You’re Worth It

Yesterday rocked me.  Not in a “this was the best day ever” sort of way.  No, yesterday I was brought to a place of self-loathing and degradation that I haven’t visited for quite a while now.  It happened within a span of maybe 5 minutes, and it was a complete stranger who took me there.  I had never met him before, I had absolutely no opinion of him, or need for his approval of me, or desire to impress or offend him whatsoever.  So much of the time, we focus on how our need for approval from those we love and care about can affect our decisions and feelings and actions.  But it is just as much a reality that the right words, or look, or lack thereof, from a person who has absolutely no previous involvement in your life can uproot deep wounds, and rip the stitches right out of a part of you that you thought was starting to heal nicely.

My initial desire was to jump on this keyboard today and blast the story of what happened to me to the world.  Because, can you believe that guy???  But here’s the truth:  sometimes we can get so caught up in the details of an event that we fail to really make space to process how those details have impacted us.  So instead, here’s what’s on my heart.  Maybe if I write it out for all of you, it will help to remind and encourage me as well.

1. YOU KNOW YOUR BODY BEST.  If you are feeling pain, and someone dismisses the idea that there’s anything really wrong, please remember this:  they are not you, so they are not the authority on your pain.  No two injuries, whether physical or emotional, are the same.  Don’t ever let anyone bully or force you into reducing your suffering to a level that makes THEM comfortable, because that decision to dismiss yourself could cause your ailment to become worse without the attention it needs and deserves, and it will cause intangible pain–in the form of second guessing yourself in the future–that far exceeds what you’re experiencing in the moment.  YOU are the authority on YOU, and you should ALWAYS fight like hell to protect and care for yourself, because you’re worth it.

2. BANDAIDS DON’T FIX BULLET HOLES.  Taylor Swift can preach.  This statement doesn’t only holds true when addressing a former friend who’s done you wrong.  It also fully applies to the level of care and love you give yourself.  We are so quick to throw a bandaid on our wounds and keep on going, because any strong person would, right?  But do you know what happens when a broken bone isn’t set and casted and allowed to heal properly?  It’s prone to re-injury in the future…permanent, painful re-injury that is even harder to heal.  So give your injury a chance to heal.  Give your grief time to subside.  Validate your feelings of mistrust when you’ve been mistreated.  You are not a robot.  You are a perfect creation of intricate, delicate, resilient pieces that should be treated with the upmost care and attention, because you’re worth it.

3. YOU DON’T HAVE TO PERFORM FOR ANYONE.  Sometimes, when we’ve been suffering for what feels like forever, we notice that our pain is making those around us uncomfortable.  It’s not that they don’t understand why we aren’t peppy and bright, but we’re conditioned from a young age to respond simply and positively to the question, “how are you?”.  When our response is an honest, but not-so-cheerful response, it can disrupt the perceived natural order of things.  So we (translation=I) tend to start acting peppy even when we’re feeling terrible, because there’s no sense in dragging the world down with us.  Now, I’m not saying that there isn’t a lot of worth in thinking positively and optimistically about even the most dismal of situations.  I’m a HUGE believer in not losing hope.  But sometimes you’re exhausted and you need the tiny bit of energy you have left within you to work on the healing process, so you don’t need to waste that energy on entertaining others.  You are allowed to have bad days, bad weeks, bad months, even bad years and it doesn’t make you less of a value to the world around you.  You can and should be honest with the people who love you, and whom you love and trust, because those people, even if they are a little taken back by your admittance of struggle, will continue to love you, and you deserve to feel that love, because…can you guess?  You’re worth it!

4. YOU ARE NOT WHAT SOME JERK DOCTOR WHO HAS KNOWN YOU FOR 3 MINUTES SAYS YOU ARE.  Ok, that example was pretty specifically for myself.  But it’s true for whoever you want to insert into the “jerk doctor” part of the sentence.  There are people who have known you for years and couldn’t possibly make a judgment call on your mental or emotional stability, because you are a constantly changing, evolving, growing human being.  So don’t you for a second let the flippant, rash opinion of a stranger grab a hold of your truth sensors and tell you that you’re less than.  You have strengths, and weaknesses, and intelligence, and reasoning, and abilities that nobody but you has.  You are exactly who you are supposed to be right now.  If you seek the advice of someone about a certain struggle you are having, please weigh carefully what they know of the situation before you take their word as gold.  And if you haven’t solicited their advice, and they aren’t a person who cares deeply about your personal well-being, then screw them.  They do not have permission to make a judgment on any part of your character, or well-being, or physical or mental state, and you certainly do not have an obligation to respond politely or with appreciation for their unrequested garbage.  You always deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, in all situations. Because, and please hear me: You. Are. Worth. It.  il_570xN.755451938_iorq

This New Respect For Myself

I’m sitting in the airport as I write this. I’m heading to see my parents for a few days. I haven’t seen them in about 8 months, and I’m looking forward to staying up late, eating a giant bowl of cereal while my mom and I gab into the night, or making a run to Lowe’s with my dad, just the two of us, and sharing with him about all the great things happening in my life right now; he’s a terrific listener.  A few years ago, there’s no way I would be taking this random trip alone, and here’s why:

I’ve been a people pleaser my whole life. I don’t think this is the worst thing in the world. Because of my need to focus on the happiness of others, I get to experience these really tender moments of catching someone off guard when they aren’t expecting to be catered to.  I love seeing others feel loved and cared for, especially when it’s someone who doesn’t get to feel that very often. I wouldn’t trade my “gift of service” for anything. But it has its drawbacks, too.  I tend to be so concerned with other people’s comfort and happiness that I will sacrifice my own needs and wants for the cause.  Sometimes this is right and noble and good.  Other times, it’s just silly and it doesn’t benefit the receiver or myself at all.  One area of my life that has been heavily affected by my need to please is my marriage.

Time in therapy has helped my hubby and I realize that our combination of “baggage” is like the perfect storm. For years, we fed off each other’s unhealthy tendencies the same way I pig out at an all-you-can-eat dessert bar: it was sticky and messy and we loved and hated every minute.  My husband brought a strong parenting complex to the same table I was dishing out my “please love me”‘s at. So it played out like this: I would ask for validation for EVERYTHING, which fed into his compulsion to direct me in everything, which reaffirmed my need for his approval, which solidified his bend toward expressing approval or disapproval for every decision I made, and round and round we went. At our worst, I was so nervous about receiving disapproval from my husband that I would hide tic tacs to snack on in secret, because I enjoyed eating them more like candy and he had a strong opinion (that he freely and firmly would express to me, should he see me munching on them) that tic tacs were meant to be eaten one at a time, as any breath freshener should be.  It seems like such a ridiculous issue now, but 3 years ago this was a very real problem for us.  Needless to say, if eating a little box of tic tacs without concern was an issue, the idea of taking a solo trip to see my parents for a few days was a non-issue, because it wouldn’t have even been put on the table to begin with.

At that point in my journey, and in our marriage, I would never have even brought something like this up, because the moment the idea struck my mind, a hundred other thoughts would have talked me out of it.

If I’m gone for 4 days, he’ll have to take care of the dog by himself. 

I shouldn’t be spending money on a trip that’s just for me.

He’a going to have to drive me to the airport and pick me up, and that might be a hassle with his work schedule. 

All of these reasons and more would have convinced me that even bringing up the idea would be selfish, and a waste of time. Because although he wouldn’t tell me “no”, any hint of displeasure was just as definite to me as an actual no would be, and would make me quickly retract my request altogether.  I had such a low regard for my own needs and wants that I would constantly over analyze every decision I wanted to make to determine who it might affect, how it might affect them, and whether those effects might put anyone out on ANY level. If the answer to that last piece was yes, I would retract and rethink my decision, no matter how badly I wanted something or how much it put me out to change my direction.

Then one day my therapist asked me something that changed everything for me. She asked me, “Jennifer, what would happen if you just made that decision for yourself anyway, even if it did upset someone? What’s the worst case scenario, realistically?”

I didn’t have a great answer for her question that day, but the idea has stuck with me and here’s what I’ve discovered: when I consider myself in my decisions, turns out worst case scenario isn’t that bad.  In fact, sometimes–a lot of times–worst case scenario doesn’t even come close to happening! What DOES happen when I trust myself and care for myself in my life choices, is that I gain the respect of those around me.  My husband starts looking to me to make more decisions, because he sees that I’m not only capable, but willing to do that.  My friends become more aware of me in plans that we make, so they happily ask for my input when choosing activities or dining options.  My family is understanding when I say I can’t visit or do certain favors, because I have set boundaries and clear expectations so that nobody expects more from me than I can reasonably provide.  At first, making this shift in my priorities was uncomfortable on an excruciating level. Like, I’m talking painful.  Tears would be shed over asserting to friends that I really DIDN’T want to go to a Mexican restaurant for dinner.  But then it got a little less stressful, and I started feeling a little bolder, and then one day I made a decision for myself and actually felt really good about it!  And I realized that I was worth it.  I AM worth it! I am worth considering, and I am worth making sacrifices for, and the people who love me get JOY from seeing me happy and loving me well.

So tell me, what is your worst case scenario? What do the whispers in your subconscious tell you about your worth compared to others?  Where is your confidence lacking, and what do you think would happen if you flipped the script?  Do you have all those terrible and scary answers in your head right now?  Good.  Now I challenge you to tell those thoughts to bite you, and step out of your box on faith!  Do something for yourself today that is really scary and just trust that it isn’t going to end in tragedy.  Embrace the idea that you might actually find that YOU are worth it!  And if it feels like that thing you want to do is so scary that you’re choking on your fear, grab a glass of water, take a big gulp, and push past that moment, and I promise the other side will be so much more than you could ever imagine.  Let’s change the world by loving ourselves a little better today!  il_570xN.755451938_iorq

That Summer When I Was Ten

***Trigger Warning: This post is very raw for me, and it contains some mildly graphic descriptions.  Please be aware that this post could be a trigger for some.***

It was summer.  For any ten year old, summer means two things: no school, and tons of time with friends.  For me, it meant those things, as well.  But it meant something else, too.  You see, my dad was in school, working toward a degree in Meteorology.  My mom was working full time, so during the summer, my dad took time off from school to watch us, so that my brothers and I wouldn’t have to go to daycare.  In theory, this was a perfect setup.  We got to stay home for two months, playing outside and watching old sitcoms, lounging around in our pajamas until whatever hour we felt like changing into play clothes.  And that’s pretty much how it went for my brothers.  For me, there was a different routine.

You see, every morning that my mom went to work, my dad invited (translation: forced) me to join him in our family room for daddy-daughter time.  At the start of the summer, this felt like the most special time for me.  I had always been a daddy’s girl, ever since my mom married my step-dad when I was five.  Never having met my biological father, and having had a rough start to life with my mom’s first husband, I had embraced this man with an open heart.  He was my daddy, and I was his baby girl.  Like all daddy’s girls, I knew I could get my way most of the time with a bat of my eyelashes and an extra tight squeeze around his waist.  At ten years old, I thought of this behavior as playful and loving.  I would come to realize much later in life that my dad received it as flirtation.  So when our private morning times began, I secretly felt like the “favorite” when my dad wouldn’t let my brothers come into the room while we sat and watched The Price Is Right together.

I can’t remember when the change started happening.  At some point that summer, my dad began having me sit on his lap while we watched TV, instead of sitting next to him on the couch.  I remember feeling uncomfortable because he was always just in his robe and underwear.  But I thought, even at that young age, that there must be something wrong with me that I would feel weird about sitting on my dad’s lap.  After all, he seemed perfectly happy and didn’t act like it was weird at all.  So I grinned and snuggled and acted like I was happy, too.  Sometimes my brothers would try to come into the family room, either to tell on each other for something, or to ask for a snack, or if they could go play outside.  Every time they would try to come in, especially if I was sitting on my dad’s lap, he would yell at them to get out.  That started feeling weird to me after a while, too.  But who was I to question my dad’s authority?

One morning, I came into the family room with a nervous request.  The day before, a friend had invited me to go to the movies with her and her family.  I had completely forgotten to ask my parents while my mom was home that night.  So there I was, at my morning visit with my dad, and I had to ask him if it was ok for me to go.  I wasn’t nervous that he would say no.  I somehow knew what I would have to do to get him to say yes, and that made me nervous.

It was the first time I remember kissing my dad on the mouth.  We might have exchanged a mutual peck on the lips, like most parents do with their little ones, before.  But this was different.  This was…

“Daddy, can I please go with Susan and her parents to the movies today?” I held my breath.

“I don’t know, baby, it’s going to cost you.” He grinned.

“I have money, daddy.  I have it saved up in my bank.” Problem solved.

“No, I don’t mean it will cost you money.  It’s going to cost you something else.”  He touched my leg and I shuddered.  I didn’t know why.  “It’s going to cost you a kiss.”

“Ok!” I bounced in for a peck.  That was easy!

“No, this is going to cost you a much better kiss than that.” Silence, and that grin.

I had never kissed a boy, but I knew what he meant.  I felt something similar to what you feel when you lean in for that first real kiss with your middle school crush.  But it didn’t feel like butterflies.  It felt like rocks, pelting the inside of my gut as I slowly moved my face toward my dad’s mouth.  His lips were a little wet, and they were opened just enough that he was able to close them around my lips as we met.  It felt like a year that I sat there, not moving a muscle, completely unsure of what I was supposed to do next, praying that this would be enough.  Finally, my dad pulled away from me, picked me up, and plopped me down on the couch next to him.

That time, it was enough.  I got my movie date.  And for a short time, my dad didn’t have me sit on his lap during our morning times.  We sat side by side, watching The Price Is Right, and I wondered why I had felt so weird about what had happened between us.  After all, it was just a kiss.


This is the first time I can remember second guessing my instincts.  I knew something was really wrong, but I told myself that I was making a big deal out of nothing.  Because he was my dad, he loved me, he was a grown up, I never told him I was uncomfortable, and a million other excuses that floated through my head.  That summer developed into a pattern of me second guessing my intuition, until I no longer listened to it at all.

That feeling isn’t unique to an innocent 10 year old girl and her experience.  As adults, we ignore our instincts all the time, and we justify other people’s poor behavior with a million different excuses.  He’s my boss, she’s my friend, I don’t want to be embarrassed, maybe I’m reading this all wrong… Certainly, if a child confides in you that they feel uncomfortable about ANYTHING, please listen to them.  Children don’t tend to make stuff up that makes them feel uncomfortable.  But even if it’s not a child.  Even if it’s your own head telling you something is off, or a relationship isn’t right for you, or a work environment is weird, LISTEN.  Listen to that still, small whisper in your head telling you to run.  Listen to that voice that says you shouldn’t be talked to that way, or looked at that way, or asked to do those things, or told not to do those things.

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I was given a book years ago by a dear friend who helped me through one of the toughest situations I’ve faced as an adult.  I was struggling with a LOT of self doubt, and I was faced with making some big decisions that I was scared to death I would mess up.  My friend gave me a book called The Gift Of Fear by Gavin De Becker.  It was one of the most insightful books I have ever read.  If you struggle with self doubt, with second guessing yourself, please go get this book and devour it.  And please know that your mind was created to function FOR you, not against you.  You are so much smarter and braver than you think, and you are capable of making the BEST decisions for YOU that nobody else can.  No go be bold and love yourself!

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