“I’ve learned to slam on the breaks/ before I even turn the key/ before I make the mistake/ before I lead with the worst of me…”
Hearing those words for the first time, I burst into tears. I’ve never, at any point, had someone so succinctly express how I’ve felt for the majority of my life. As far back as I can remember, I’ve struggled with feelings of inadequacy and loneliness. I’ve always struggled with making (and keeping) friends, and expressing myself openly in the presence of others has felt like an insurmountable task over the years. I can remember thinking to myself after yet another friend abandoned me without explanation, “What’s wrong with me? Am I really that difficult to love?” As I grew up and got older, I realized that the easiest way to avoid the pain of failed relationships was just to avoid getting too close to others. I comforted myself with the fact that I had my family, and that in reality, Jesus and my faith in God was really all I ever needed. And while to an extent that is true, I didn’t realize that my own fears were holding me back. Due to my introverted tendencies, any efforts that I did make to build relationships were very draining, in part because I felt that all my efforts to build relationships were one-sided. As a result, I would pass up opportunities to spend time with others, and instead, I retreated into my own little world. There were even times that I would purposely bring a book to things such as youth group at church because, in my mind, nobody really cared to hear anything I had to say, nor did anyone have any desire to be my friend. And because I closed myself off and no one really reached out, I continued in this pattern for a long time.
I guess you could say I hit my version of rock-bottom in a way when I was 14. I had my first anxiety attack over something that, in retrospect, was very inconsequential, but to sum it up, made me feel rejected after a great deal of hard work and pushing myself to step out. This made me feel that I was justified in avoiding depth in my relationships, and so I pushed that part of myself down until I couldn’t take it anymore. I eventually got to the point where my anxiety was so bad and I was having such bad anxiety attacks that I finally asked for help. My family and my faith were really the catalyst that helped me and enabled me to seek professional help and tools through which to overcome my anxiety. And for the most part, I did. Years later, I was able to, with my doctor’s help, wean myself off the anxiety medicine that I’d been taking ever since that time. I considered that a success, but my underlying insecurities were still there.
I wish I could tell you that I’m cured of my anxieties and insecurities, but that would be a lie. I still have moments of inadequacy. Even this past summer, I remember driving home at night, crying because I felt so alone and unwanted. Did anybody really care about me, or was I merely another face in the crowd? “If you’re falling in a forest/ and there’s nobody around/ do you ever really crash or even make a sound…?” Those are words that could definitely sum up my experiences in this struggle. Are you really struggling if no one can see or hear your struggle?
The answer is yes, but I didn’t know it. Or I did, but I preferred to buy into the lie. Looking back on my life, there were always people there trying to reach out. For the frightened girl in middle school who thought no one saw her, there was a pastor asking her how she was doing. For the anxious girl in high school who felt that no one really wanted to be her friend, there were several inviting her to hang out with them. For the young woman I am now, there are those who have never failed to show up with kindness, an encouraging word, and a listening ear. There’s you, who’s taking the time to read my story. There have always been people trying to remind me that I’m not alone. But sometimes, in my selfishness, I would rather retreat into myself that listen to the Truth. That Truth was always there, patiently pursuing me and reminding me that I did not have to live this way. All I had to do was reach out and accept it.
God has been teaching me a lot this season about listening to Him and not to my own insecurities. In those moments, I’m especially reminded of 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4, which states, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” And honestly, that’s my entire reason for writing this long post (which is not something I’m apt to do normally). If you, like me, struggle with feelings of self-doubt and loneliness, I want you to know that I hear you. But most importantly, God hears your cries and He longs to dry your tears. Someone once told me that they appreciated my reaching out to them, and I told them, it’s because I get it. I know what it’s like to be that person, a wallflower if you will, who feels like no one sees them and that no one cares. But they do. I do, and most importantly, God does, and He’s the only one who can heal the hurt. Because in order to effectively drive out the fear, you can’t leave it a place at the table of your heart. You need to fill that seat with the love of God and His truth that says you are worthy of love and that there is no longer any room for that self-doubt to remain or come back. It will try, trust me. But you can’t let it win.
“So I’ve got nothing to share/ no, I’ve got nothing to say…” That’s what I used to feel, and in moments, still sometimes do. But now, I’m trying my best to be a more transparent person. Thank you for making it this far, and for caring about me. Next time you see someone sitting alone or by themselves, I would ask that you keep reaching out to them, even if they turn you down. The Lord might just use your persistence to help shine the light of His truth in their lives. Even if you don’t see the rewards right away, maybe one day, when they are healthier emotionally and mentally, they’ll be able to look back and remember that they really weren’t ever alone. Thanks. 😊
*** The song I referenced is “Waving Through a Window” from Dear Evan Hansen. ***