Growing up, I always felt insecure. I wasn’t the prettiest sister. I wasn’t the most athletic or talented sister or even the smartest sister, although I made good grades in school. I was the middle child. As most middle children will lament, I did not always get my “fair share” of attention. I…….was a thinker. I pondered things even as a small child. I had an insatiable thirst for knowledge and wisdom. I wanted to know why people acted a certain way and how I could learn from their choices.
Somewhere along the way, I learned that my opinions didn’t matter. No one wanted to hear them. I was best liked when I didn’t try to go deep into conversations. I began to mold myself to whatever friend I was with. Eventually, even though I knew who I was and what I wanted in life, I stopped being authentic and true to myself. I lived for the approval of those around me who questioned my sincerity and accused me of bad intentions. The more someone disapproved of me, the more I tried to convince them that I was good.
This carried over into my choices as a teenager. Unfortunately, it led to a very tumultuous 16 year relationship that very nearly mortally wounded me in every way. Somewhere in my late twenties, I began a shift. For the first time since I was probably five years old, I started to get angry. Angry at being suppressed. Angry at always having to be the one to give. Angry at not being accepted for who I am. Part of this change was brought on because my body was literally giving out on me. I was so sick all the time I could barely get out of bed. Sometimes when the body is weak, the soul becomes exposed and it is impossible to keep the demons that haunt us at bay. They must be confronted and dealt with.
This time period was like a great awakening for me. For the first time, I started to understand the magnitude of the great love the Father had for me. I understood that he made me the way I am for a reason. I understood that I have a purpose and a mission that is unique to me. I understood that my path was laid out before me by God, not man. I understood that I do have a voice and that God was pleased with me through Jesus, not anything I do or don’t do. For the first time in my life, I stopped trying to earn God’s approval and just rested in his love and acceptance of me as his beloved child.
Letting go of the need to be perfect, the need to please everyone, and the need to control everything in my life was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’m not going to lie, sometimes it is still hard. I find myself in friendships where the other person tries to pull from my strength and I start to feel myself being sucked into old patterns of giving too much of myself away. It is harder than it appears to find people to be in relationships with who understand that you are a distinct person with defined boundaries. As much as my personality would like to be able to, I cannot “make” anyone else feel like a complete person at the expense of my own soul any longer.
I am told that I am a strong person, and I am. I am told that I am confident, and I am. I no longer feel that neediness inside. I am okay being alone. I enjoy my life, as crazy as it gets sometimes. I have balanced friendships in my life with people that I can trust and confide in. I have a relationship with God that is rock solid. He has taught me to be bold and courageous again.
I am also aware that there are still things that I need to work on. There are never enough hours in the day. As a single mom who has way too many irons in the fire, it can be overwhelming. My worst day now is better than my best days before and I am grateful. It is hard for me to trust people. Letting people into my heart is tough. Not because I think they are bad, rather I am still learning to balance the need to be vulnerable while not letting the boundaries of where I end and the other person begins get fuzzy and diluted.
Co-dependent behaviors and attitudes strip a person of their dignity. They wreck your self-esteem and place you in the path of an oncoming mack truck emotionally. Whatever work you have to do to heal and get off of that path, I would encourage you to do it. Take care not to cross over and start traveling the rocky path of isolation and hate lest you become the controlling, manipulative person that almost consumed you.
Personally, I find this balance by strengthening my relationship with my creator and gaining perspective from the Bible. There is wisdom there that can be applied to my life. I also stay involved in activities that feed my soul. I run, work out, play music, read books, talk to friends, go to church, etc…It is an amazing feeling to be able to look back and see how far you’ve come and realize that hope is free and readily available and you don’t have to live a life bound by fear, doubt, and self-hate.