Shame is a constant theme that pops up in my life. To this day, I still feel it deep inside my gut. It’s a visceral sense that I am bad or that I am wrong. And although I have made long strides in my healing with lots of therapy and prayers, deep down into the depths of my shame, there’s that girl who was bullied in middle school. Shy and quiet, in a new school, I just didn’t know how to make friends. I was frozen, waiting around for words to come out of me, but so afraid to speak. I didn’t know how to be my actual self.
Those three years were filled with painful loneliness and humiliations from my classmates. I would sob to my mom about how lonely I felt and how no one liked me. The loneliness convinced me that I didn’t matter to anyone, not even to God. My perspective of life became zombie-like. My storyline became: Everyone can have fun except me. Everyone can have friends except me. Everyone can be loved except me. I am the exception. And I made sure that my life revolved around that exception.
On the surface level, I thought that I was truly living for others. I put so much attention on trying to make people happy that I forgot that I was actually not okay.
Deep down, my people-pleasing was really a desperate cry for love and acceptance. If i could not love or accept myself, then I believed that I must surrender myself to the needs of others, no matter the cost.
That wasn’t hard for me–as a phlegmatic, I naturally desire harmony. I want everyone to get along with each other even if that means that I am left out. And as a Catholic, I thought I was doing the right thing–putting others before me. So even when I felt uncomfortable with all the yeses I have said to people’s needs, I thought that I was on the path to holiness. Saying “yes” even though I really meant “no.” But for me, each “yes” meant “please, don’t leave me” or “please, don’t think I am bad.”
My insecurities and codependency dimmed my relationship with Jesus, huge barriers to the freedom and healing that God called me to. Rejecting my own needs, my own wants, just so others could have convenience or comfort–it diluted my self-esteem. It watered down every single dream, passion, desire that I had in my life because I was trying so hard to be Jesus for others.
I tried to quench people’s thirst when Jesus was the only one capable of doing that.
When I was getting my Master’s in Social Work, anxiety and fear would build up in my chest whenever I would speak with co-workers or clients from my internships. In every interaction, I tried to keep myself safe from the bullying or judgment I feared was just around the corner.
In my classes, I felt safe, able to hide behind my good grades. In my internships, though, my codependency was unmanageable. I let the drive to please everyone as much as possible overwhelm me.
One day, I realized that I needed to seek out the underlying causes of my hypersensitivity and codepencies. I stumbled into Codependent Anonymous and Adult Children of Alcoholics, and those groups helped uncover many of my childhood wounds. For the first time, I was able to bring them to God in my prayers.
Bringing all my wounds and all my pain to God helped me to realize that I didn’t need to gain approval or acceptance from others…God is already pleased with the way that I am. It was so healing to say “yes” to the person that I am–it gives me the freedom to see what God sees in me. And I slowly let go of the person who I thought people wanted me to be.
Of course, remembering that God is pleased with me is an ongoing journey, but it was like I was finally letting God love me and not a carbon copy of another person. I had spent the last two decades of my life holding my breath, so afraid to live the life that God has given me. This was a significant point in my healing journey. It was like letting His Ruah in me, His loving breath into my lungs.
Letting go of my perceived needs from others helped me to encounter God’s longing for me and that the love He has for me quenches my thirst for acceptance. I don’t need to pine for people to accept me because of what I do for them, because God already loves me entirely, longs for me to be fully myself, just as he is fully himself.
And that same longing He has for me, He has for each person in the world. And guess what? It’s not my job to fill all of their empty cups–only God can do that.
My book of poetry, Songs of Freedom, highlight the struggles and setbacks I experienced with God and how I rediscovered Him as a Good Father to me.
In ‘The Way of the Human,’ from that collection, God speaks to me in such an intimate way–the image of an interior pilgrimage and a deep rest in God.
The Way of the Human
The highest peak of the mountain is felt
By gray clouds,
Stilled and silenced,
Unmoved and untouched.
The way of the Human
is barefoot on the ground,
groaning with the longing of the heart,
Ascending and descending.
The highest peak of the mountain
In her Creator.
Alexandra Henry is a Dominican-American woman born and raised in the Bronx, NY. She is an Admissions Counselor who had self-published a book of poetry called, Songs of Freedom, which can be found on Amazon. She blogs at www.acceptancejourney.wordpress.com and can be found at her Instagram, @freedom_inhaled.