Growing up an only child meant spending most of my time alone. My parents would play games with me occasionally but I mostly remember being told “After I finish this” or “I don’t like watching cartoons”. That meant playing and creating my own world. However, it also planted the subconscious belief that other people's wants, needs, and priorities will always be above mine. Taking care of others isn’t a bad thing, but I had no clue what taking care of myself even looked like. Starting college and being a chronic people pleaser proved to be more damaging than good. My film peers were sure of themselves and confident, already having pinpointed what they were good at. I, on the other hand, was seeing everything for the first time ever, and it was hard to feel adequate or good at anything. I spent most of my first semester standing around waiting for someone to need help with something and it got so boring because I realized no one needed anything. For the first time it was expected of me to have my own projects, thoughts, and opinions without the fear of someone else’s priorities. It felt good to be valued and thought of as an individual and not just other people’s advice giver.
I had spent all this time being understanding and accommodating, trying not to be a burden. Meaning none of my needs were ever a priority for myself. It took many nights crying and countless therapy sessions to figure out why I was so unhappy. It also took strengthening my relationship with the Lord in order to find how I should be treating myself. Ephesians 5:29 is a verse I have written in many of my journals, it reads “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes it, just as Christ does the church.” It isn’t selfish to take time by yourself or to learn what things make you anxious. It’s ok to have a safe space to unwind and spend time with the Lord. You can say no, and set clear boundaries. Taking time for myself hasn’t made me any less of a loving person. I still jump at the chance to help someone but now I know how to help in a way that makes me feel fulfilled and loved.
Often I think we expect to get things right on the first try and as obvious as it sounds we were not made to be perfect. It’s ok for things to not go the way you or anyone else had planned, because it isn’t our plan anyways. It’s God’s plan. Keeping that in mind has kept me from panic attacks more times than I can count. Learning that things are not in my control has turned time that I would usually spend stressed into time finding ways to cope with that stress. Through everything the Lord has been my best and sometimes my only positive support system. “Fear not for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous hand” Isaiah 41:10. When in doubt look to the Lord for comfort and for support.
Taking the time to check in on myself has forced me to come face to face with insecurities I didn’t know I had before. It’s difficult when you get older and you realize what your weaknesses are, it can be easy to dwell and compare yourself to others. I don’t finish projects that I start, I’m awful with deadlines, I'm jealous, I'm sensitive, sometimes I talk too much or too little, but I am loved. Jesus loves me “for I am fearfully and wonderfully made, wonderful are his works; my soul knows it very well” Psalm 139:14. I encourage you to take a look inside and see if you're treating yourself with the respect and sympathy that you would have for others.
With love, Emily