Recently, I was given the task to look for pictures of myself for an upcoming article I will be featured in. The editor asked for a picture of myself when I was younger or at a vulnerable point in my life, and a picture of when I accomplished something amazing.
She said, “having some additional pictures gives readers some insight into your past and present.”
I am a photo fanatic, so, of course, I knew I would not have a hard time fulfilling this request. Many times, I have looked through old pictures of myself, past vacations and holidays over the years; usually, I just grimace at how much weight I have gained…but this trip down memory lane, was intentional as I looked through them.
I went back as far as 2006, the year I began an abusive relationship, to see if any pictures would show “noticeable” vulnerability or unhappiness.
As I was going through the pictures, surprisingly I became overwhelmed with emotion. I looked at the pictures remembering things that were going on in my life and in my relationship at the time.
They only reminded me of how young and vulnerable I was. I had no idea how much more life’s challenges would harden/strengthen me in the years to come.
I found one picture; specifically, that was taken when I was 28 years old. It was merely three months after my ex-had beat me for the first time, leaving me unconscious with traumatic brain trauma (hemorrhaging on my brain).
As I look at the picture, I recall I was on a business trip in New Orleans, LA standing in front of the Mississippi River looking bright and cheerful while the sun beamed down on me. This trip was a nice escape away from all I was going through at home as I tried to decompress from all I had recently experienced.
In the picture, I am smiling and appear bright and cheerful, but behind the smile, I was broken, insecure and felt lost in utter darkness. All of the pictures taken during the timeline of the nearly eight years I was with him, I had a smile on my face…every single one! On the outside, I appeared to be in relationship bliss!
These pictures are merely a reminder of how broken a person can be behind closed doors; while those on the other side of the camera never see the real image we see and feel on the inside.
It’s usually the difficult moments in our lives that are our biggest teacher and where unforgettable growth occurs.
Most of us have all pondered this question:
“Knowing what you know now, what would you tell your younger self?”
As I reflect on the young, broken, vulnerable girl in the picture, here is what I would tell her:
1. Pay Attention to the Details:
When we first meet people, we are meeting the person they want you to know. Ultimately, we are all guilty of this, because we want people to know we’re good, kind and loving, therefore, we put forth the best “version of ourselves.” The difference between an abuser and the rest of us, is they do it with the intention to manipulate. Consequently, we must pay attention to what people are showing us- not who we want them to be.
When I look back, he repeatedly showed me who he was. There were characteristics about him that I missed, until one day; I began to see him clearly for who he was underneath the mask, he originally portrayed.
Sometimes we are busy rationalizing away the red flags…we miss it because we only see who we want them to be.
Behavior NEVER lies. “People will always tell you they’ve changed to obtain what they want. It’s important to understand that you cannot change a problem using the same logic that created it. If the only thing that changes is the behavior…with no change in logic, you will keep getting the same results- always!”
2. Trust Your Intuition & Instincts
“Intuition is a survival instinct; it’s knowing without knowing why.” God equipped animals with instincts that they rely upon to survive…quite naturally He built us (his greatest creation) with them too, yet we do not trust and use them as we should. Learn to trust your instincts they are the little nudge you feel in your stomach, which happens to be God whispering to you; the more you ignore Him, the louder He gets.
I knew in my heart time and time again I was not making the right decisions, my soul always felt uneasy. God continued to whisper in my spirit, yet I ignored Him and it cost me my sanity and almost my life! Sometimes the price we pay is high.
As you learn to listen and obey God’s whisper, He blesses you with the “Gift of Discernment” which I can now thankfully say I have received.
Do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves. (Proverbs 3:11-12)
If we do not work on raising our consciousness, we will continue to attract other unhealthy, unbalanced people into our lives. I was oblivious to who I was and the type of individuals I was attracting in my life. My lack of self-worth and inability to set boundaries made me a perfect counter match for another unbalanced soul.
When we begin to embrace everything, especially acknowledgment of our insecurities, it diminishes their power over you… and the power for anyone else to use them against you too.
Until we decide to heal our own psychological wounds, we will keep repeating and attracting the same type of relationships (i.e. getting the same kind of man in different relationships).
My relationship and connection to myself became paramount – so that I could heal and develop enough to “show up for myself” Ultimately, I had to honor my feelings so I could eventually speak up and assert boundaries calmly, solidly and healthily – without the fears of rejection, validation, abandonment, criticism or being abused. We become powerful beyond measure once we become conscious!!
To become conscious, we need to be aware that everything and everyone in our life that is hurting us is showing us an aspect of ourselves that we have not found, acknowledged, and healed yet.
“Being conscious has taught me to let go of anything that does not serve me- from my own behaviors, to my mindset, to people in my life….”
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
I am not ashamed or regretful of the path I journeyed. All of the trials and hardships I’ve come though, God allowed them in order to bring me to where I am currently in my life.
As I look back at the pictures of my past, they make me emotional, yet not in a negative way, but with gratitude and humility. I am proud of the growth and how God is using my story of survival through abuse, as a platform to share my testimony of His grace and mercy with others.