Know thyself.

*DISCLAIMER: Though I believe the sentiment of this post is universal, I do discuss God and Christian values.  Please read with an open heart and mind for all paths toward truth and salvation.*

 FEELING UNPOPULAR, UNWANTED, and UNLOVABLE:

“WE ARE NOT NECESSARILY DOUBTING THAT GOD WILL DO THE BEST FOR US; WE ARE WONDERING HOW PAINFUL THE BEST WILL TURN OUT TO BE.” ~C.S. LEWIS

NICOLE*: Nicole is extremely energetic and outgoing.  She is always traveling, meeting new people, starting new projects, and sharing her accomplishments with the world via social media.  At several pivotal times during my separation, divorce, and the impending single-hood associated with these two events, I asked Nicole to be my friend.  As in, I actually said the words, “Nicole, I am suffering and I need you to be my friend.”  One of the things I asked her to do as my friend was to invite me to things and to introduce me to people.  I have known Nicole for seven years.  However, when I look back over our friendship, I notice a distinct pattern of behavior which leaves me feeling confused.  On occasion she would offer to meet me somewhere.  But it was usually last minute and often seemed to serve her purposes because she was alone and/or she wanted more people at her event.  Many times when I was feeling lonely and vulnerable, I would call and ask her what she was doing.  Most of these times she didn’t answer my call or text at all.  But other times I was told, “I have plans with friends.” I would then wait anxiously for the invite to join in on these “plans with friends,” but it never came.  Strangely, almost every time I invited her to do something with me, she either ignored the request altogether or accepted but didn’t show.  On the few occasions when she accepted and did show, I realized later that it was usually a situation where her way/admission/ticket was being paid by me.  On at least one occasion, I was actually UN-invited to an event she was hosting.  Her inconsistency and her seeming disinterest in making the effort to be my friend when I really needed one leaves me hurting and feeling unlovable.

 GIRLFRIENDS: Rather than travel alone, I wanted to plan a trip with friends.  Having suffered from the indecision and flightiness of group planning before, I decided it was best to have a formal meeting with a select group of friends and we would make decisions together and then purchase flights together.  At first I had four other girls interested in joining.  I tried twice, unsuccessfully, to get us all together to start making plans.  Ultimately, one of the four backed out saying she already booked the same trip with other friends instead.  Fair enough.  With at least two friends still enthusiastic about the trip, I tried again several times to get together over drinks or a meal to plan the details.  Each time they either didn’t respond or didn’t show.  Ultimately, I decided to just move forward with the plans on my own.  Imagine my surprise when, several months later, all of the girls I had been trying to coordinate with showed up on social media at the destination on a “girls’ trip” they’d organized together.  I have no clue when this was done.  My first thought: "Was it always their intention not to include me?  Was my company that undesirable?"  In my hurt, I decided to make a very mature point and refused to like any of their posts on social media.  I’m sure this small act of retribution was clearly noted. {insert sarcasm here}  But truly, I just felt left out and unwanted.

 JOE AND CARRIE*: I met Joe through a mutual friend several years ago when he was first courting Carrie.  They were both very nice people and we shared a good times over the next few months and, in my opinion, began to build a friendship.  I got to know them both better and could not be happier for my good friends when they got engaged.  I bought a ticket across the country for their wedding.  But it wasn’t too long afterwards when I realized a trend.  Even before their wedding, I had consistently invited them over to my house for one thing or another.  On average, they declined two out of three times.  In the months after their wedding, every time I invited them to an event or to simply hang out, they had other plans.  Increasingly, I was invited by a mutual friend to an event or gathering Joe and Carrie were hosting but to which I was not invited directly.  More and more frequently, they did not respond to me and eventually they no longer accepted any of my invitations.  The hardest blow occurred after we hosted a holiday party together.  At that party, they invited the guy I was dating to dinner the next night but did not invite me.  My boyfriend actually had to call and ask them if it was ok to invite me.  My ego: "What the fuck?!  Am I that bad of company?"  To be excluded feels lonely and unpopular.  To be excluded by friends feels just plain bad.

CHRISTOPHER*: I knew from the second time I met Chris that I wanted to be a part of his life.  I knew from the first time he hung out at my house that I could love him. I knew from the silly phone message he left me while I was in LA that I did love him.  But I was damaged.  I was still protecting myself from the harm done in my marriage.  I was in panic mode and doing everything I could to avoid being hurt.  I was holding onto a physical relationship with a man I didn’t even like just as a way to avoid having to be close with Chris.  Eventually, after seeing the other guy again, I knew.  When I met with him and felt how empty and unsatisfying it was, I longed for the depth and hope I had in striving to be with Chris.  I saw a future where we learned from each other and grew together.  I saw our family, our children, our laughter, our fights, and our tears – together.  After being evasive and closed off for months, I finally chose Christopher.  So I came to him and owned my part of the mess.  I came to him and confessed my heart.  I came to him and bore my soul asking for his heart in return.  And he said, “no thanks.”  He spent time with me when it was convenient for him.  But he always ran away when it got hard.  He made out with me when it was desirable for him.  But he accused me for tempting him when it was too intimate.  He saw parts of me that he didn’t like and he shoved them in my face.  He saw parts of himself that he didn’t like and he blamed me for them.  Every time he backed away, I let him.  Every time I drew him back, he let me.  He took advantage of my heart because he didn’t know what he wanted.  He never chose to love me.  That I allowed and perpetuated his inconsistency still hurts and feels as though I am somehow unlovable.  

ACCEPTING MY “SELF”-HOOD:

“DO WHAT YOU FEEL IN YOUR HEART TO BE RIGHT – FOR YOU’LL BE CRITICIZED ANYWAY” ~ELEANOR ROOSEVELT

For years I struggled greatly with the culture of the community to whom I had joined myself in DC.  I constantly felt my instincts were wrong.  I often felt as though my expectations and understanding of "the rules" or how I lived were wrong or bad.  I grew tired of trying to conform and I grew discouraged with being unaccepted as I was.  I was so stuck and unsettled in DC that I did a small-scale social experiment prior to leaving the continental U.S.  After more than two years of trying to make friends and fit in within my social circle and faith community after my divorce, I was still alone and uninvited.  So I put myself outside of that circle and met new people in new surroundings.  Wouldn’t you know it, after absolutely every new event, the new group invited me to more things immediately!  They told me I was funny, smart, pretty, and they genuinely enjoyed my company.  The thing is, I was not any different in either scenario.  It was only the audience that had changed.

I am recognizing more and more how I limited myself by trying to stay within a certain mold for my life back in DC.  In the past several weeks as I have been traveling in locations and conditions outside of my routine, I have learned more and more how much I actually love and trust myself. 

Knowing this, I made a choice tonight.

It was not planned-out.  It was not even rationally considered.  It was made as a result of many months and years of feeling stifled, unwanted, less-than, and under-valued.  My decision, made in a split-second moment after several days of fighting the impulse, drew a clear line in the sand as to how I would move forward.  Ultimately, I do not intend to make this choice the same way again.  But I don’t regret it.  Because how could I have known the power I possess if I hadn’t been able to choose?  Though I see the decision ultimately as a mistake, it reminded me that I am in control of my choices.  It clarified to me that, while my community and social structure expect certain behaviors, I always have the option to do differently.  And in so doing, I come to know myself, my motivations, and my desires better.

For me, anything that brings me closer to God is a good thing.  Anything that brings me away from God is not.  Guess which direction trying to fit in pulled me?  The way things had been was not working for me.  The way I tried to be in order to have friends and find a good man wasn’t working for me.  So I made the choice to try something else.  I made the choice tonight to do something outside the norm for my group.  And ultimately, this started a fire in me.  This small choice was a metaphor for a bigger choice: To let my light shine rather than hide it under a bushel just because it might make others uncomfortable.

“And I am done with my graceless heart.  So tonight I’m gonna cut it out and then restart.  ‘Cause I like to keep my issues drawn.  And it’s always darkest before the dawn.” ~Florence & the Machine

On this journey, it feels good to meet people who get me and who are willing to listen to my story with fresh ears.  It feels as though I am normal again and part of that means feeling desired and as though I am wanted and valued.  The number one thing I have learned in my travels thus far is that I can’t keep trying to be someone I’m not.  I can't keep trying to meet some standard set by others but which feels off to me.  In all of the above scenarios where I felt unpopular, unwanted, and unlovable, I was trying to force a relationship.  Ladies and gentlemen, forcing anything leaves you feeling unwanted, and unlovable.

Being true to oneself and to one’s relationship with God is where the belonging is.

I propose that none of the prescribed “ways to be” imposed on us by family, church, culture, or society actually make us better people more open to God’s teachings or to truth and light. Because...

True love is given freely.
True connection flows easily.

At most, what family, church, culture, and society are aiming to do is to help us come to know God.

But what if I already know Him?
We’re cool.  We’re bros.  And that’s enough for me.

My God knows me and knows what I need in order to maintain a relationship with Him.  He knows what I need to experience in order to learn my boundaries and then actively choose to come closer to Him.  God doesn’t want my soul to be bruised.  If being in DC in my social circle leaves me empty and brokenhearted, then God doesn’t want me there.  My choice tonight, to step outside of what’s expected, is my stepping away from something which has been hurting my soul. 

I followed His guidance on this journey and have already been taught many ways I can better serve Him.  
Living the way I always have.
Loving Him the way I always have.
Allowing space for friends who like me for me.
Leaving room for the man who accepts and sees me for me.

I made promises to God long before I came to this earth.  I’m more interested in fulfilling those promises than I am in following any cultural norms or rules.  I’m much more concerned with a God who monitors the quality of my heart and the contents of my soul than a God who measures the correctness of my steps.  While the latter are clearly visible and can be marked by anyone, the former are the things that cannot be measured by any mortal man or woman.

Being stringent in keeping rules set by society or religion didn’t bring me any more joy.  So I’m willing to learn for myself what does and does not.  I’d rather experience guilt and be led to change than to experience shame and be led to fear and self-loathing.  I am finding my authentic self in many little, baby steps.  Some of them are away from my sheltered DC world, but I do not feel ashamed or damned.  Some of them are towards a deeper spirituality within myself, and I think that is better in the long run.

Strengthening your relationship with God is always a good thing.  No one can dictate this spiritual relationship.  No one else can feel this guidance for you.  No one else can tell you how to find God for yourself.  We are responsible for our own salvation regardless of rules, religion, or family norms.

On my travels, as I’ve been pulled further and further away from my norm – both by circumstance and by choice – I have not noticed a withdrawal of God’s love and guidance.  But I have noticed a strengthening of my self.  A strengthening in my confidence that there is someone out there who loves all that I am and all that I am not.  Someone who loves my faithfulness as well as my choices to shuck the status quo.  Someone who knows that trying to conform to a certain way of being will leave me feeling more and more rejected and less and less connected.  There is someone out there for everyone.  Someone who sees you and knows that you matter.  

Faith is faith and truth is truth no matter where you find it.

Why must we insist on sticking in situations, groups, jobs, families, and lives that do not affirm our beauty to us?

I am fine in my faith.  Nothing can ever kill it in me and no one can ever take away my relationship with God and my dependence on Christ.  I am out searching for truth and for the best ways to serve.  And feeling less-than or inauthentic because I'm trying to conform to a certain standard is decidedly not the best way.  Being kind and compassionate to all - including myself - is always the best way.  I’m trying to do this

Let’s all make a promise together to strive to be compassionate, to seek truth, and to be authentically ourselves no matter what.

~BBC

*All names have been changed to ensure anonymity.

BorneBackCeaselessly

✏️ Writer • 🎤 Speaker • 🙋🏻 Teacher • RESILIENT OPTIMIST • Sharing words of love and compassion.