The unknown has always stressed me out. It has taken me two weeks and three separate attempts to write this blog post. But today I want to address both the voices of my self-doubt and other things that may cause any of us out there to experience low self-esteem and lack of confidence. The voices of self-doubt are loud but settle in…there are a lot of things to unpack here.
These are some of voices in my head:
I can’t do this.
I’m not good enough.
I do not have what it takes to succeed.
I am scared that I will fail so why even try?
Those are all voices that come from my self-doubt. Doubt–specifically self-doubt is pernicious. It’s not like doubting things about my faith–where I’m questioning and wanting to understand more.
It comes from within and without and feeds like a parasite on all my energy to accomplish my goals or even just wake up in the morning to start the day. And let me tell you, lately those voices of self-doubt have been shouting at me.
I desperately want to being seminary again (this time at an affirming one doing mostly online work). I know this is what I want to do and am meant to be doing with my life. But also, I know I feel unworthy. I feel a sense of shame because others in my life have told me I’d never get this far, or that I shouldn’t do this or that, or that I will fail.
I’d like address some more specific voices in my head. First, my ex-boyfriend/rapist. Because we dated for practically three years while I was 19-21 years old, and because they were such formative years of my life, his voice is still in my head, tearing me down on occasion. So, on his 25th birthday last week, I wrote him a letter:
You will be 25 years old this week. Yes, I still remember your birthday. Some years, January 10th passes by and I barely notice. And some years, it’s a mark of how your memory stays etched in my subconscious.
Recently, my parents dared utter your name in an email and hearing your name makes me sick.
Part of me wants to say, “Happy Birthday, you son of a bitch. I hope you rot in hell.” but another part of me just wants to know that maybe one day you’ll be held accountable for your actions. And that your wife isn’t subject to the same horrors I was.
I am writing this because I had a nightmare a few nights ago that you showed up back in my life. I had to google you to make sure you weren’t living anywhere close to me. Only then did I discover that you are no longer in England studying at Oxford but working on your PhD at Notre Dame. Indiana isn’t close…but still seems too close for comfort.
I’m just now getting to live my life while you were able to go on living yours like nothing happened. You were able to get married and pursue your academic goals.
I know I shouldn’t even let you take up any more space in my head. But when I write, I get my power back and suffocate the power you had over me. You took my hopes and dreams and crushed them. You told me pursuing my own goals for school would take longer, because you wanted me to marry you first and let you live YOUR dream. You told me I was a slower learner, that I wasn’t a good writer. You told me the plural of pair was pair not pairs so rudely one time. And, god damn it, I wish you’d grow a pair and respect women instead of talking over them.
Here I am standing back up after you knocked me down for years. Here I am standing back up–hoping and dreaming again. Loving again. Or perhaps loving for the first time because I finally understand what love is.
Love is patient. Love is kind. Love does not envy and is not proud. It is not self-seeking. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
You were none of these things and you took everything from me. I have somehow believed that you have taken my worth away. But I would like to inform you that you have no power here any longer.
Secondly, another voice, but a positive one that I’d like to respond to. That of my fiance:
You have brought breath into my lungs that were gasping for air. No, literally…you remind me to breathe when I forget.
I did not know what my heart was missing until I met you.
I know you are not super human–that you possess no super powers or godlike qualities.
But you hold my hand when I’m scared and hug me when life hurts. You are always kind and you allow me to be myself. You demand nothing more of me than to exist and be completely happy.
You make me feel how a sunrise makes me feel as the sky is just waking up. Or how a sunset over the trees ends a perfect day spent with you. You light up my life like the sun lights up the moon.
You remind me why I’m still here. Because life is worth living when you have love in your life. Love that is patient and kind. Love that does not envy and is not proud. A love that is not self-seeking. Love that always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Lastly, the voice I would like to address is my own with a meditation I wrote to calm myself down:
I am bad at it–because it’s a thing you don’t try to control. The goal is to just be and let the thoughts come. The only problem is that I have so many thoughts.
I’m ok letting them come but not so great at letting them go. And then there’s the breathing.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Inhale. Exhale.
Chest rising and falling.
Everything will be ok. Everything is not ok. But it will be and it’s better.
You are safe. You are loved. You are not alone.
Lastly, you are enough. It’s a mantra. A prayer that I repeat from God. It is woven into the fabric of creation when God said that everything God made was good. It was good. It is good. It is enough. You are enough. What was taken can be restored.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Inhale. Exhale.
Chest rising and falling. In rhythm with the wind in the trees and my heart beating…
You are enough.