It was so ironic. She stood in front of the bathroom mirror, forced to look at herself. In that same mirror, she was forced to see herself too. She couldn’t stand what she saw…it just wasn’t enough. With tears streaming down her face and red marker in hand, she began to write. Every word unbelievable yet the truth.
Disclaimer(s): I’m letting you into an intimate space. Please be gentle with my heart. Secondly, I apologize if any part of my delivery offends you. Lastly, this may be a bit lengthy. I have a lot to say today.
“I’m Christen F***’n Rouson!” A few of my closest friends know that is my go-to line when running my resumé: my bloodline, accomplishments, gifting, skill set, etc. Basically, that is my way of saying, “I know who I am, and if you don’t know, it would behoove you to find out soon.” From afar, I am a well-constructed work of art, and seemingly I have my ish together. I’m gifted, beautiful, intelligent, and I take pride in how I’m viewed in public. It appears that everything I really put my mind and hands to succeeds. Don’t misconstrue what I’ve typed thus far to mean that I’m arrogant; to know me is to have assurance that I’m far from that. I am merely sharing some of the things that have been alluded to or shared out right.
Illusion – il·lu·sion /iˈlo͞oZHən/noun
- a thing that is or is likely to be wrongly perceived or interpreted by the senses.
Here’s the problem with illusions, what is seen may not be completely real.
She spent her days being told how strong and resilient she was. She was praised for her ability to be everything to everybody at practically all times. But that was the problem. She felt as if people only drew from her what they wanted then left her depleted and lethargic. Was she only good enough to be used? That’s how she felt. Trapped in a universe where she was only seen from a far but not heard, touched but not properly cared for, she found herself lonely in crowded rooms more often that not. By day, this woman was a superhero of sorts. Adorned with a mask and a tattered cape, she was careful to conceal her insecurities and make her flaws inconspicuous. By day she was strong. By night she was broken.
Nights filled with gentle sobs and cascading tears; her pillow soaked with the expressions of her weary heart. “Why aren’t I enough?” she often questioned. See in her mind, she wasn’t all that her facade was cracked up to be. She didn’t feel beautiful. A daily examination of physical flaws coupled with the comparison of the women who seemed to catch eyes pecked at the foundations of her. She didn’t feel special. Being looked over, ignored, and abandoned in the past only confirmed her self-destructive thoughts that she wouldn’t be chosen because she wasn’t worth the choice. Ultimately, she felt as if her life wasn’t really worth living. As a matter of fact, she was convinced that the pain of living superseded the pain that her death would bring.
Another day and more of the same. She was exhausted. After a full day of being “on” and perfectly hidden in plain sight, she was spent. Today’s quest to be okay was so much more arduous than the days before. Maybe she had really hit the bottom that she had been bracing for. This would be the night that her hope was depleted. It was just like a scene from a movie where the character has one million thoughts coming to mind all at once. She stumbled into the bathroom trying to silence the words that echoed in her head, “You are fat. You are ugly. You are unwanted. You are so stupid. Look at the dumb choices you’ve made. No one wants you. You’ll only be used and discarded. You are not enough. You really should choose to end all of this.” The tears poured from her eyes like the streams of a waterfall. “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!” Weariness cloaked her. She rested her hands on the bathroom sink and allowed her head to fall between her shoulders. She was consumed with the conflict of what her heart was telling her, what she truly believed about herself, and all the positive affirmations she had heard in church and read in the Bible. She was torn and tired, barely able to lift her head to face her reflection in the mirror. It was so ironic. She stood in front of the bathroom mirror, forced to look at herself. A face stained with ruined eyeliner and running mascara, disheveled hair, and clothes that seemed to fall off her shoulders, this was far from the polished look she presented to the world just hours earlier. In that same mirror, she was forced to see herself too. As if all of the words in her head were written across her chest as a scarlet letter, her insecurities were palpable. She couldn’t stand what she saw…it just wasn’t enough. Her journey to the bathroom wasn’t just equipped with tears. In her clenched right hand was a red dry erase marker that she grabbed from her bookshelf. With tears streaming down her face and red marker in hand, she began to write. Every word unbelievable yet the truth.
“Hello, beautiful.” “You are more than enough.” “You are wanted.” “One day it will all make sense.” “You have no reason to fear.” “You have a reason to live.”
She didn’t believe it…any of it.
This narrative is mine. “She” is me. On late, lonely nights, my last name and any of the weight it carried didn’t matter. It was immaterial how well I could belt melodiously, command the English language, captivate a room with my presence, efficiently fulfill the requirements of my jobs, or even how my love could consume and heal those around me. When I looked in the mirror, all I saw was a woman who was flawed and damaged. I saw someone who was broken. It became a recurring norm for me to pretend that I was alright when the world was looking and find discontentment within my hidden spaces. “You are fat. You are ugly. You are unwanted. You are so stupid. Look at the dumb choices you’ve made. No one wants you. You’ll only be used and discarded. You are not enough. You really should choose to end all of this.” Those words, whether hushed or amplified, looped in my head all day. I dare say those words were rooted deep within my heart.
“You become what you believe.”
For a brief moment yesterday, I took a break from the paperwork that covered my desk to read an interview between Oprah Winfrey and Amy Shumer. I won’t busy myself with summarizing said interview though it was a good read. What jumped from the page for me was the aforementioned quote, “You become what you believe,” and in an instant, my thoughts were teleported to that solemn night in my bathroom: red marker in hand, tears falling from my eyes, and a weary heart beating out of my chest. As I told you, those terrible thoughts about myself had rooted deeper than just my mind; they were in my heart. What I felt about myself was evident in how I carried myself, the things I tolerated from others, and the ways that I wouldn’t even try because I thought failure was my greatest achievement. What I believed about myself eventually became who I was.
The next morning I stumbled into the bathroom in a sleepy haze. Because I had forgotten what happened the night prior, I gasped as I saw the writing all over my mirror. I questioned the affirmations. “I am enough?” “I have a reason to live?” I rolled my eyes as I dismissively stepped into the shower to begin the routine of washing away the night’s sorrows and adorning myself with the day’s facade. Day after day, I gazed at those affirmations with disbelief. How could any of that be true especially since how I felt about myself had not changed? In the rare occurrences that I entertained guests, I dreaded the moment where he/she asked to use my bathroom. Letting them in there would expose them to my reality, and that unveiling left me susceptible to judgement. My guest would discover that though I was the life of the party and lights shined brightly in my living room, there was a darkness in the spaces that were off-limits. There was even a hesitance with family. I didn’t want to explain my truth.
In time, with a myriad of coping and growth mechanisms coupled with God’s help, I began healing. Eventually, I began seeing not only the red lettering on my mirror with different eyes, but I began seeing the reflection behind it differently too. It took time to uproot the harvest of the negative seeds that were planted within my heart, and it took just as long to plant positive thoughts in its place. As I had the courage, I would walk into my bathroom and read those affirmations aloud. I’d rehearse them over and over like a chant that I needed to memorize. I read what I saw and in time, I began believing what I said.
For too long, the affirmations in red lettering seemed so idle to me. Ironically, I was caught in a cycle where I didn’t believe what I saw because it didn’t match what I felt, but my feelings weren’t going to match those affirmations until I started believing them. Let me very clear, I couldn’t “fix me” on my own. Left to fend for myself, I was limited to the lies I had rehearsed over and over for years. It was GOD who intervened in my life by way of sermons, songs, people who were just “checking on me,” his word, in my broken prayer time, and even in a few sessions where he yoked me up by my collar. God himself had to transform my mind and the places that were damaged in my heart.
I walked into my bathroom that morning different. I was no longer the woman who was disgusted with the mirror’s reflection and introspection of herself. There were no cascading tears. I wasn’t perfect, but I was no longer pained. I lifted the bottle of glass cleaner to the mirror and began spraying. A bit of laughter escaped my lips as the red lettering smeared down the mirror. The words were illegible. With my left hand I wiped away the remains of the affirmations that covered my mirror. The tables had turned. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe those words, it was that I no longer needed them. I had become them.
For the record… I have fully embraced that I am “Christen F***n Rouson,” but I still struggle with insecurities. There are still days when I take inventory of all that I am and have experienced, and I wish that I could change some things. I am not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I am not the broken women that I used to be. What’s the difference between then and now, you ask? I believe something different about myself therefore I have become something different.
Everyday, there will be people who will have a plethora of opinions about us and our lives. Somethings will be spoken in private conversations and never make it to our ears. Other things will spread like the flu until we catch it. Of what is spoken, there will be compliments, commendations, appreciation, and praise. Other spoken words would have been done maliciously with the expressed intent to tear us down. Some of those words will roll off our backs while others will pierce to our psyche. Everyday we will at some point play the comparison game. Whether placing some portion of our lives in the line up against someone else or simply comparing our lives to who we used to or thought we should have been by now, we belittle who we are in that current moment. It would almost seem insensitive of me to just say, “Don’t believe the bad stuff,” because I easily believed it for yeeeeeeears! I know the struggle and just how loud insecurities can be. What I will offer is an alternative to “stinking thinking,” as my daddy used to call it. Maybe you can fill your mind and heart with what GOD says about you… You’ll find that in your bible. *wink wink*
I’m still working on some tender areas within my life, like accepting that not attending a four-year college and having a traditional degree doesn’t make me any less intelligent. That’s a big one for me right now…as I stand at the gateway of graduation, certification, and a brand new career. *insert eye roll* Anyway, with that and a few other things that I am quietly processing, I am allowing who I become to reflect what I now truly believe about myself:
I am more than enough. I am not a mistake. I have a voice. I am strong. I am beautiful. I am intelligent. My bad choice from yesterday isn’t my bondage of today. God has a plan for me. I am capable of succeeding. I am not lost. I am wanted. I am God’s choice. I am worthy of love. I deserve to have peace. I am God’s masterpiece.
This was long and possibly broken. Prayerfully it all makes sense.
I hope this helps.