For many years beginning in my early teens towards my early twenties I struggled with feelings of inadequacy. Because of it, I often overworked myself and I felt really low and un-motivated when I was not accomplishing something or when I had nothing to look forward to.
I also struggled with fears, especially the fear of rejection and failure. Coupled with my feelings of inadequacy, those fears caused me to put high demands on myself and to dread being wrong for fear of condemnation. A few people would say I was obsessed with being "right" all the time.
I would often find myself wondering what people thought of me and would secretly compare myself to others, in my head.
And I would never measure up.
I viewed myself as a failure and was often afraid that something was about to go wrong. I believed nothing could ever go "right" for me for very long without me messing it up and ruining it. I would often feel I was walking on eggshells, just waiting on myself to screw something good up. I swallowed the "self sabotage" narrative hook line and sinker, since it felt SO REAL to me. I felt like I was always waiting on the other shoe to drop, so to speak.
I also believed I deserved only second-best and wasn't worthy of "good" things. It was hard for me to accept grace and recieve love. I enjoyed giving things away but I was almost embarrassed to receive gifts from people.
This was also because of my fear of being hurt, or fear of pain. I subconciously believed that if I never recieved anything, whether it was a compliment or a gift or some form of love, then I could never have anything taken away from me, thus avoiding the pain of rejection and loss. I would sooner be the bad guy by rejecting others first, than having them reject me. And I self identified as one who always ended up letting others down in some way, and being dangerous to love.
I spent many years of my life building walls of self-protection around me, thinking they would protect me from pain and protect me from hurting others - it seemed I always hurt the people I cared about most. No matter how hard I tried, I would end up hurting them and pushing them away from me. I believed that once I came to love someone I would only end up hurting them and driving them away from me so I decided that if I never let anyone in, and embraced being alone, I would never hurt anyone and no one would ever leave me...so I would never have to feel the pain of abandonment.
I worked at building inner walls to keep myself in and to keep pain out...but I didn't realize til later that the walls I thought were protecting me and those I loved were only causing more hurt and worst of all, were keeping love out. I didn't know that love and pain enter in through the same door. And I tried my best to make sure I had no doors in the walls of my heart...
Someone said to me once when I was a child that I had a "heart of cold stone" and I resented that statement and the condemnation that went with it for a long time...only to watch it become a reality in my life years later.
I didn't know that love and pain enter in through the same door.
Blocking pain (and essentially love) out of my life, also blocked God out. I yearned to know and feel Gods love as it was described in the pages of my Bible...I spent hours screaming at Him and crying out to Him...I would lie in silence and wonder if He could really hear someone like me and love what He saw. I fought to believe that He really did love me and accept me and when I would tell others of His love I would doubt inside whether the love I was describing could really be for me. I had no problem knowing and believing that God loved and accepted others but inside I thought I might have pushed Him so far away from me that He would never want to love me again.
I started building up a resistance to pain.
I believed that tears, and giving in to pain were signs of weakness and reasoned within myself that if I could not feel pain, or if I could tolerate high levels of pain then it would solve my rejection issues and would save me from being hurt by others in the future. I believed most women to be weak and emotional "wrecks" and tried my best to "suck it up" and be "strong." I strove to completely squelch my emotions and succesfully suffocated most of my tears. I was always frustrated with myself because no matter how hard I tried, I could not master my feelings or dry them up completely and I would hate myself every time I would break down and cry, angry at myself for being "weak" and "vulnerable." I would take walks in the rain when I needed to cry so that people would not notice my tear-stained face and ask me about it.
I didn't realize that behind the "safety" of my walls I became even more vulnerable than before.
I was angry often and my family took the brunt of my demonstrative silences and outbursts. I excused it with the lie that anger was a "manly" emotion and was therefore acceptable whereas tears were "weak" and "feminine" and were not to be tolerated. I adapted the mysoginistic views of the religion around me. I came to see women as the "weaker vessel" in all the negative ways that could be implied. I subconsciously believed that to be enlightened, holy, strong and successful, was to be like God....or rather, was to be like men. On a very subconscious level, I saw them as one and the same.
I subconsciously believed that to be enlightened, holy, strong and successful, was to be like men.
It eventually became hard for me to cry at all, or feel pain, even when I wanted to. I would sometimes pretend to cry, hoping it would trigger something inside so the tears would flow. I would stand in the shower with the water hitting my face and would imagine myself sobbing until finally something inside would break and I could cry. Not that I never cried involuntarily, but it became a rarer thing in my life than not. I would try to hurt myself, thinking that physical pain might somehow relieve the empty feeling inside. In my warped state of mind, I would secretly find ways to do this that would not be noticeable to my friends or family so that they would not worry about me or worse - pity me. I didn't want them to know because I knew it would hurt them and if I kept them at a distance, they could not judge me or reject me. I would also most ardently reason to myself that outward, physical signs of an unbalanced mind and heart were ways of seeking pity and attention, things I was determined to live without. If I didn't "need" anyone, then no one could ever let me down or hurt me. And if I didn't "need" anyone then I would truly be strong. Those were really the only reasons I didn't cut myself or mutilate myself in a visible form - I didn't want anyone to see because I believed it made me stronger if I were the only one who knew.
I thought that not "needing" anyone was a sign of strength.
I somehow knew that I was messed-up on the inside and in another attempt to hide my fear of rejection and inner turmoil, I would put on a big smile and I laughed loudly and joked around a lot, hoping people would be fooled and would not see the hurting girl I hid inside. I made it my personal agenda to make everyone around me as happy as possible so that no one would notice the doubts I was struggling with. I loved to hear people laugh, even if it was at my expense. I would often laugh with them, poking fun at myself and calling myself a "dumb blonde" and acting stupid. I enjoyed making people happy and yearned to feel happy myself. Not that I was never happy, but I lacked the joy I craved...the deep, inner joy that lasts and isn't based on externals. I thought somehow that if I could bring joy to others, then I too would eventually capture some of that joy for myself. Some of my friends and even co-workers noticed that despite the fullnes of joy that I preached to them, I lacked joy myself. I had someone tell me once that the emptiness showed in my eyes and it scared me when I realized that despite all my "walls", people could still see into my soul.
One day a friend said to me in a text, "Aren't you tired of believing that you're not worth it, and that you don't deserve anything good in life?" I was shocked. I had no idea that it was so apparent. And I had never realized that it was those specific lies that were behind most of my struggles. That text was the first of many things that God used to begin the tumbling of my wall of lies, confusion, doubts, fears and hurt. Slowly, painfully, He began tearing down my self-protection...brick...by...brick.
"Aren't you tired of believing that you're not worth it, and that you don't deserve anything good in life?"
One day as I spent time being deeply present with myself and with God, I saw my name: Amanda, and the meaning: "Worthy of Love."
And I realized that all my life, my greatest struggle had been with my very name! The name God has given me. It wasn't just my parents who named me, but God. “.....I have called you by name; you are mine."
I began to believe that I was worthy of love simply because I was. I thought, if God declares me worthy, if He deems me worthy, then I am! And once I began to declare myself worthy and deem myself worthy for myself -- not waiting on an outside source to approve of me first -- things began to change for me internally.
"And I will give you a new heart,
and I will put a new spirit in you.
I will take out your stony,
stubborn heart and give you a tender,
I began to open up to my close friends and share with them about the things I was struggling with, and the more liberty I gave them to speak into my life, the freer I became. My circumstances did not change but something inside of me began to shift. I chose not to focus on where I was and what I was going through but chose instead to be thankful for all the good that God had brought to my life. I chose not to focus on the ashes, but the beauty.
No one taught me about manifesting, or supernaturally calling things in, or prophesying the future through gratitude. No one told me gratitude was a high frequency emotion, no one taught me about heart-brain coherence. This practice was birthed out of my innocent and grateful heart.
I would stretch back into my memory, as far as I could, and would thank God for every single good thing I could think of. Instead of lying awake in silence, wishing to feel God's love and longing even to feel anything at all...I would find myself lying awake in bed, tears streaming down my face as I thanked Him for moment after moment, memory after memory, blessing after blessing...for tear after tear.
I would literally spend hours outside, under the stars, looking up at the sky talking with God. I looked forward to evening, when I would lay outside and pick out my favorite stars and spend time with Spirit.
Sometimes I wouldn't say anything at all. Sometimes I would fall asleep while thanking Him...and at first I would feel guilty for "failing" at spending time with Him...or with hardly ever having more to say than "thank You, thank You, thank You..." ...But after a few weeks it became my preferred way to fall asleep and thanksgiving became my doorpoint to joy. That deep joy that I had been seeking for so long.
For a long time, nothing around me changed...and then, circumstances in my life got much worse, much darker, much more painful. But something had begun inside of me...I began to seek PRESENCE and GRATITUDE, MINDFULNESS and WONDER like never before. It became a burning desire for MORE WHOLENESS that I could never seem to quench. And do you know what? I found that joy! I found it through becoming deeply present, and in finding little things to be grateful for, no matter how arbitrary or ordinary they seemed on the surface.
No one taught me about manifesting, or supernaturally calling things in, or prophesying the future through gratitude. No one told me gratitude was a high frequency emotion, there was no one to teach me about heart-brain coherence. This practice was birthed out of my innocent and grateful heart.
I recently shared this story with a client and to illustrate, I held up my hand and admired it. "I have nails growing out of my fingertips! And I have knees on my fingers!" I said with childlike glee, as I bent my fingers. I made a fist and opened and closed my hand slowly, admiring the way the knuckles looked like many knees bending. I watched the skin wrinkle as I lengthened my fingers, and watched it pull taught as I extended them. My client giggled and examined her own hands. How often do we take the simplest things for granted?
When I look back to the darkest times of my life, they are so full of good and intimate times spent in the present moment, spent with Spirit, spent in awe and wonder....precious memories made, that I could never wish them un-lived or ever be ungrateful for them. I learned so much. And I am still using what I learned today with my clients, and they're seeing results in their lives too.
So when you hear me share about gratitude, and heart-brain coherence and the power of it, or the potency of awe and wonder, the joy that comes from PRESENCE and mindfulness....it's coming from that dark time when I was 19, when I first discovered the MAGIC of these tools. It's been refined or added-to by my education, perhaps. But the heart and the power comes from my lived experiences and the way it transformed my life in a lasting way.