I once thought I had the whole “love yourself and who you are” thing completely under control. In high school I spent so much time saying whatever I felt like that I ignored the effect it had on others. Once out of high school I did a complete 180˚ and didn’t say anything that could possibly be offensive (including telling people when they’d hurt me or expressing my own desires) for fear that I would somehow hurt or anger them. My rational was this- what makes my happiness, if it interferes with the desires of others, more important? But, the further I got into relationships and friendships the more I started to realize that something was missing. I was forgetting that I am important too.
My lowest point was when I agreed to do something that was actively breaking my heart and even hurting my health because “maybe they really need me to serve them!” I thought that if I was strong enough I could control how I felt, choose to be happy and then serve the person that was hurting me. Once those words, “maybe they really need me to serve them,” left my mouth I realized what a bitter and destructive taste they possessed. The next day, dazed by my realization that hurting myself for someone else was wrong but unable to figure out why it couldn’t be the way I wanted it to be, I stumbled across the TEDtalk by Brené Brown called “The Power of Vulnerability.” As I listened to that talk she explained that people that have a strong sense of love and belonging BELIEVE that they are worthy of love and belonging. They don’t believe they have to earn it, like I did, but believe that they simply deserve it. I cried that day. Laying on my bed, alone in my apartment, I cried like I hadn’t cried in years. I finally realized that somewhere along the road I’d forgotten that I didn’t have to earn everyone’s love by being perfect but that I deserve their love because I exist. And I also realized that I just because I can’t always will myself into being happy doesn’t mean I’m failing, it just means that I’m recognizing and dealing with hurt. I can’t control everything. That was the biggest thing. I CANNOT CONTROL EVERYTHING. I have to be vulnerable and relinquish the control that vulnerability requires me to relinquish in order to make lasting and meaningful connections.
Dr. Brown said, “We can't opt out of the uncertainty, exposure, and emotional risks that are woven through our daily experiences. Like it or not, vulnerability is coming, and we have to decide if we’re going to open up to it or push it away. The only choice we really have is how we're going to respond to feeling vulnerable. And contrary to popular belief, our shields don't protect us. They simply keep us from being seen, heard, and known.”
Now, this is new to me. I’m still horrible at it. My best friend Brie, who is the kindest and most patient person I know, tells me almost every time we talk, “Elisabeth, you have to stop trying to control it and just let go.” She knows me better than almost anyone and it scares the living daylights out of me because I’ve never been so SEEN and loved anyways. But I know that someday I’ll get there and that I’ll finally realize that letting myself being seen by the people that have earned that right and loved me for me is a beautiful and freeing thing. Everyone is beautiful and deserving of love and I’ve known that forever but it is only until recently that I’ve realized it applies to me too. I have worth. And so do you.