Sometimes I hear a message so powerful that I scramble to find a piece of paper and any writing utensil to jot it down before the words have left my short-term memory. A line from a movie, lyrics in a song, a sermon in church, or even utterances exchanged between strangers. There are messages everywhere if you are willing to listen with enough intent.
In January of 2017, I wrote down these words in my journal, “Pleasing others will always drive you to lower your own standards.”
And I have found myself returning to that message repeatedly in the last few weeks.
Let me rewind a bit.
A few weeks ago, I did something that left me waking with an uneasiness hangover. I used alcohol as a social lubricant and self-prescribed painkiller. It wasn’t the level of intoxication that I reached, but the anger that took hold of me and penetrated my words and actions once I got home that was most concerning.
For most of the next morning, I sat with an outward silence and the deafening inner turmoil of all the voices in my head. What could I have done differently? Why did I feel so restless? How did I get here?
I sat and I sat and I sat. I practiced what my therapy has been working to instill in me – the concept of sitting with my pain instead of trying to escape it. And then I heard a voice. A voice that did not sound like my own. A voice that I have come to know as God. The voice gave me one word.
The voice continued.
Your actions were not aligned with your goals.
Now I found myself agreeing with the voice inside my head, and digging further to try and understand better.
Me: Sooo you’re saying that my actions weren’t true to who I am? That they were not in alignment with my goals? Which goals?
God: YOU tell ME. What are your goals?
Me: Ok, I know I wrote an essay on SMART goals about a week ago, but I haven’t gotten around to writing them all. It’s been busy! Ummm… I believe my goal is to fulfill my purpose in life.
God: Great, what’s your purpose?
And I was left to wrestle with the enormity of that query, like an end of the year exam with one open-ended essay question that is worth half your final grade.
I’ve continued to sit with that question, reflect on it, pray on it.
What is my purpose? What is the point of all this writing and reading and therapy? What am I supposed to be doing with all of the heartache and healing?
I shared some of these reflections with a writer friend of mine and she responded with sisterly love but also firmness, “It’s time for you to stop hiding. Be open to God using you in ways and spaces you might not have originally thought.”
I have been handed this gift of writing and also, of speaking, with conviction because I am meant to share my testimony and my breakthroughs. But I’ve been holding back. I’ve been putting myself in positions and spaces that do not align with that purpose because I am scared of what people will think. Of what will happen when I say no and then they ask me why. What will I say? How will I explain this transformation I’m going through?
It was then that I was reminded of those words from almost a year ago. I was reminded of my people-pleasing tendencies and how ingrained they are in my psyche. Worrying about how I will be perceived if I wear this or say that. Concerned about how other people will feel more than I am about being true to who I am.
So my prayer today and for the rest of my days is “God, free me from the fear of disappointing others.”
This will be my daily mantra.
I have been hustling hard this past year to write and submit and put myself out there. I need to continue that grind with the framework of alignment. Does this environment help me foster the healing I am working on? Are these friends pushing me to be my best version of myself? Is this what I should really be writing about?
The hustle means nothing without alignment.
***This is essay 38 in the #52essays2017 challenge created by Vanessa Mártir.