As long as I can remember I’ve just wanted to make people happy. And admittedly, I wanted to so they would accept me.
But that was just not the case.
In elementary school, I was the girl raised by her dad. I wore thick, huge glasses and usually sported a short boyish haircut.
I wanted friends but I usually ended up being the butt of jokes or the object of a prank. I’d go home crying only to be reminded that I wasn’t at school to make friends. I was there to learn.
One time I liked a boy in my class. When word got out, my “friends” decided it would be funny for the boy to pretend he liked me too. This only lasted about 15 minutes before another little girl let me in on the secret… in front of everyone.
How could I have believed that a boy would like me? The funny theme of school that day.
I carried that story and others like it for many years. It doesn’t matter how many people have told me over the years that I’m beautiful or pretty. When I look in the mirror, I still see that awkward four-eyed little girl that no boy could ever like.
When I was in junior high, I was on the dance team. One Friday night before the game all of us girls were busy getting ready. Part of that process was having our hair French-braided. Most of the moms were there helping their daughters to get dressed. My mom wasn’t. She was somewhere living between Mobile and Mississippi at the time. I’m not even sure when I had talked to her last.
As one mom took the time to braid my hair, I remember overhearing another mom complaining. “Their moms should be here doing this. We’re trying to get our own daughters ready.”
I didn’t want to go back after that night. But I finished out the season and never joined another extra-curricular activity for the rest of my time in school.
For a long time, asking for help was not an option. Because asking for help is an inconvenience to others. I must be capable and strong to do it on my own. And if I can’t, then I shouldn’t even try.
I was never angry at the elementary kids, or the mom who said those hurtful words on that Friday night. I was never even angry with my own mom. I can only remember being mad with one person… and that person was me.
Why couldn’t I get it together? Why couldn’t I be better? Why wasn’t I the kind of person that these people would actually like?
I hope you don’t feel sorry for me. Because there are many women out there with similar or even worse stories. Even my own story gets worse before it gets better.
I’m telling this small part of my story to let you know it’s OK to be hurt by things from long ago. And it’s even OK if you’ve carried them with you. But you don’t have to take them any farther.
When you hide from those hurtful memories, you’re not hiding from the ones who did the hurting, you’re hiding from who you were when you were hurt. I hid from that gangly, goofy four-eyed little girl and preteen dancer. Angry with her for what she did to me. If she had been better I wouldn’t be hurt.
And I’m not sure I’ve ever trusted any other version of myself since. I never knew if she would be able to hold it together. Or would she let me down again. So I did some pretty serious damage to her all for the sake of trying to make others happy. To be accepted.
Thankfully, about 3 years ago, the Lord knocked my feet right out from under me. On a seemingly normal day at work I could no longer be strong, I could no longer hold it in, I could no longer pick myself back up. And in the process I knew that if I didn’t start loving myself, no one else would. If I didn’t choose myself and take care of myself, no one would do that either.
And I’ve slowly been learning to do just that.
If you want to heal a wound, you have to acknowledge that it’s there. And even a small wound can lead to serious infection if not cared for properly.
So maybe the first step is to take a look at some of the wounds you’ve been ignoring. Not for a pity-party. Not to wear them as some badge of martyrdom. But to take them to the only One capable of bringing any healing for them.
He already sees them. And chances are He’s already tried to heal them a few times before. But if we ever want to move forward, to overcome we must learn to let those old open wounds be transformed into closed and healed scars. Scars that are not reminders of the pain we’ve experienced but of the grace we have received.
And it is in that grace that we learn to love ourselves. And in loving ourselves, we learn to truly love others.