In a world of black and white, I curse myself for being grey. Yet if I were made to stand out, why do I try so hard to fit in?
What is it like to lose your identity? What happens when you feel your individuality becoming that of your day to day routine? When was the last time you had a conversation about yourself that did not involve your job or responsibilities?
I am learning a lot about myself. I have learned that I am capable of leading a team to success time after time. I have been blessed with incredible teaching skills and compassion for those around me. I have had the opportunity to shine in skills I was unaware I possessed. I did the impossible, and then did it again, and again. But I have also learned that I rely on words of affirmation. I rely on the approval of every person around me as if they are the ones setting the standard for me. Even more, I found my identity in my productivity.
If I did not FEEL like I met MY standard for productivity, it was a wasted day. I had to keep meeting whichever impossible bar I placed in front of me, or I was a failure. I never acknowledged my progress because I was too busy worrying about the next insurmountable task. When we keep raising the bar, we become incapable of seeing our accomplishments piling up behind us.
“I am too emotional”, “I am not good enough”, “I am a constant failure”. These are the things I continuously told myself for months. I could not identify a problem in my surroundings, so I wrongly presumed the problem was me. If I could just stop being emotional, then I would really be able to be productive, and therefore be good enough to achieve success. While I struggle with more than my fair share of anxiety and depression, I was in an environment that pulled me down into darkness and gave way to my fears.
I held a blind eye to the toxic traits of the job I had. I was never able to provide enough support to my team and thought it was my fault, even though I lacked the power to control hiring and scheduling. If an order was messed up, I took the full responsibility for fixing it even though I hadn’t seen it once beforehand. I strove for an idea of perfection. I took pride in being “able” to handle anything that was thrown my way, even if I had to take five to ten minutes to cry in an office because I was constantly overwhelmed. There are so many things I wish I could have done differently as a supervisor, but I was beyond burnt out.
I suffered immense migraines that impaired my vision and ability to walk. My left eye twitched nonstop for over two months, with little reprieve. Waking up to go to work left me in tears of dread on the drive in. What happened to the job I so loved?
It took a long time, but I finally admitted to a friend that I was unhappy. His response took me by surprise, “we haven’t seen you smile in months, you’re not the same dar dar we know and love.” Had I really lost myself that much? I had to leave for my own health, this job was not worth the amount of stress I carried.
But I couldn’t just leave them, could I? No, of course not. I would start a six month plan, train everyone to function without me, and apply to new jobs. It would hurt them less. But that fell down to one month, then a week. Before I knew it, I lasted only 24 hours after this conversation. I took a leave of absence the next day. The tears that poured down my face after being approved for LOA were finally tears of relief. The weight I had been carrying began to dissolve almost instantly.
Flash forward to a month later. I am learning what it means to love myself. I am trying to have a more positive outlook towards life, and remove the dread I feel. I am not anywhere near “healed”, but I am taking things five minutes at a time. I still struggle with fitting in. It is always hard for me to relate to those around me. The people I am around are nice enough, but I am missing the deep connections of friendship I so strongly desire. I have found myself slipping into the refuge of my mind, asking myself what is wrong with me that I am so undesirable to have as a friend. These thoughts are unfair to myself and those around me.
A fun saying I have picked up to remind myself is “I could be the best peach on the tree, but not everyone likes peaches.” More to say that I am not going to be best friends with everyone around me. This is necessary in order for me to remove my flaw of needing people’s approval to justify my own self worth.
Last week I opened up the book of Isaiah and read “Why do you continue to invite punishment? Must you rebel forever? Your head is injured, and your heart is sick.” (Isaiah 1:5, NLT) These words sprung out of the page. I have been living life purely on my own terms. Everything I did, I acted as if it were through me. I had no regard for the blessings that came from God. I have been longing for a connection with people while God has been calling me to draw near to Him. He simply asks, “where are you?” Yet I have been too distracted in chasing people’s approval to pay heed.
It’s time to pull up a chair and sit with God. I am in an environment where I can fully run into His arms. Why would I look for my identity in anyone or anything else? Sometimes there are lessons we have to learn the hard way, but there is great joy in knowing God is with us every step of our mistakes, and meets us where we are. I am learning to accept that I am enough exactly how I am. These are the times for which I have been called, and it would be a shame if I were to let my pride keep me distracted.
I’m really glad to see you have started to find yourself and love yourself. I love seeing you smile. You’re an inspiration