In all of my 28 years on this Earth, I don’t think that I have experienced pure, unadulterated joy until the past couple of weeks.
My life for as long as I can remember has been relentlessly driven by fear of rejection, fear of failure, and trying to earn the love and respect of others. The perfectionism that I have battled throughout my life is fueled by the misguided belief that if I am perfect, then I will never be hurt.
If I am the perfect woman, I will never be rejected by a man that I care for. If I am the selfless friend who sacrifices everything and forgives anything, I will never be alone. If I remain passive and neutral and keep my passions and beliefs to myself, I will never offend anyone or be disliked. I manipulated and controlled as much about my life as I could to achieve this so-called perfection. To win the affections of the guy I was infatuated with. To earn the praise of my parents. To attain acceptance and respect from my peers. And my self-worth was entirely dependent upon the outcome of each of these endeavors.
And then? The guy I am head over heels for tells me he doesn’t feel the same way. A parent dismisses an achievement I have poured my life into for months. A friend disappoints me and isn’t there during a crucial time. I fall to pieces. All of these endeavors I was engaged in come crashing down, and all of the external sources of self-worth and value I was counting on fall out from under my feet.
Over and over again, I have proven myself wrong. Perfection is not possible, and the pursuit of it will not protect me from being wounded; in fact, it will only make my injuries more severe because I had no internal sense of self-worth to cushion the fall. And each and every time I saw another situation end with me broken-hearted and feeling worthless, I was utterly bewildered. Every damn time.
Chasing, chasing, chasing. Always running toward the person, the achievement, the job, the relationship, the body fat percentage that promised to bring me happiness and keep me safe from pain.
A few weeks ago, I stopped running. I stopped pursuing that which has been perpetually out of my reach. I turned around and saw that it had been pursuing me all along, and with some trepidation, I embraced it.
Over these past few weeks, joy has been a daily occurrence. All of those conditions I have been waiting on to claim happiness no longer seem important. There is no more, “I will be happy when…” All of those clichés about life being about the journey and not the destination finally make sense to me. I am not aching for the things I do not have. Sure, I have things I hope for in the future, but there is no longer a sense of urgency, of impatience, for those things to be given to me right this moment. I can wait. And I can be happy while I’m waiting. And I can be excited about the things that the future will bring, both those that I hope for and those that will be delightful surprises.
I am enough. I have value that is completely independent of anyone else’s judgments and opinions. I have God-given gifts and talents that can make the lives of other people better every single day. The best way I can describe the feeling is that my heart has leapt from my chest and is out in front of me leading the way, constantly pulling me in a purposeful direction. Perfection is not a pre-requisite or the goal. My flaws and my mistakes are what connect me to other people and my ever-present reminder of my need for grace.
In all honesty, I have been pretty successful in life being driven by negative motivation up until this point and am proud of the things I have done and experienced, especially in the last year since moving across the country on my own. What truly electrifies my being though are the possibilities of the future now that I am motivated by love and faith in place of fear and self-loathing.
I realize that an explanation of what catalyzed this change is merited…at some point. For now, I just want to revel in the joy of the moment and hopefully throw a ray of hope out to anyone reading this who may be struggling in the same ways that I was. It is never too late to radically change your life for the better!
“Consider that you radiate. At all times. Consider that what you’re feeling right now is rippling outward into a field of is-ness that anyone can dip their oar into. You are felt. You are heard. You are seen. If you were not here, the world would be different. Because of your presence, the universe is expanding.”
– Danielle LaPorte