When I was a little kid, I was bullied quite a bit. For being foreign, for being dark-skinned, for being too skinny, for being “ugly,” etc. I rarely told people the full details because well, bullying makes you feel ashamed. And shame is not something that you share with people very often. Shame is an emotion you fight to escape. And in some ways it leaves you with live mental scars because you keep going back to the people you’re not good enough for – the people who hurt you are the people whose approval you seek the most.
Of course it’s not just bullied children who know this but I would argue that most people feel the pressure of seeking the approval of others. But one thing trying to heal that aspect of brokenness from my childhood has taught me, is that you must release the need to feel accepted by others you have put on a pedestal. You must release your need to feel good enough to people you have deemed worthy of judging you.
It’s a lot easier said than done.
In a world where for whatever reason or no reason at all, people dislike you or think of you as inferior, feeling like an other, an outsider, is easy. But from my late teenage years onwards, where I deliberately started to confront my past through journaling and reflection, I learned that others’ opinions and perceptions of you will always have to, at least in part, reflect who they are, rather than who you are. Moreover, it is too easy to fall into the habit of thinking that those whose opinions we have allowed to take a stronghold on our self perception, are accurate.
People, and especially unkind people, suffer more than we’ll ever know. Rather than anger, there is sympathy to be had. As the saying goes, “Hurt people, hurt people.” Because if you observe people carefully, you will almost always be able to see right through them. But you have to be paying attention. Besides that, you have to know who you are before you know anyone else. And that person that you see in the mirror must be comfortable in the skin they’re in. It’s not an easy road and it’s not a short one. But it’s a journey worth making.
There will always be moments of insecurity that remind us of the things we are, and the things we’re not. There will always be a temptation to allow the people who know and love you the least, or who don’t love you at all, to hurt you. But there is too much at risk, too much goodness you are capable of, to allow the words, actions, and perceptions of others to hold you ransom to a life of uncertainty about whether you are enough. That is not good enough.
The truth of the matter is in order to say goodbye to those you’ll never be good enough for, you have to say goodbye first, to the person in your reflection that allows you to believe those things to begin with. You have to believe yourself that you are entirely good enough. That any attempts to make you feel invisible or like you don’t matter, are futile to the spirit that lives in you. The more you believe that you are enough, the more that spirit strengthens. Indeed, as that wonderful African proverb goes, “When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.”