I told myself that I wanted the next piece I wrote to be lighthearted and funny, and that’s what I fully intended to do, until I took a trip home this last week.
While I was home, I came face to face with something that made me take a good look at myself. It was hard, embarrassing, and mostly it broke my heart. It’s crazy how the past comes up in the most unexpected moments and slaps you in the face.
Whenever I go back home, I stay at my parents’ house in the room I grew up in. Nothing has changed. The walls are still yellow with pictures hung up from when I was in high school. There are silly trinkets on the shelves, and prom dresses in the closet. Every time I’m home I find something that I had never noticed before, and it becomes my focus–something that I can use to take me back to when things were simpler. A time when I didn’t have to adult.
This time I found an old journal. Now-a-days I have pretty, leather bound journals with fancy paper. This one was an old black and white composite notebook. So vintage.
I opened the notebook and began reading. Pages of teenage angst came flooding out at me. I know I used to do theater in high school, but on a scale of 1 to 10, the dramatics were at a 15. Everything was the end of my life. I don’t miss those days.
At the beginning of my reading, I couldn’t help but laugh at myself. The problems that I had then are so silly now, and honestly, I hadn’t even remembered a lot of what I wrote about. My entries then started to get a little more serious and more concerning, as I began to talk about my relationship with my ex-boyfriend.
At first, I started writing with that I’m in love with a boy teenage optimism. Before I knew it, I was taking about how he made me mad about something, and suddenly it escalated to entries about him cheating on me. I lashed out about how I hated him and could do better than him, and all of the other things girls say when they feel betrayed. I thank God this was before the days of social media. No subtweets here. Just putting it all on paper. There were about five separate entries about how he was a cheater, liar, jerk and more, before I turned to the entry that stopped me in my tracks.
A few days after I had written about how my boyfriend and I had broken up (due to his philandering ways), I found a page with “The Perfect 10” scrawled across the top. Curious, I began to read. It was a list of all the ways that I thought I could be “perfect 10” so that my boyfriend would stay faithful and love me.
My first reaction was laughter, and immediately following that was intense sadness. Here I was, a 17-year-old girl, in my very first relationship, thinking that I was the reason my boyfriend was a cheater and overall horrible human being. On my list of things I thought I needed to do so that my boyfriend would love me was: “nails always painted, hair straightened, teeth white, be thin, clothes in style, always wear perfume, always be happy, be funny, never bring him down, don’t bring up other girls, don’t start arguments.”
Basically I wanted to be a robot.
How horrible was it that I thought his inability to be faithful and treating me poorly was because of something that I was doing wrong? I didn’t realize until that moment that the emotional abuse started long before I ever thought it did. At 17, I thought that I needed to be something that was absolutely unobtainable. I never once fathomed that he was the one with the problem. I thought that if I could be what my idea of perfect was, then everything would be OK. Of course, it didn’t work out like that. He never treated me any better, and I continued to search for ways to earn his love. Looking back now, this was truly only the beginning of my problems in that relationship. I am sad to say that I never found myself or my voice during that time either. However, I have found it now.
At 30 years old, I can now confidently say that I am an amazing woman. I am kind, smart, funny, strong, and talented [Editor’s Note: And beautiful]. I know that I don’t need to change a thing about myself in order for someone else to love me. If I want to change things for my own benefit, that’s a different story. But I know I will not be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s fine. I’m not meant for everyone. I am a firm believer that we all need to be reminded that we are enough, and that we never need to be more than enough. There will always be things we wish we could change about ourselves, that’s human nature. But even if those things never change, that doesn’t mean that we’re failures.
When I first thought about writing this piece, I was afraid that it would make me look weak. I feared that people would laugh at me for writing such a ridiculous list. Shoot, I laughed at myself! But maybe I’m not the only one who’s had a list. So, in case I’m not, I share this in hopes that you know you are wonderful just the way you are.
If you are currently in a situation where you think you need to change for someone, I urge you to look in the mirror and see the awesome badass you are. If you already know how great you are, then you better WERK! It’s not always easy to see how brightly you shine. Regardless of where on the spectrum you land, remember that you don’t have to change a thing.
You are exactly who God made you to be, and that in itself is perfection.