Lost and Found Chapter 1: Running - Struggles with Self Esteem
I think it's important to share. I think we live in an age of social media where all that we see are "highlight reels" of each other's lives. Subsequently implying that there is something shameful in going through trials and hardships. After all, it's only through difficult times that we are strengthened and gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and of the world.
This is not very easy for me to do. Truthfully, I am scared. It's hard to stand in the face of judgement and be open about feelings and thoughts that you are embarassed about. Still, I strive daily to keep growing spiritually. I feel we are all in this together; humility and empathy are vital in cultivating a world of hope. Therefore, if my experiences are able help someone else then it is always worth it. Collectively, we have to help each other heal, grow and love.
I decided to write and record the songs of Lost and Found for two reasons. To aid and to heal. Not just for myself but more importantly others. I felt I needed to write and sing about struggles that we all face yet often feel very alone in dealing with. The first track released from this project, Running touches on what I struggle with the most: Self-esteem.
Before I begin delving into some of my demons, I want to preface this by stating I am not looking to play the victim. We all have trials and tribulations that we face. As an adult, I believe it is my responsibility to aim at overcoming my issues as best I can and assist anyone else that may struggle with similar issues in the process. I am not looking to place blame or garner sympathy from sharing my experiences. With that caveat in place, I open up my journey to you.
I have always felt different. I can be in a large room of people and still feel very much alone. I think this may be due in part to being extremely introspective; I spend a great deal of time "in my head". Nonetheless, I have always felt like I do not truly fit into any place. It's as if I am always right on the perimeter yet never fully immersed in the majority. It is a feeling I have dealt with much better as an adult than I did as a child. Some of my first recollections of this feeling stemmed from my ethnicity.
This started at a very young age for me. Being biracial, throughout childhood and adolescence I felt I did not really belong anywhere. Not really fully Black but not White either. I've always had predominately Black friends and truthfully resonate more with my Black heritage. Yet coming up I would always feel I had to prove my Blackness. I have so many memories of being made fun of for my hair, my fair skin, my freckles, etc. My physical attributes were under constant scrutiny. So when I looked in the mirror, I did not have confidence in what I saw.
Thankfully, as I've become an adult and exposed to more ethnically diverse groups of people; I embrace my cultural differences and do not feel self conscious about them anymore. I am tremendously proud to be both African and Slovenian American. But as a child, it was extremely detrimental to my self image; as children normally want to blend in with the majority and "fit in". I can remember crying in my room; praying to God, asking Him why I could not just be one or the other. During these times of distress; I would have given anything to have an adult to run to for an uplifting word and/or encouragement. Unfortunately, that is not the type of environment I grew up in and that too played a role in my plight with self-esteem.
Frankly, there is a certain level of guilt I feel in writing these next few paragraphs. I do understand that our families are not perfect and the people we look up to in order to guide us are still learning about themselves while simultaneously trying to help us grow. Furthermore, I do not intend this to be an expose. But facts are facts; I did not grow up in a space that I deem to be conducive to positive self image.
I was raised in an extremely controlling and religiously overzealous environment. Growing up, irrational reactions were given to mistakes. There was a tremendous amount of guilt and shame attached to a child's mistakes; mistakes being a necessary part of learning. I carried this shame and guilt with me to the point that I constantly felt I could do nothing right. It shattered my belief in myself. It was even to the point at times that I would be afraid to even try something because that guilt manifested into extreme self-consciousness.
Sadly, these illogical and shaming reactions to mistakes were not balanced by words of encouragement. You were allowed to quit at things. You were allowed to not try. There was no guidance. I was always fed, I was always loved as best as I feel was capable, but I was never guided. I was told what I did wrong and that was it. I yearned for the type of love that exalted you and praised you. Consequently, that desire led me to seek it in places that it could never be.
So when I began dating, I found myself consistently attracting and settling for unhealthy relationships due to my negative self-image. I needed closeness, the illusion of being wanted. I would cling to situations that bore little to no resemblance to love. I did not want to be alone, especially alone with my self-deprecating thoughts. So it was easier to settle into physical relationships, or relationships in which I was granted much less respect than anyone deserves. This toxic cycle of running to escape from myself in other people continued on for a long time until I started to step back and realize why.
Interestingly enough, my most painful interpersonal relationships served as the catalyst that helped me begin to heal my damaged self-esteem. Being that I was hurting, my energy attracted other hurting individuals. I realized how many of my own issues were present in the people I gravitated towards. Subsequently, when a hurting individual would cause me emotional pain, I would realize that their actions reflected behavior that I displayed as well.
I began to wonder why I was settling for this treatment and what was internally causing me to display much of the same behavior. I thought of all the derogatory opinions I had about the men that hurt me. Then I had an epiphany: these were the same opinions I had about myself. I started to take a step back and analyze the things I told myself about myself daily. None of what I was saying to myself was positive.
I realized this had to change. I began to become aware of how my energy would draw similar energy into my plane. Our worlds are direct reflections of what energy we carry inside of us. We must radiate love in order for it to be mirrored back. I realized that carrying pain and hurt from my past did not generate energy within me that would attract positive energy nor create more in the process.
It dawned on me that my self-esteem is cultivated through me and only me. My healthy self-esteem was my responsibility. I had to inwardly love myself, despite of what was going on around me. I realized that when I mistreated others, it was because I was hurting. So the detrimental experiences I went through were not worth clinging to; hurt people hurt people. Furthermore, most hurt people do not realize they are in serious emotional pain; myself being a prime example. I was doing the best I felt I could at any given time, and so I was able to begin to loosen my grip onto past experiences. I realized that anyone that wronged me was doing the best they could, and it was not anything personal. And if it is not personal, why should I let it affect my view of myself.
I started to recognize that I held the power to love and heal myself. I began to tell myself positive affirmations. I would tell myself I was beautiful, talented, kind, smart, determined. Those thoughts led my actions to change. I began to carry myself like a beautiful, talented, kind, smart and determined woman. And when my actions changed, my energy changed. And when my energy changed, my world changed. I knew that empathy toward myself was imperative; not only in forgiving myself for my mistakes but in forgiving those that I felt did not aid in boosting my confidence growing up.
It was clear that I had been running from myself in search of myself. I could not find anything external to supplement my internal. The love I pined for needed to begin with me, and nothing outward should shake that divine energy that lives within me without my permission. With these lessons I continue to cultivate my love and knowledge of self.
I am so grateful for these lessons. Not just for my own personal benefit, but for the opportunity to help heal those around me. We all want love and we all want someone to care. We can only truly love others once we love ourselves. And I choose to share my lessons and love through song. I hope that this first installment, Running proves to be as cathartic for you as it has been for me. I pray you can tap into the empathy and keep a piece for yourself. I pray you can begin to heal. Above all, I pray you know you are never alone.
I am so humbled and thankful to share this chapter of my journey with you. Blessings Always.