I worry too much, about everything. The past, the future, what people think. But that’s funny to me, a little ironic even, because there was a time in my life when I couldn’t care less what people thought. Not only did I not care what they thought; I didn’t care if what I did hurt them, I didn’t care if my actions got back to them, I didn’t care if my actions hurt me, either. And they did. It almost feels like I’m picking up the slack for then, now. Like now I feel extra because of the times I didn’t feel at all.
I was a boy crazed, naively invincible, party girl. Looking back at this time in my life, I see a few things that I didn’t see then:
- I was in a very dark place
- I knew God, but I didn’t lean on Him
- I didn’t love myself
- Because of #1-3, I felt completely and utterly unloveable
I’m an empath. Only recently have I learned about this word and all that it means when applied to a human, but when I did, it suddenly clicked for me.
Oh. THAT’S why. That’s why I couldn’t stop crying that time in middle school when a girl in a grade older than me passed away, who I’d never met before, after I saw how it affected her friends and our school. That’s why I can’t watch assault scenes in shows or movies without getting hot and nauseous, and definitely not without crying. That’s why I can’t watch or hear anything about kids being mistreated without thinking and dreaming about it for days. It’s why I don’t watch the news. Why my intuition is so deeply rooted I can feel things before they happen, and can understand things that are never said.
I used to hate how sensitive I was. How easily I cry. How tough it is for me to watch things that are normal for other people. How long things sit with me. How much I care what others think.
I also now realize that the empath in me is what I turned off when I lived that unloveable life. It was the piece of me that I shut down, that I didn’t allow myself to feel, that I ignored.
When I met Kurt, I felt so many things so quickly and involuntarily. Running from feelings is what I was used to, so I knew I could do that and shut down, or I could choose to turn everything back on and let it in. I made the right choice. He brought the good back and then gave me some of his. It was (and still is) impossible not to fall in love with him.
See, I feel like the empathy in me is also a piece of God that I get to carry around; and so when I turned that off, I turned Him off, too. When I did things I knew in my gut weren’t right, I ignored it. I ignored Him. The more I did that, the farther away I got.
I used to think my gentle tendencies were my biggest weakness, but now I think it’s actually my greatest strength. I care so deeply, I feel so much, I want good for others so genuinely, I carry other people’s hurt.
How in the world could that be a bad thing?
Fast forward to how this is relevant now. My therapist taught me a few things that I use every day:
- Breathe to calm down the fight or flight (anxiety) in my body
- Allow myself to feel what I need to feel
- Release it
It works well. My issue is… I feel everything, so thats takes a while to sit with. I feel it hard. I feel people’s energy shift. I can sense when a situation isn’t right. People’s heaviness rubs off on me, too. A big part that I struggle with… is what people must think of me.
Not who I am now, because that I feel confident in.
But who I was. Not even who I was, because deep down that isn’t who I was. But how I acted. What I did. Who I hurt.
When I pass people at the gym, the grocery store, on the street.. I wonder. I wonder if they hate me. I wonder if they heard all the rumors about all the things I used to do. I wonder if they think I’m a terrible person. Do they think that who I was makes me unfit to be a Mom? Unfit to be a good wife? Not allowed to have such a beautiful life? Do they know that I regret it, or do they think I miss it?
Do they think my husband married me not knowing who I was? (he didn’t)
Do they think I’ll teach my kids to act the same way? (I won’t)
My husband helped me see these things differently for the first time this week.
An old friend of mine from school passed in a very tragic way and I didn’t feel like I was allowed to grieve it at first.. because of what people would think.
I hadn’t talked to him in so many years. I barely knew him anymore. But dangit he was an awesome human being. What happened to him is so, completely independent from who he was as a person. That broke my heart.
Every time I thought of memories that I do have with him, I’d cry.
Every time I thought about what his Mom and Dad must be feeling, I’d cry.
Every time I wondered what his sisters’ pain must be, I’d cry.
Every time I thought of his group of friends, I’d cry.
I wanted to go to his viewing but I was TERRIFIED and I almost didn’t. Would people think, “Omg what’s she doing here?” Would his family? Would his ex who doesn’t like me be there and cause a scene? Do people think that my husband doesn’t know we have a past? Would they know I’m being genuine? That I’ve changed? That I really, truly, deeply care?
I said so many of these things to Kurt, and over the last week he has said several things in response that have stuck with me:
“Ginny, you are allowed to feel sad. This IS sad.”
“Don’t ever let your fear of what people may think of you keep you from doing something you want to do.”
“If you weren’t this ‘soft’, you wouldn’t be you. And I love you.”
(No Kurt is not my therapist, but he’d be a good one)
And I finally realized… there are 2 people who I truly, deeply want to care what they think. 2 people I want to “impress” with who I am.
They are the only 2 people who know everything about me.
And somehow, they’re the only 2 people who, knowing even all of my mess, all of my past, all of who I ever was, have never made me feel unloveable.
God. And my husband.
And this may be the first time in many years that I’ve been able to start letting go a little bit of obsessing over my image.
Because I was caring about the wrong people caring.
I know who I am now.
God knows who I am.
Kurt knows who I am.
That’s what matters.
Do I need to shout from the rooftops that I’ve changed? No.
Do I need to shout anything else, for that matter? When I’m grieving, with a picture to prove it? No. When we’re having stressful family situations, with the perfect words? No. When I’ve finally broken through a traumatic experience at therapy? No. That I’m finally leaning into God so hard that all of those things hurt a little bit less? Yeah, I kinda want to shout that one.
I’ve always wondered how to stop caring so much about what people think of me. I don’t think I can completely, but a good start has been caring what God thinks more.
So I’ve added to my therapy mantra:
- Release …+
- Hug my husband; my home
And try to remember that what I feel is allowed.. simply because I already feel it.
A piece of me wonders.. if I’m posting this, is it because I still care too much? Care that people try to understand my heart, care about my thought process, care to hear any of this?
I honestly don’t know. Maybe.
But I’m working on it. I’m choosing to replace shame with Grace. I’m choosing to really hope that maybe someone needs to hear a piece of this as much as I needed to get the words down.
Plus I really do want to shout from the rooftops.. to find a partner who never makes you feel unloveable, even in the times you feel that way the most; one who never makes you feel guilty for how you feel or your process of healing, grieving, remembering, or anything at all for that matter.
Find you a Kurt. If you can’t, wait for one.
And I want to shout from the rooftops that leaning into God does so many magical things for a heavy heart, a happy heart, a regretful heart, a sad heart, an empathetic heart… any and every kind of heart. I need my empathy. I especially need my God. And I’m finally learning that maybe I need other people’s opinions a little bit less than I thought I did.
From now on I’m replacing, “But what will they think?” with, “God, thank you for your grace.” And I’m excited to shift that mindset.