Until you understand who you are, you won’t know what you’re capable of.
That statement means so much to me as I continue to own my story Joy from Abuse, and find my voice.
Sharing my own story and struggle was scary. Yet there was realization and healing going through the process of preparing, and a tremendous amount of power in speaking it out loud.
I’m writing this now in the midst of other community leaders are sharing their stories and struggles to help people find the courage to face their own. Last week was National Suicide Prevention Week, and people are hard at work sharing stories to help break the stigmas related to mental health and restore a sense of peace. Ben Rogers shared his story, bravely telling others, “You are not alone.” Akwi Nji continues to provide avenues for people to share their stories through her work with The Hook stating, “Be part of our story. It’s your story too.”
Maybe you’re lucky enough to be thinking, I haven’t been through much. I don’t have a story to share. That is amazing and it’s still important for you to understand who you are to be the best parent, friend, spouse, and leader you can be. Years of conditioning, cultural pressures, and influence can cause you to live a life for someone else, or to be someone you’re not. At least that’s what happened to me.
So…who are you? Have you ever really thought it?
As of a few years ago, I hadn’t. I did know who everyone wanted me to be, and what they expected of me. I knew what I valued and believed based on my upbringing and my experiences. As I started to evaluate who I was and find my own voice within, I realized many of my values and beliefs were holding me back. If you watch my story, you’ll know how I came to form these beliefs. Here are just a few examples:
I believed that love had to be earned, and I believed that a man didn’t love me unless he was willing to fight with me and for me.
I believed I couldn’t major in political science, but someone told me no one would take a pretty blonde woman seriously in politics.
I believed (because everyone told me) I had the personality for sales so I pursued it. I was good at it and stayed in it, even though deep down I wanted to help and serve people in a more direct, impactful way.
I believed success meant being popular, winning awards, making money, and staying busy. At 30 I woke up to a life full of those things, and a restless soul.
I’m still peeling back the layers that culture, people, trauma, and my own choices piled on me. Marie Kondo-style, I take each layer, try it on, see if I like how it fits now that I have changed. I seek new, more healthy and positive layers in books, prayer, and experiences. I know it will be a never-ending exercise.
I also know that the hard work of peeling, evaluating, tossing, and adding is worth it. I have never felt more hopeful, inspired, and resilient in all my life.
Are you willing to find your voice?