Its hard to say exactly when it happened.
I was a happy child, full of imagination, free spirited, believing I could do anything I wanted. Mostly what I wanted was to run in the creek beds and pastures and enjoy the great outdoors. If not that, then I read, consuming vast amounts of books on every subject under the sun.
Other people and their opinions weren’t of very much account to me then.
I could arrive somewhere with ripped jeans and dirt under my nails and a completely unpopular book tucked under my arm and be oblivious to every top brand label and pretty manicure in the building. I thought of myself as smart, analyzing the things coming out of my peers mouths as mostly juvenile, mostly nothing to concern myself with. If there was a challenge at hand or a task to be done, I thought of myself as the person who could get it done.
Confidence. Pride. Individuality. Strength. Belief in who I was and all the potential I held within myself.
One day, or perhaps over a series of days that may have stretched into long months, or even years, that slipped away from me.
By 8th grade I hated myself.
I was fat. I was clumsy. I didn’t fit in to other people’s little circles and cliques. My constant analysis turned inward, away from other people’s general discussions and on to a constant critique of who I was – my too pale skin, fat body, acne, frizzy hair, misfit clothes, inability to look and sound and be like anyone else. I took everything that encompassed “me” and turned it into something to loathe and hate. No one ever said it directly, but I knew that they were all looking at me and seeing exactly what I was seeing.
Essentially, I lost the belief I held in myself.
Unlike some losses, however, this kind of loss need not be permanent.
I followed that trail through a darkness of hatred, culminating in depression and suicidal ideation and a defeatist attitude that assumed I was as worthless to the world as I was to myself.
Its a painful spot to be in, although unfortunately its a place that many have ended up over the years.
My skin is still pale, and I will most likely never have a “real” tan. I could stand to lose some weight, but doing so won’t essentially change how I view my beauty. Acne comes and acne goes, and its really not world ending. And clothes; well whose to judge someone on their choice of outfit, or label, or price point, or whatever else anyhow?
All of those things – external things – were never the real problem anyway. Sure I used them as proof as how pathetic I was as a person, but mostly I saw them as arrows, pointing back to how pathetic I was on the inside.
When one sinks to that level of darkness, its not something you can recover from in an instant. It takes years to regain what was lost, to finally recognize that the most painful realization of that time, that you have the “inability to look and sound and be like anyone else”, is exactly the realization that should empower you the most.
You see, that truth is the reason that it is so important for you to be here, to love who you are, to nurture your strengths and share your thoughts with the world.
Because you are unique. Strong. Individual. Created with a purpose and intent that you alone can fulfill.
And there is never going to be another one of you in the history of the world.
So if you’re in the place right now of having lost yourself, may I encourage you to stop the negative barrage of self talk, sit back, and breathe.
If you know this is a darkness you can’t walk out of yourself, then please seek someone in your life that will shine a light for you. It could be a parent, sibling, or friend, or you can find a local counseling center, pastor, or other form of help. It doesn’t really matter who, as long as they can provide some light.
Don’t be afraid if its hard at first; light always hurts the most when we’ve become too used to the darkness. Press on, believe that better things will come, and have hope that you will be stronger and better on the other side.
What was lost can be re-found.
And you are always worth finding.