We Make the Road by Walking Chapter 44
J ust reading this chapter this week was hard for me. No matter how many years pass by, no matter the books or blogs I have read, no matter how far I think I get at resisting the downward spiral of perfectionism and comparison — I find this idea that there is a healthy and mature way of loving myself is still so hard for me to grasp.
But the Spirit teaches us a profoundly different way of loving ourselves—a way of maturity that involves self-examination, self-control, self-development, and self-giving. These practices of mature self-care enable us to love God and others more fully and joyfully.
Excerpt From: Brian D. McLaren. “We Make the Road by Walking.” iBooks. https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/we-make-the-road-by-walking/id721841337?mt=11
From a young age I grew up believing I was inherently sinful.
I also soon began to believe that I would never measure up and that being me would never be enough.
So instead, I learned to lose myself in becoming what I thought others wanted me to be.
My purpose and identity were all wrapped up in doing, and never about simply being who I am.
I did this by giving, serving, sharing, and doing whatever was asked of me. To say no was to put myself first. To say no was to take a chance of disappointing or failing someone.
With this kind of mindset, all throughout junior high, high-school, and as a young adult in college — I was drawn to volunteering for church, ministries, and small Christian based nonprofit organizations like a magnet. I loved knowing that I was a small part of a greater whole. I loved feeling needed. I soaked up any praise I received for my hard work and dedication like it was water for my thirsty soul.
I may not have believed I was a good enough person on my own, but I knew how to be good for others.
To not be what others needed, to not be what I was convinced others wanted and expected me to be — was unthinkable. It would mean opening myself up to the potential of failure or even worse rejection. Neither of which I knew how to bear. Until it happened anyways, despite all my best efforts.
My sister’s marriage fell apart and I lost most of the friends and community I grew up with.
I went through three dating relationships within the span of a year, each of them failing one after the other. Despite trying my hardest to manage my attraction and emotions I had never felt before; navigating the unfamiliar waters of Christian dating after growing up idealizing Christian courtship methods that proved futile with my sister; and doing my best to juggle it all, while also trying to please my parents, several pastors, and many female spiritual mentors I actively sought to guide me through the process — I still failed. I found myself alone and in the process I had managed to alienate myself from the church home I had moved to Colorado for in the first place.
Depressed and completely lost, I would spend the next six months crying myself to sleep countless nights, begging God to explain what it was in me that was so unloveable. How could I try so hard, and why had it seemed like I had heard His leading me to trust the men in each of these relationships so clearly, and yet each time I ended up alone, betrayed, lied to, abandoned, and heartbroken.
Thankfully that wasn’t the end of the world for me, as much as it felt at the time like it was.
In reality it was a beginning.
A beginning of a long journey to discover myself.
Learning How to Be Loved.
The love of my life would come along and show me what true love really felt like.
Slowly I began to learn what it felt like to be seen…
to be wanted…
to be safe…
For the first time I had met a man who wasn’t afraid of me being myself, in fact I found out he preferred it!
It has been several years now, and I have found many loved ones both old and new, who have come along side me in this process of discovering myself and learning how to be loved.
It began with being found.
There are a few special people in my life who have been my finders — my people.
My people are first my family — my husband, my parents, my sisters.
My people are a family in Colorado I lived with that took me in, as foreign as I was, and truly loved me. These people will always be my family. They knew and witnessed my people-pleasing, twisted-view-of-my-self all too well that first year I lived with them. One night, I came home to find my house parents seriously concerned for my health, fearing that I was running myself ragged with how much I was serving and giving. When they began to push me to consider saying no and slowing down, all my fears and beliefs came pouring out. Jeff, the wise man that he is, looked at me and the message he shared with me that night is something I have never forgotten.
You believe people love you and think you are good because of what you do, for how little you fail them, or for how perfect you try to be.
That is like you playing in a football game, running all the perfect plays, making it all the way to the end zone, and looking down to find you no longer have the football.
In reality, you can be the most perfect, selfless, giving, serving person — you could play the most perfect football game — but if you don’t have that ball when you get to the end zone — all of that effort was for nothing.
That football is believing in yourself. It’s knowing that you are loved because of who you are and not what you do or don’t do.
Now whenever, I see them or talk with them, and they hear of me comparing, striving, or stressing, Jeff never ceases to ask me…
Kallie, where is your football?
My people. God I love them.
My people are the precious friends I have from all walks of my life. Those dear few, some who have known me through everything, others who have seen me at my worst, all of them who have let me be me.
My people are the ones to whom Brene Brown refers to as our “Arena” people. Brene teaches this principle based off a famous speech given by President Theodore Roosevelt.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
Brene goes on to teach throughout her book Daring Greatly (inspired by this quote) that courageous people are those who choose to be vulnerable and real in the arena of life. What she shares next, changed everything for me. It changed how I viewed myself, and it changed how I prioritize relationships in my life.
Going back to Roosevelt’s ‘Man in the Arena’ speech, I also learned that the people who love me, the people I really depend on, were never the critics who were pointing at me while I stumbled. They weren’t in the bleachers at all. They were with me in the arena. Fighting for me and with me. Nothing has transformed my life more than realizing that it’s a waste of time to evaluate my worthiness by weighing the reaction of the people in the stands. The people who love me and will be there regardless of the outcome are within arm’s reach.
The relationships I value the most are with these people.
They are the ones who push me to be vulnerable, who don’t let too much time go by without reaching out, who haven’t let oceans separate us, who aren’t afraid of my mess, who let me question my faith and love me still the same.
I would not be who I am today without them.
Learning to Love Myself:
After years of learning to trust in others love and acceptance of me, I think I am finally getting to a place where I can learn how to do this.
To love and care for myself in a healthy way. Not in a selfish, or self-interested way — but more knowing the incredible danger in self-hatred and forsaking self-care.
Forsaking self-care means I never truly rest.
Forsaking self-care means I let other people’s opinions and expectations control my sense of peace, my sense of worth, and my emotional security.
Forsaking self-care means I don’t instill healthy boundaries, and opt instead for producing a fake, push-over me.
Forsaking self-care means I choose a broken pride that tells me if I just try hard enough, perfect-myself enough that I will obtain the acceptance and approval I so desperately crave.
Forsaking self-care means my people and anyone beyond that get anxious, stressed-out pieces of me with the rest hidden behind a jumble of masks and fears.
We just passed our third year mark here in Japan. Each year I grew increasingly involved in my work teaching English to Japanese students off base and in increasing amounts of community volunteer work here on base. Given the job market here for spouses is virtually nonexistent, community work is where we find a way to use our talents and pour our hearts into supporting each other. We become family to each other, and we take care of each other. Each year, I found myself so taken care of, I couldn’t help but want to give back more. On top of this, our second year here, I began working on my Master’s degree online. All my volunteer experience with nonprofit organizations both here and in the states, led me to choose nonprofit management as a concentration. My first year of studies, perfectly coincided with my biggest volunteer leadership challenge yet — I signed up for a one year term as the President of the organization I had been volunteering for over the past two years.
So this past year was in many ways, the busiest, craziest, most exhausting, most challenging, most wonderful year I have ever experienced. I was rather unprepared for what I signed up for, but I dove in and I learned invaluable lessons along the way. It will forever be a part of my cherished memories of my time here in Japan.
May of this year was the culmination of many things. It was my last month of my first full year as a graduate student. It was my last month as President of the organization I was serving. It was the month marking my first time to ever run a half-marathon after four long months of training.
I walked away from my last event as President with tears in my eyes and a heart so full.
Four days later I ran, walked, prayed, and cried my way through a grueling half-marathon on the Great Wall of China, and 13 LONG miles later ran across the finish line hand-in-hand with my best friend.
Looking back on this last year, I know that just as there were times of success and wonderful memories made I will never forget, there were also many times where I failed and doubted myself in the process.
Even so, I have no regrets.
I know that through all of it, I dared greatly to love, to serve, and to give of myself all while being me.
So now I find myself, with an empty calendar. My students are transitioning to new teachers after the summer holidays, as we will be moving this fall. My volunteer efforts have come to a natural end.
And instead of running on to the next thing. Instead of finding another activity, I am finding the resolve to stop.
This Summer is about taking time.
To look inward…
To renew old loves like writing and reading…
To find my voice…
To slow down…
Maybe this is what learning to love myself looks like….
- What does loving yourself in a healthy way look like?
- What are some practical ways you have learned to care for yourself?
- What confusing messages has Christianity or your faith sent you about the importance of loving God, Others, and Self?
- How do you prioritize each of those?