I asked someone out this weekend.
He said no.
It’s an awful feeling to put yourself out there and then have the risk not be rewarded, to feel a keen sense of rejection and try not to let that affect you. When it comes to relationships, I am familiar with this type of rejection, it happens all the time. The scary part for me is that I know that I am not only risking a rejection of that one instance but that I am also risking the rejection triggering a trauma response. It always does when it comes to relationships because so much of the psychological pain I’ve experienced as a result of my abuse comes in one particular phrase, “No one will ever want you.” So, each time I am rejected in my dating pursuits that sentence becomes more and more solidified as true in my mind and heart.
The “No” did trigger me to fall into my old patterns of rejection and I spent most of the weekend hearing the echoes of a past that never seems to let me go, the sentence ricocheted in my mind and I added fuel to the fire of my pain by calling myself every awful thing one could possibly imagine. I couldn’t stand to look at my reflection because all I could see were the painful words and all that I wish was different about myself.
Sunday morning I went for a walk to try and clear out some of the meanness in my mind and hoped that if I was outside walking the suitcase of anxiety that seemed to be pressing down on my chest would finally leave. As I was walking I passed a dirty puddle of water and only noticed it enough to stay clear of it; but, just as I was almost passed, I saw in it the reflection of the sky, clouds, and the trees that surrounded the path. I turned around and went back. I stared into the water and was overcome with thoughts and feelings that seemed to be hitting me all at once.
I thought of how that puddle is just like me and millions of other people. What I first saw was a dirty, ugly, lopsided, puddle of water that needed to be avoided. What it reflected, however, was so much more than that. What it reflected was an infinite sky with changing colors of gray and blue, beautiful white clouds that seemed to stretch on forever, and trees that swayed with the slight breeze. I sought to see it from every angle and with each new corner, something else popped out at me, it seemed to be filled with so much possibility. I imagined the puddle trying to look at its own reflection and was sure that what it would see would match what I first saw – dirty, ugly, lopsided, of no consequence. How could it not see that? That is what it has been told all its life that it is, that is what it believes itself to be.
I believe this inability to see in our reflection what we truly are is one of the most prevalent and damaging aspects of human existence. I work with individuals on a daily basis that are on the outskirts of society – those who are homeless, those who suffer from substance abuse, those affected by trauma, refugees, those who are unable to see any good in themselves. I don’t have to imagine what they believe their reflection to be because I can see the result of what they see in how they act, in what they do. How is this changed? How does a person begin to see within themselves their own infinite sky of changing blues and grays, their own bright, white clouds, or powerful trees swaying in the breeze? I don’t yet have an answer for it is something I have struggled with my entire life.
In my path of spirituality and religion I have been told that it changes as I begin to allow myself to see who I am through the eyes of a loving God and his son Jesus Christ. I believe this can happen as I believe others who have told me that it has happened for them, but for me I have yet to be able to see myself in that light, through their eyes. What I believe it to mean to see yourself through the eyes of God is exactly what I have confidence in that he allowed me to notice as I looked into the puddle – it’s the ability to see the infinite possibilities that individually we possess, just as I did with the sky; to see the depth of emotion and strength that is inherent to each human soul, just as I saw the swaying trees; to see goodness and purity in the individual that is constantly trying even amidst their falling and weakness, just as I did with the beautiful, white clouds.
I am not there yet; in fact, I am pretty far from there. What I do have, however, it the ability to see all of that in another person. People sit across from me and sometimes I am overwhelmed at the possibility I see in them. People tell me horrible, awful things about what has happened to them and what they have done but it doesn’t change my mind. It doesn’t change my mind because when they speak I know that I have my own past I wish to hide from, my own mistakes and pains I have caused other people and damage that others have caused me. There are times when seeing the good in others can get hard and most often it comes as a result of their actions being similar to the actions of those that have harmed me in my life. I haven’t figured out a good way to handle that yet, but I’m trying.
What I do know is that what we see in our reflections is important, its crucial to who we are because in this life we become what we believe ourselves to be. Right now I believe myself to be alone, to be unworthy of love and companionship, to be “fat, ugly, pathetic, disgusting” – the four words spoken to me so many years ago that have seemingly been emblazoned into the fiber of my being. How will this change if I am unable to believe I deserve it to change? How will this change if I am not the one putting forth the effort to let it change? It won’t.
So that means I begin today. I begin to slowly allow for just the possibility that it can be different and then I work at trying to make it so. It will take time, it will be hard, I will want to give up and sometimes I will. That’s okay because that is real life. What is also real life is getting up, trying again, pushing forward. So if you have ever felt like me, if you have ever looked at your reflection and saw nothing more than a dirty, ugly, puddle of water, know that you are wrong.
You are so much more than who you think you are! You are infinite possibilities, a strength without end, and goodness waiting to be shared with the world. All you have to do is BELIEVE it! No one else can believe for you but you can believe in others, you can seek to see them for their inherent worthiness. Each time that you seek for the good in others and see it, I believe that it opens up your heart to more fully embrace the truth of who you are and what makes up your real reflection. When others tell you what they see in you, don’t push it out, give your mind permission to believe them!
You and I are not dirty, mud puddles on the path to nowhere.
We are possibility. We are strength. We are goodness.
Now we just have to believe it.
Let’s start together; let’s start now.
Who’s with me?