Many of us search for our love for ourselves in the validation of others. Seeking to find our worth and value of ourselves in others will lead to a life full of confusion and disappointments. As, parents we have to be careful in training our children not to seek the validation of themselves or find their identity through that of their peers or even us for the matter.
I can remember as a little girl through my teen years feeling an emptiness, lacking love for myself, confidence, and having a lost identity because of some of the things mentioned above. My mom would buy me a cute little outfit, and she would ask me what my peers at school thoughts were on my outfit. I can remember the pressures of being the only girl and granddaughter growing up as a child. There was a lot pressure, responsibilities, and high expectations in being the only daughter and granddaughter around in my close immediate family growing up.
I know most would think that being the only girl around in between two brothers and the only granddaughter around for the most part that I would’ve been a spoil brat! It was the complete opposite. I was trained more to take care of everyone’s needs in the terms of cleaning, cooking, making everyone feel comfortable, and the pressures of not disappointing either family member for fear of being knocked off the pedestal as my grandfather would call it that I was placed on. I was raised and trained to place everyone’s needs above my own, and to be a good hostess in making sure everyone was happy.
The pressures from my childhood followed me through adulthood in developing people pleasing habits in establishing relationships romantically, friendships, and sometimes professionally. My identity was found more in how others people viewed me. My love for myself was mixed with a distorted view on how others felt about me. I found myself in many toxic friendships, a miserable controlling marriage, and dead end jobs where I overextended myself in trying to “make” others love me or see my worth because I was lost in trying to find it in the eyes of others. When I look back at many of those relationships and experiences many of those people were just as lost as I was in knowing what real love is and how to distribute it to others.
Growing up at our little family church I can remember those fire and brimstone sermons. God was made to look like an unforgiving, cold, demanding being, and an untouchable God that was distant from ever connecting with us minor humans. I would leave feeling confused, hurt, and very disconnected. Although I was blessed to work in gospel radio beginning in undergrad I still felt that disconnection in the same fiery messages that I had to play in the station. I church hopped for years trying to find the love that I heard sung in the beautiful melodies of the gospel songs.
There was something that hit me in my late 20’s. If I wanted to learn more about God, learn of his love, and embrace loving myself I would have to develop my own personal relationship. At that point I let go of religion and doctrine sermons that left a heavy imprint on my mind and spirit. I begin searching for that love within myself and studying God’s Word for myself. I took time out of my day to pray in communicating in my own words as if I was talking to friend. I spoke to God in prayer from my heart. I sometimes kneeled in tears, but I let the tears flow. I wrote down scriptures that showed God’s love for me. I saw how God viewed me flaws and all in his eyes.
I learned a lot about the importance of cultivating a healthy inner circle of love when I hit age 30. By then I was divorced, happily remarried with a few years under our belt, and had four beautiful children. I still struggled though in my interpersonal relationships with finding real friends. Most knew me as an bubbly extrovert, with dynamic people skills, socially active, smiley, and someone who always had someone around them in a selfie. The truth was most of those relationships were on the surface, or in some cases one sided. I am a giving friend of time, support, and whatever else a friend needs. Establishing friendships that are solely based on you fulfilling a need or a skill are often empty. There’s a thin line between those who love “you” and those love “what you do.”
I decided to rid myself of any toxic friendships or those that were one sided on the surface. I stopped placing my value in the number of friends I had, and I focused instead on the quality of friends who truly loved me. I was more watchful in awarness of how a social media selfie could give off the perception of a “friendship.” I decided to focus on establishing more meaningful healthy friendships. I let go of needing validation in the eyes of others for approval . I stop viewing my identity and my worth in the thoughts and opinions of others.
I learned how to love me. I became selfish in a good way in making sure that I took time out for myself to regroup. I channel my energy in making sure I am in tune with what’s around me and who’s around me. I know I have made mistakes. I will do my best not to make any mistakes, but I know mistakes will still come. God’s love and forgiveness for me is unchangeable. His love offers a second chance, and his grace is my peace.
Just knowing how much God loves me and favors me gave a boost of confidence. I learned to step out of my comfort zone, and I venture out in doing things that the “Old Mini” would have never thought of because of fear. I don’t define my identity through my associations, talents, and hobbies.
I also do my best to raise my children to be confident, self- assured, watchful of the company they keep, and to make them aware that although I love them God loves them even more. God’s love and forgiveness is real. It was the love that my heart longed for. I needed it, and it was right there all along. The biggest breakthrough that anyone can have is seeing themselves in God’s eyes. Be blessed beautiful people.