The other day I watched The Greatest Showman. The title is a line from the musical. Spoiler alert (but not really): The main character is talking to the bearded lady about how the crowd will initially feel a certain way about her (scared, mortified, disgusted) but eventually they will learn to appreciate her and see her beauty. I got teary eyed (ask my son, that’s not surprising). Once I was the bearded lady (sans beard). Once I was scared of how people would view me. Once I feared rejection and avoided things because of that fear.
The day before I watched the musical, my church gave a message about the beginning of our stories and the danger of viewing our life from the starting point of what’s “wrong with us” verses what’s amazing about us. How our whole life will change if we begin from how inherently good we are instead of how flawed we are. How the story of Jesus isn’t about “fixing” ourselves or others but about seeing the goodness in ourselves and each other and living from that space. Loving people and ourselves above all because we are lovable even in the midst our struggles.
Man, the timing of those two messages really hit home and got me thinking. My story had always been about what was wrong with me. How could I be skinnier, smarter, richer, better. I always operated from a less than, always striving to change myself place. My relationships also always started with a “what’s wrong with them” thought process. It’s awful to say but it’s the truth.
And because my brain only understood how to see problems and flaws, I became a critical, obsessive person. I wasn’t able to see the talent and beauty in myself, my son, my husband, anyone. I wondered how others survived in the world. I judged everyone, everything. I spoke peoples liabilities and sins into life and in turn, that is who they were. I spoke my own negative thoughts into my own life and I continued to be that person.
Until a few years ago, I was still a 320lb drug addict who made horrible decisions (on the inside, in my mind). I fed myself the messages that I wasn’t good enough, I felt insufficient and I was motivated and influenced by a lot of external factors. I wanted people to like me, a lot. It mattered if I disappointed people, too much. I just wanted to make everyone happy, to fit in, to be accepted, to be cool. It was like every day of middle and high school over and over again. Constantly replaying scenarios in my head, over analyzing exchanges, punishing myself for being “lame” and editing myself to accommodate my “friends”.
I always thought that stuff magically went away as an adult. I didn’t realize that was much more about my insides than my age or surroundings. I brought that energy into my life. I carried that baggage into my work, gym, friend group. It was me not my circumstances.
As I write this, I think about years of poor choices in hopes of attaining love, status, any sort of recognition. Running a race to prove my worth, posting a video on social media and rechecking my likes and comments because it mattered so much. I recount the too many times I overextended myself for someone because I thought we were friends only to realize that I was mistaken about our relationship. The yes’s I said way too often because I was too fearful of the consequences of a “no”.
By nature, I am a kind, generous, loving human. I will always be that way. I will constantly care about people and deeply sense others pain. I will never be indifferent to suffering and I will forever want to be helpful. Sometimes, my decisions will disappoint people and I will care if that happens. But my intrinsic value exists because I was born awesome and so was everyone else. The five year old me, the most true version of me, the person I hid away and lost because of life, is so amazing and that doesn’t change just because someone doesn’t recognize it.
And when I sense someone not seeing my value, I just say to myself, “they don’t know it yet, but one day they’re gonna love you.”