The worst thing that I have ever been told was, “YOU ARE the steppingstone to my happiness.” Those words were said to me almost a decade ago, and they still linger in my head as if they were just spoken to me yesterday. At the time, I did not take offense to this because I saw the beauty behind it. This thinking was predicated on how I felt about myself because every time I was used, I thought I deserved it. It made sense that I was a steppingstone.
Truth Moment: I always felt like I was never enough. I believed I was only around to make others feel whole, never realizing that making others feel whole was depleting my emotional health. Let me be real, I stayed in relationships past their expiration date. I over compromised and made excuses. I accepted emotional and mental abuse. I made choices in my life that were damaging, only to falsely feel like I was being understood or valued. Consequently, I never spoke up when I was disappointed. I just accepted it. When I was told, “You are stupid,” I believed it because I was nothing more than a step. My identity was surrounded by how I made others feel. I allowed myself to be mistreated for years without acknowledging the damage it was causing. After years of feeling insecure and having low self-esteem, I had to go back to the root of the issue.
This trend did not start overnight; it began in my childhood. In the Vulnerability Over Insecurity blog, I discussed my childhood and my desire to be accepted by everyone. Truthfully, I did not understand or acknowledge myself because my identity was rooted in what others perceived of me instead of who I really was. Growing up in a predominantly wealthy, Caucasian area fed into my diluted understanding of myself. I was always trying to fit into a place that did not fully accept me. Putting on a mask to cover up who I was and never being educated on my lineage was always a struggle. I was raised by my stepfather since I was 6 years old, but never had a relationship with my biological dad. So, imagine being a child that has no clue about where they came from and being in an area that does not promote or accept your culture and who you are. As a result, I did just enough for people to like me. Let me tell you, living to please people is exhausting. Always changing who I was to fit into another person’s world drained me mentally. For almost thirty years of my life, I was adjusting myself to accommodate those around me. I struggled in relationships because I could never just be me, and I never knew who I genuinely was because my identity was inconsistent. I never realized what I called myself, at the time, became my identity. I continued to feel this way until I found out my identity is rooted in God and not man.
“I AM” is such a powerful way to start a sentence.
Be real with yourself for one moment and finish an “I AM” sentence. Most often than not, the statement will conclude with a negative thought or idea. Society has embedded that if someone says I AM beautiful, then the person is self-centered. If a person says I AM smart, then they are arrogant. If they say I AM worth it, then they are conceited. Usually, when someone says, “I AM ________,” it relates to an attribute that they wish to change like, “I am a procrastinator, fat, dumb, jealous, insecure, depressed, or anxious.” What if I told you that you put an identity on yourself that was never meant for you to carry? What if I told you that your words have power and what you speak out of your mouth becomes your new reality? What if I said, “You just labeled your condition as a part of your identity?” People often misinterpret the facts of life with the truth of who they are.
The fact is, although you may be experiencing a state of depression, it does not mean YOU ARE depressed. Some will argue that the statements are synonymous. Take someone that is battling cancer. Would you ever hear them say, “I am cancer,” or would they say, “I have cancer?” The same goes for everything else in life. We are quick to say, “I AM _______” instead of saying, “I have _______.” Identity is something that we cannot change. Identity is something that God has created and intended for us to be. When you take on labels that were never meant for you, you start to experience an identity crisis. Why? Because you are trying to identify with something that is not rooted in the overall truth of you are. When God created you, He already labeled you as His. Now, will you accept the truth of who you truly are, or will you allow your circumstances to become your identity?
Truth Moment: I was always the third wheel. The one that never had a best friend (until I was in college). The one that had birthday parties, and no one showed up. The one that was your friend in private but not in public. That was me. My puzzle piece was always the last one to complete the picture, the forgotten one. Now, this is not to say my life was all-bad, or to throw myself a pity party, or say woe is me… Just the opposite, I almost forgot who I AM! I would not be who I was today without that experience. I would not be able to talk to my eleven-year-old daughter that feels the exact same way as I did or be able to relate to her. I would not be able to comfort her and reassure her. I would not know that she needs to be affirmed daily. I would think that the individual facts of her experience would outweigh the truth of who God says she is.
My testimony of overcoming was a hard pill to swallow, but it was all worth it.
So, back to the lingering comment in my head. I have learned to accept my identity as an encouragement, not a step. I cannot take on the label of “steppingstone.” That is not my weight to carry. God says that I am loved, powerful, beautiful, strong, compassionate, chosen, and enough. What has He said about you? His label of who you are is for you to carry, and the negative words of man are what you burry.
I challenge you with this today: CHANGE YOUR VOCABULARY! Every time you say, “I AM,” let it be followed with a positive affirmation, rather than a negative thought. YOU ARE ENOUGH. You just almost forgot who you are!