I matter.

Friday, December 15, 2017

I haven't always taken very good care of myself.

Sure, I do my best to keep healthy habits like exercising regularly and eating well. But I often come up short. I went to the gym this week for the first time in months. I often skip meals, justifying the hunger by telling myself there's no time to eat. Six hours later I'm snarfing down cookies and junk from my pantry.

This isn't new behavior for me. I've always tried to make myself smaller in every way possible.

That is, until last month. I had a really traumatic experience in my church community. I was manipulated and falsely accused of wrongdoing. So hurtful and shame-producing was this experience that I had one of my worst-ever panic attacks. Eventually the situation was resolved and I was returned to good standing in my church. What was most surprising to me was how transformational this experience was.

Instead of letting my shame silence me, I took to Facebook and shared the experience publicly. I refused to be quiet about such a hurtful misdeed, as it affected not only myself but others in my community. Some may argue that the posting was immature and made the problem worse. A month later, I still stand by my actions. It was empowering for me to do and say what I did. 

I refuse to take ownership of other's judgments of me.
I will not sit down. I will not shut up.
I refuse to make myself smaller.
There is room enough for everyone, 
including me.

In addition to sharing publicly, I also took my concerns to church leadership. I was met with love and understanding. But what was more valuable to me than receiving validation was the strength and inner knowing that was growing inside me. 

I faced unimaginable opposition and handled it with grace. 
I stood up for myself to an authority figure in a terrifying situation.
I used my voice in ways I had never thought I was able to. 
I voiced my anger, my sadness, my fear in real time instead of months or years afterward. 
I walked away from this incredible experience with two words that have followed me ever since.

"I matter."

I think about skipping breakfast until I remember, I matter. So I grab a granola bar on my way out the door to take my daughter to preschool. Every day, I take a break from mom life and read a book. I schedule my dental appointment to get some cavities filled. I brave the yoga class I've been craving.  I still question myself. I still sometimes hesitate to share my thoughts, or to write a post, but those words are etched on my heart. I hear them whispering to me all the time now. 

I matter.

This is no small victory. Loving oneself rarely is. 

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