My future was bright … if one were to judge my life by the socially imposed checklists by which we usually measure success. I was popular in school. I was an honors student from a good home. But at the age of 16, I found myself spiraling into a hopeless seven-year dark night of the soul.
As I headed to college, I masked my depression and medicated my pain with cold medicine—and other sleep-inducing medications. Ages 16-23 are a painful blur. I only remember the hollowness of my soul impaled by deep despair.
After graduation, I felt more confused and alone! I battled suicidal thoughts but my faith in God kept a small flicker of hope burning. Deep down, underneath my heartbreak, I still believed that my life could change.
I remember the night it did. It was a Saturday evening and my sister was out with her new boyfriend. She’d scored tickets to a movie premiere I wanted to attend. When she told me she only had two tickets and one was for him, I felt so lost and left behind. I cried for hours until I felt my heart would break. Suddenly, I heard my grandma’s voice tell me “Get up. Heartbreak can kill a person.” Although she was miles away, she seemed to be right in the room. And the words that I’d once heard her utter in my childhood came back to save me.
My tears turned into a prayer. I asked God for the strength and wisdom to change. I got up from my knees determined to fight for my emotional health. My change was gradual and often painful. I read my Bible and listened to sermons—searching for hope and purpose. But I knew I had to do more than read and be inspired, because transformation is the result of taking action.
Over time, I realized that many factors fed into my depression. One of the primary culprits was that I had fallen into the trap of living up to images. I was more invested in what others thought of me than I was in being me. Social pressure can make it hard to honor your own voice, but I learned there are three things we must speak up for:
The first is our truths. We can heal and thrive when we refuse to remain captive to others’ perceptions. The extent to which we can be transparent and open determines the freedom and self-acceptance we are able to enjoy. Opting for pretense instead of reality results in emotional imprisonment.
We must also speak up for our boundaries. The word no is a complete sentence. Knowing when and how to draw lines in our relationships helps us to avoid unnecessary stress and becoming overwhelmed. Our “nos” create the boundaries that are critical to helping us establish and maintain our identity.
Finally, we must stand up for our feelings. We have to work with and through our feelings in order to maintain a healthy outlook and attitude. Denial used to be my default for handling intense emotions. If someone hurt me, rather than face the pain and confront them, I would minimize the impact on my feelings. I became so numb that I found it difficult to connect with myself.
Are you living in an image trap? Throughout the next week, pay special attention to how you show up in different social settings. Note the moments you feel uncomfortable or inadequate. How do you handle those times?
Define your wealth! Affirm aloud “God wants to use me just as I am to change the world!” Practice journaling to help increase your self-awareness. Being clear on your identity will help you live with freedom and passion. It’s time for you to live your worth!