To anyone looking at me from the outside, you’ll see a slim-bodied but fiercely spirited, confident, smiley-faced young woman with laughter always close to her lips. Many people I’ve met have christened me “Sunshine”, and I try to live up to that nickname.
I post my fair share of positive social media posts to showcase the sunshine in my heart, however, I’ll be the first to admit that all is not always as bright and happy as it seems. Depression and anxiety take their toll on my mental health and my scrolling of social media does little to calm their intensity. In fact, with a society that encourages people to showcase their best selves (#livingmybestlife, #blessed, #neverworkadayinyourlife), some experts believe social media may shoulder a significant impact in the increase in depression rates.
In my case, a smiling face does much to hide body-image issues along with every single negative, self-shaming phrase that woman and men alike have been known to deal with inside their minds. Sentences that pass uninvited through my mind run the gauntlet from “not enough” to “you’re too much” and usually include some form of “you’re no good at anything“‘; “why did you just say such a stupid thing“; “everyone else is better than you at_____” thrown in for good measure.
The result of all of these thoughts coursing through my delicate mind is that I’ve dealt with more anger and rage issues than I care to admit (though you’ll never see me act out on any of them) and many nights have been filled with suicidal thoughts that never fail to leave me curled up in fetal position on the floor, balling my heart out and wishing for an escape from my self-inflicted torment. None of these confessions should leave you concerned for me; I’ve got grit and determination and true joy within me that helps me always, always, always rise from the pile of negativity that would see me shamed and broken.
Every human is faced with opportunities to decide to take a step out of whatever it is that holds onto and weighs them down.
I’m taking that step now.
I’m no longer going to allow my mantle of negativity to weigh me down. My hope for every human is that we all reach a place where we no longer put up with whatever lies our inner demons have told us and we find ourselves standing triumphantly in the light of acceptance. Acceptance of our sorrows, our shame, our shadows. I am no stranger to this place of acceptance and self-love, but I have had to remember the feel of that place again and again, rising from ashes anew each time I replace my fear with joy. Each time, I have stared down my brutal excuses for not living up to the brave woman I know I am. I have realized that opportunities and open doors have always been at my feet, I’ve just been too afraid to take that next step. Trust me when I say I know what it’s like to be frozen in fear. But so too do I know what it feels like to fully say ‘yes’ to an experience that I instinctively know is right.
Saying ‘Yes’ to that next step looks different for everyone, but the results for each person are remarkably similar. We lay down our excuses and extend out our own hand to pull ourselves up from the despair that’s blanketed us. We are all our own saviors, as we are all our own jailers.
True beauty follows true commitment.
True transformation follows when what was is burned down to lay bare fertile ground for seeds that are yet to be uncovered, to expose what will be.
I am finding that when one lets go of tightly-held fear (of life, of success, of self-discovery), it does not disappear. Joy simply grows to take up more space within the spirit, preventing fear from taking the reins of control. Resistance no longer blocks your creative energy from making things happen. When resistance is melted away, finally, finally your body and soul can breathe together and see what is truly possible.
For me, my next step involves choosing to do something terrifying. I’ve decided to pursue an impossible (to me) adventure and participate in Race the Wild Coast in 2020. I will pursue this adventure and use it as a tool to create a more honest way of sharing on social media. We all look at what everyone else is doing and think we could never be that perfect or achieve what someone else has; we view it as unattainable for ourselves.
I want to showcase the struggle inside a seemingly perfect shell. I want to show that there’s pain and sorrow and self-destructive thoughts mixed in with the good and the beautiful and that despite those thoughts, we can all make it through to the other side.
It just takes one step to get started.