I figured out why I have been struggling a lot lately and why my thoughts have been so negative. It's been kind of a big realization. It's one of those wake-up calls where every message that comes your way backs up the big "a-ha" and you're left with the evidence of why it is you are suffering. But now the question is, what do I do with the knowledge I have been given? How do I move forward? I trust that just like today, when I was given the final proof and have reached the conclusion, I will find the strength and knowledge on how to keep putting one foot in front of the other while utilizing this wisdom as gain. I will be given the know how.
The big mystery solved, the answer to the "what is going on" and "why do I get to this place time and time again in my life" is that for the majority of my existence I have based my identity on things outside of myself. I have sought my self worth in the opinions of others and have always looked to the wrong things for approval. I believe that I am a kind and caring person worthy of love and acceptance, but I also think I have very low self esteem because I have been looking not to God and the Holy Spirit within me for my acceptance, but to the world's fumbling view.
I made a commitment last week, one in which I have not mastered by any means but which at the very least helped wake me up to all the ways that I distract myself and numb myself so as to keep me from staying present. I committed to stop yelling at my boys. I yell a lot and most of the time it has nothing to do with them. I realized I yell when I am distracting myself from them. My boys are noise makers and constant doers where as I am a quiet seeker and get stuck a lot. I have constant activity in my brain and if I stay focused on what's going on in between my two ears, then everything else, even my children I am utterly ashamed to admit, become the distractions.
I distract myself through my use of Internet. I spend a lot of time searching for answers, and I think the Internet is invaluable for knowledge gain, but it can be so overwhelmingly disruptive to the flow of the day. I look to social media for my self worth, there is no doubt about that. What exactly is social media? It's just people trying to have a relationship behind a screen. It is challenging to do that for someone like myself because you cannot tell if a short response was really intended to be quick and cutting, you cannot distinguish who somebody is from the pictures or status updates they post. Not only that, but for me it was the thing that allowed me to be an impostor and hide behind a facade.
And here's the thing, I can't really be present in life if I am stuck pretending I'm something I'm not. Facebook is a poor substitute for connections, and connections are the number one thing that I struggle with because I have spent my whole life trying to discover who I am in what others think of me that I tend to run away from the people that are really there. The people who probably don't judge me the way I think they do and who just want to love me and see me blossom. I have done it all my life, run away from the people I love. I don't really know why, maybe I am scared that they will be disappointed in me. My perfectionist attitude of all or nothing often crushes any real ability to stay connected. At some point in time I tend to decide I am not wanted or good enough or not like all the others, and I just can't live up to that expectation. And I wonder if to them it looks like I just check out. I regret that this happens, I have lost so many important people because of this.
Here is the thing I have discovered. I have been living this crazy illusion. It's not real, it's all in my head. Because when I am rooted in what matters, all the other labels are just pretend. "Good mom" "bad mom" "better mom" "I bet she never yells at her kids" "I bet she thinks I am terrible person for yelling at my kids" "If I am discovered for who I am and not who I pretend to be, nobody will want me". So many of these feelings started when I was really young. I felt tossed along in childhood and adolescence just wondering "Who am I?" I wanted people to like me, but deep inside I felt that they never would. It just sucks to feel this way. It really does.
I lost sight of what was important in my spiritual journey and that is the hardest part of all of this. Yesterday there was an important message for me to hear and it finally sunk in. I felt the truth to the depths of my very soul and I cried all day. I am loved. And if I look to the One who created me and put me here for a specific purpose, then I can never lose my identity. I have so much beauty inside of me, I have the ability to be everything I know I can be because with God's help I can overcome these character flaws. I am not destined to yell until I die. I just don't believe that I will stay stuck like this forever. The last time I felt this depressed was after my son was born. Then I had the biggest break through of my life right after that. I went to counseling, learned about cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and realized that our thoughts are the only thing we can control. We cannot control the circumstances that we are faced with or what people think about us, but we can control what thoughts we give power to. I am rereading all of the old books that helped me through back in the old "CBT boot camp" days. I also discovered my soul's purpose and embarked on a spiritual journey as well during that time. Before that I was sixteen and so worn down, I just didn't know how I would go on with life. I was lost back then. But then I had a very big break through after that as well. And all along the way I have had people in my life to teach me important things and I have been a teacher, too. Right now I am sharing all of this for someone out there who needs to hear the truth. It is really hard to be vulnerable and it is scary, but truth telling is good because it allows others to know they are not alone.
My identity is not in what others say I am or think I am. It does not matter what people think about me. It's none of my business. It can be spun the other way around as well. It doesn't matter what I think about others, my thoughts about them in no way change who they are. I will never succeed at becoming all that I can be if I stay stuck living in fear that I am not good enough. I have to stop listening to the lies that float around my head. Also pain, this feeling of being so uncomfortable in my own skin that I just want to claw my brain out because the thoughts won't stop; well, that has been really helpful in spite of the irritating and stifling feeling. You cannot run from this, believe me I tried. You can't numb it, hide from it, stomp on it, push it away. You cannot will it to leave or pretend it isn't there. You can only face it. This goes for any and all pain and grief that we walk through. It is hard and it does not feel good. Feeling alone is the worst possible feeling in the whole world. But we are never really alone. And we are loved. That gives me just enough hope to lift my weary head and begin again; and again.
"Courage, not compromise, brings the smile of God's approval." -Thomas Monson
“Breath by breath, let go of fear, expectation, anger, regret, cravings, frustration, fatigue. Let go of the need for approval. Let go of old judgments and opinions. Die to all that, and fly free. Soar in the freedom of desirelessness. Let go. Let Be. See through everything and be free, complete, luminous, at home --at ease.” -Lama Das
“Most people think everybody feels about them much more violently than they actually do; they think other people's opinions of them swing through great arcs of approval or disapproval.” -F. Scott Fitzgerald
“To the degree that we embrace the truth that our identity is not rooted in our success, power, or popularity, but in God's infinite love, to that degree can we let go of our need to judge.” -Nouwen
Who are you? When I ask you that question, what thoughts come to your mind?