My whole life I have been a social person. I was one of those kids who was “friends” with everyone in school. I didn’t have one set squad as they call it now (I’m old and I don’t even remember what we called it back then). I also had non existent self esteem so I found myself quickly conforming to others behaviors and interest in order to fit in. I became a professional chameleon.
In my late teens and into my twenties, my identity was so lost in others that I had no personal dreams or goals. I was just doing whatever and I didn’t even know it. I had no idea who was using me, who I could trust, who I was using and who was a real friend. I am sure people tried to be true and genuine with me but I imagine I pushed them away or ran from them. Authenticity was terrifying.
In 2007, I became a licensed massage therapist. I loved being around people, sharing in their lives and being able to help them feel better. It quickly became apparent to me that I was more than a body worker. I found clients sharing their deepest hurts and fears with me. Asking me to help them pick out their engagement ring for their soon to be fiancé. I got to know them and their families intimately. I became someone that a lot of them depended on for advice and counsel. I found myself spending time outside of appointments pouring into them, their interests, their dreams. I found myself caught up in hundreds of people’s lives.
For the longest time, I felt happy to do that. My life was way more comfortable belonging to others. I didn’t mind troubleshooting other peoples issues. If my brain was full of complicated scenarios and commitments, there was no time to be with myself. I didn’t have to unpack my life if I was busy diagnosing other relationships flaws. I found a sense of joy in investing in other people.
When I became a believer, I continued serving others and for a long time it was motivated by the same thought process: I am less than and insignificant so I will serve those around me. When asked about my own dreams, I still had none. I justified my continued behavior by telling myself how much of a servant Jesus was. I believed that I could live my whole life neglecting myself and pleasing others and in return, I would be a “good Christian”.
In 2015, I attended an event titled a Wisdom Conference. It was three days of teaching full of attitudes and lessons about being a wise human, about behaving from a place of knowing your value. On the second day, during my alone prayer time, I told God I needed him to have the speaker call out specific things for me. I asked for things that no one would know about me. I asked for a combination of things that was unique and deeply painful but that I knew needed healed. I knew I couldn’t shift my behavior without these beliefs being removed.
That evening, at the last session, the speaker started to close out with a call for members of the audience who sensed they needed some relief from embedded thoughts and actions. He began to call out one thing and then another, and then another and my breath stopped for a moment. He spoke all the things I had asked to be spoken. He called my brokenness out just as I had needed. I began to cry, (well bawl). The time that passed is unknown to me but it felt like an eternity and an instant simultaneously. And ok, if you don’t believe in God, that’s fine. I’m sure we’ve all heard voices in our head or sensed things that we’ve chalked up to intuition or our inner self. I will call this dialogue as coming from God because that’s who I think spoke to me. I clearly heard, “you don’t have to serve like you’ve been. You are free from that. You can serve from a place of true joy”.
In that moment, the things I had needed changed in my heart and brain immediately disappeared. I no longer needed to submit to others as if a slave. I would still put others before me in many ways but not because I had to, not to earn their love or friendship, but to show them Jesus. I would finally be able to give joyfully but still know my place in the world. I could see my value and it wasn’t increased by my deeds or decreased by my lack of giving. I was finally free to dream!
Fast forward to current day (cause what does all this have to do with anything)? The transition from bondage to freedom has been interesting. I have begun to protect myself from unsafe relationships, limit interactions with people who want to use me or be untrue to me. I will still be kind to them or do things for them, but I have learned to protect my heart and I haven’t since felt indebted to them. And as my work has now been removed from my life, my gym relationships have been hindered by my inability to workout and I have been at home, unable to really serve anyone, I find my vision even clearer.
Instead of chasing after things that make me feel less than, I choose to pursue things that have real world impact. I will replace empty conversations with authentic vulnerability. I will go out of my way for people who appreciate me and have gratitude even if they cannot reciprocate in action. I will put my family first, my husband above all, because what good are hundreds of friends if my marriage is suffering. And sometimes I will feel sad or hurt because relationships aren’t perfect but I will hold on tightly to that voice who affirmed me back at that conference and I will invest wisely.