was wrong with me. Was I not good enough to be included? Why couldn’t I find my place amongst so many people? Would I ever be able to teach my children to behave when they fought me incessantly with their stubborn strong-wills?
It was a difficult and lonely period of my life that left me absolutely convinced that I would never be good enough as a person or as a mother. When we drove away from that apartment en route to our next destination, there were no tears. I did not even look back.
While I would never want to go back and relive that experience, I can tell you now that I am grateful for the things that I learned in the process. I’m not sure exactly when or how it happened. I only know that at some point after we moved to a new area, I slowly came to understand that I was okay – that I could accomplish great things if I turned to God and stopped allowing my inadequacies to hold me hostage. I realized that it did not matter what everybody else was doing, or if they were doing it better than I was. My tendency to focus on my weaknesses (often in comparison to others’ strengths) was holding me back from reaching my potential in a major way.
For the first time in years – maybe in my whole life – I felt the buds of confidence growing inside of me, and I have never looked back.
We have moved several times since then. Each new place has introduced me to new people and a different dynamic. I have been left out on many occasions, sometimes rather blatantly. I have not always fit in with the crowd. At times I have felt like an outsider in the midst of a sea of talented individuals. My kids have given me a run for my money more times than I can count.
But I no longer allow those things to define me.
Thanks to a few good friends and a whole lot of divine intervention, I have learned that my worth is not determined by what other people think of me, my perception of what they think of me, or whether or not they invite me to a girl’s night out. It is not determined by how well I cook or whether or not my bread rises. It is not determined by how my children behave or how quickly they learn the lessons that I set out to teach them.
What matters is what God thinks of me and what I think of myself.
So, take it from one who has been through the gauntlet and understands how difficult is to escape from that place…
You are OK. You are enough.
Even if you are not always included.
Even if you are not “popular.”
Even if you are different from your friends and acquaintances.
Even if you cannot afford to dress in the latest fashions.
Even if you sometimes wonder why you do not fit in.
Even if your house is not always clean.
Even if you sometimes lose your cool with your kids.
Even if you feel insecure.
Even if you secretly struggle.
Even if you are not perfect.
On the days when you are unsure of yourself and wonder if you are the only one who struggles with feelings of inadequacy, remember that you are not alone, that it is possible to overcome such paralyzing feelings with God’s help, and that I am rooting for you.