Let Your Light Shine

My inner badass is doing backflips. The sad, slightly broken girl I used to be could never imagine a day when someone would hurl the word feminist at me as an insult. Once upon a time, I was the girl who changed her self to make other people happy. I hid who I truly was, always afraid that people would judge me if I let my genuine personality out. I had crippling anxiety, and it led me to spending years pushing people away, and when I did invite someone in, they were usually broken too, but far more broken than me. The boys I dated seemed to all share the same goal: to break me down as far as humanly possible. “You take a pretty girl, and you crush her self-esteem, and then she will be like putty in your hands," this is an actual quote from a guy I dated. It was his advice to a group of guys as if he was bizarro world Tony Robbins giving a motivational speech about achieving your greatest inner dirtbag. They told me I was never good enough, I was pretty, but never pretty enough, not funny enough, never fit enough, my boobs were never big enough, my hair not blonde enough. They told me what I could and couldn’t do or be as if they wrote the rulebook. So many told me, "you'll never do better than me," and "you're lucky to have me." And when we were through I moved on to the next one who wanted to hurt me too, so I can feel the way he did; Someone hurt him, God only knows when, but he was broken long before he met me. And once upon a time I believe those words, I believed that I wasn’t enough, pretty enough, funny enough, smart enough, tall enough, thin enough. However, today I know without a doubt that I am enough. All those boys took a tiny little piece of me, those pieces used to feel much more substantial, but now they are just specks.

I was once a beacon for broken people, which is not in and of itself a bad thing, had I been in a place where I could have offered them the kind of love and support I now have to give. My stories would be far different than they are, but everything in life happens for a reason, and I guess my reasons are so I can share stories like this very one you are reading. You’ll be told to find someone who will (fill in the blank...) treat you well, fix you, be able to handle you, be the man or woman you need. Don’t find someone, find yourself and learn to love yourself. My life has taught me that when you go searching for someone else to love you, you’ll only find the wrong person. Find the strength to completely and wholly love yourself, just as you are right this very moment. You may have some things to work on, to learn, to improve, and that’s okay, we all do, but please do not ever believe the lies we tell ourselves that someone else’s “love” can fix us. Having someone else believe in you and be your champion can be transformative, but other people can't fix us, and we can't fix them. People have to want to fix themselves first, this applies to almost anything, relationships, addicts, poor characteristics like lying and cheating, no one can alter these things but the person who is living them. I wanted to be strong, and I wanted to live without anxiety, I wanted to stop having substance abuse problems and being in abusive relationships, so I did. It has been a long and interesting road, but it is possible to learn to value yourself and go from low self-esteem to radiating positivity and self-confidence. You really do just have to wake up one morning and decide to change. For me, it didn't happen on anyone else's timeline but my own. No matter how much my parents wanted me to stop being a mess or friends wished I could stop dating losers and be the person they knew, it was never enough to snap me out of my destructive cycle.

As children, we were instructed to let our light shine bright. Singers tell you to “shine bright like a diamond,” which seems pretty easy to believe when millions of people adore you; but for the rest of us, it’s hard to believe these words when you don’t feel the love radiating from all around. In my short thirty-two years on Earth I have wizened up, but it took an almost unbearable amount of heartache and pain to realize that my quirks- my crooked nose, my peculiar sense of humor, my tendency to use multiple voices, that’s just me. I make my oldest son shout positive praise about himself every day. I ask him simply, "what are you?" and he knows exactly what to do and enthusiastically shouts: "I am kind, I am smart, I am handsome, I am funny, I am a great artist, I am a good friend, the best big brother, I am a wonderful son, and I am loved!" I as his mother, and as a woman on a journey to continue to repair old wounds should be doing the same thing. I am strong, I am smart, I am a good mother, wife, sister, and daughter, I am beautiful, I am fallible, but I’m doing my best, I am fragile at times, but I have not been broken by the people who desperately tried to smash me into a million little pieces, and I am loved. Why don’t we take a minute every day to remind ourselves of who we truly are? Can you recall when you last looked into a mirror and thought to yourself that you were beautiful? Because you are. You should have scars and marks on you; it shows you have experienced life. My nose isn’t crooked; it’s my father's nose, a facial characteristic passed down throughout generations. My stretch marks, C-section, laparoscopy and hysteroscopy scars aren't hideous to behold; they show the journey I have endured to become a mother. The tattoos covering my back don't make me any less lovable; they are a representation of where I was at that stage of my life. The scar on my left cheek from a broken bottle doesn't make me ugly; it gives my face more personality. These physical characteristics are more than just reminders of who I am and where I have been, some are painful reminders of where I will never allow myself to go again while others link me to my ancestors or remind me of how awesome the human body is. Don’t hide your scars and your pain, embrace them and grow, become indestructible because of them. Always be true to yourself and don’t ever dim your brilliance for anyone else. All along the path to adulthood people will try to take away some of your light, but do not let them have it. Never stop being your wonderful, individual, unique self.T