We all have it. None of us are immune.
Somewhere along the windy, bumpy course of our lives, we began to believe it. The lie of our lives. Some of us have one big one – a pervasive one, one that dogs us every day, one that, if we continue to feed it the power it so desperately craves, tries to overtake us heart, mind, soul, and spirit. Some of us have many—little lies that we’ve told ourselves that, because of repetition and time, we’ve come to believe as factual. For some of us, our entire narrative about ourselves is defined by the lies we’ve told ourselves about ourselves.
For me, mine is that I am inherently unlovable, and so I must pour myself out like water on a budding flower to get the love in my life to bloom. That I cannot bloom from sunlight and rain and the natural flow of life alone. I must pour myself out daily and give and give and give in order to receive. Because me on my own? I’m not enough.
If you met me, you’d never guess this is how I feel about myself. I’m as upbeat as they come, positive, always quick with a smile and a laugh. From the outside, I look as though I love myself. My hair is done, my clothes are pressed, my nails are done by professionals, and my makeup is never absent. But self-care is not self-love. Don’t ever confuse the two. The outside might appear one way while the inside tells a different story.
That lie was implanted in me as a little girl, and it’s a narrative I’ve believed my entire life until very, very recently. As an adult, I can comprehend the truth of the situation, whereas me as a child simply could not.
But the lie persisted. Once the lie sinks its teeth in you, it takes nearly superhuman effort for it to lessen its toxic grip.
It led me to adopt perfectionism as a way to earn love. Maybe if I’m senior class president, I’ll be loved. Maybe if I’m Homecoming Queen, I’ll be loved. Maybe if I make good grades and go to church every Sunday and am the nicest girl in school, I’ll be loved. And while those achievements were great, they never filled me up. They never answered that burning question: Am I lovable now? Am I enough now? The answer would always be “No, not yet. Keep trying.” I never got mad, I never disagreed, and I was only a fraction of myself—the “good girl”—because I thought if the world really saw me for me, they’d despise me. My boyfriend would leave. My friends would leave. I was myself, but inauthentically, a shadow of my fullness. I became obsessed with others’ happiness and comfort and, because I deep down inside didn’t believe in my own enoughness, I craved affirmation and validation like a drug. But like any substance, the highest high of becoming a Homecoming Queen or falling in love or whatever other honor or accolade or acceptance from another it was this week would fade, and I’d be left alone in my room with myself, searching for my next hit, because it was never enough. I was never enough.
I looked at my achievements as signposts to keep working towards, mile markers in the journey to keep me focused on earning my acceptance in the world. Successful high school career? Check. Successful college career? Check. Successful graduate school career? Check. Successful actual career? Check. But all of it never filled that void or filled that hole. Maybe temporarily, but never permanently.
By 30, the only signpost I had left that I hadn’t accomplished was the ultimate one: getting married, the absolute pinnacle of being chosen. You see, the lie of my life told me that it was impossible for me to be chosen by a man, so if I could just find a man to choose me, put a ring on my finger, and stand before God and everyone and promise to love me forever, I could finally conquer it—I would finally be made inherently lovable. I could finally close that gaping hole and move on and be happy. Because the moment you’re chosen, the moment a man gives you his ring and his name, you’re automatically happy forever, right? Right? And I’d wear a diamond on my left hand every day to show the world that, see? See? I am worthy of love, and here’s a couple of carats to prove it. My biggest fear was being left alone and abandoned by the men I dated, because that would leave me alone again, stuck, once more, with myself—a person I hated. Because I didn’t love myself, only through another’s love did I ever find worth, and when that love was taken away, I felt—you guessed it—worthless. Empty. Completely void of purpose and meaning and value.
Spoiler alert: When you date with an objective, and you date to fill a deep void inside yourself, and you date without fully, unconditionally, unapologetically loving yourself first, it doesn’t work out. The only way you can love another to the intended, maximum potential is if you love yourself radically first. And that’s where I am now. Marriage is no longer the ultimate seal of approval in my eyes. It’s a representation of a love I share with another because I first loved myself. A meeting of two whole people, not two halves.
As I look towards a hopeful eventual happy marriage, I am every single minute of every single day divorcing myself from the lie of my life. Because I am inherently lovable, without any effort, without any convincing, without any cajoling, without anything other than being my true, authentic, genuine self.
It’s hard to undo a narrative you’ve believed wholeheartedly for 33 years, but I’m doing it.
I doubt you even have to think much about the lie of your life. Is it that, because you’re a size 14, you’re not beautiful? Is it that you’re not enough? Or too much? Or both? Is it that you’re unworthy, or cursed, or forgettable, or selfish because you have needs, a perennial fuckup, a mistake, or, or, or?
Not that you needed my permission, but I am giving you a carte blanche pass to divorce yourself from the lie of your life.
It’s not true. It never was, and it never will be.
What is true is that you are enough, lovable, worthy, chosen, imperfectly perfect, and whole. Right now. Without a pound lost or a change made. Without a partner or a few extra bucks or a different job. Now. Don’t spend one more moment of your precious, worthy life believing that lie. Bask in the truth: You, all of you, are what the world needs to be a better place.
On the other side of unbelieving the lie of your life is everything lovely about life. The truth will set you free, so believe the truth, and finally, deservedly, experience life in abundance, just as you were always meant to.