“You don’t matter.” “Nobody cares.” “You’ll never be as good as ‘x’, so why bother?”
“What a joke you are.” “You don’t fit in.” “Stop embarrassing yourself and just GIVE UP.”
These are all things I have told myself over the past several years, mostly regarding my writing. The messages were especially prevalent last fall as I looked toward my soon-to-be empty nester life and feared I’d have no purpose. I sunk to a new low and, I’m ashamed to say, I was quite vocal about my feelings with some close friends. The “victim” attitude I held was so deeply entrenched in my thoughts I couldn’t see beyond these ugly messages. It took a few brave friends to give me “tough love” pep talks to bring me out of my pity party.
I think I’ve spent most of my life vying for approval. Growing up, I was a doormat, an easy target for bullying and teasing. I was always last picked for teams during P.E. In junior high, I hated the way I looked – so plain and never knew how to dress with the latest styles. I wasn’t a “cool kid” in high school, either. In fact, I believe I spent most of high school uncomfortable in my own skin, and I couldn’t wait for it to be over. (Now I regret not enjoying that time).
During my college days, I suffered terribly from anxiety and depression. God blessed me with wonderful friends during those years, who saw me through some rough times. Thankfully, despite my emotional state, I did enjoy college and have many great memories from those years.
After bouncing around a few temporary bookkeeping jobs after college, I landed my staff accounting job – where I have been for 23 years, with many changes, including the company being bought by another firm. This might not come as a shock to some of you, but I never fell in love with this job. I came to love the people I worked with over the years, (even though a few of them scared me to pieces at first), but, to this day, it’s never been my passion. It’s just a way to earn an income.
Once I started writing, I thought I could eventually quit my job and write full time. What a dreamer I was back then (in 2011). Instead of quitting, I’ve had to work more hours to pay for writing expenses like editing and cover design, marketing and conferences. All so I could still feel like a failure in 2019!
Now here we are in April of 2020. I’ve stepped away from writing and marketing so I could put in more hours at work for tax season. (And I went into tax season with a bit of a grumble). I was blessed to get away to New York City for my son’s band trip, and we had an amazing time. When I came home, we went almost immediately into social distancing and the stay at home order. Life got serious fast. People were getting sick, dying, scared, nervous about their income, depressed, and overwhelmed.
I’d already been working on my attitude when I moved to the new office location, so my perspective had started changing. After a few months of low hours, I was happy to be busy and bring in more income, especially since several big expenses came due at the same time. I found myself not so miserable at work, even though I was putting in twice as many hours. The change of scenery and my own changes made a world of difference. And now, while so many friends are out of work, I’m appreciating that my job is safe.
Being away from the writing world, I also got new perspective on that part of my life. For a long time, I wrapped up my identity in my success as a writer. Recently, I began seeing my writing as only one part of who I am. My worth isn’t related to the average ratings on my books. Seeing other writers beat themselves up over their writing made me aware of how I had been for too long. You see, I want writing to be fun. Yes, I want to share a message, but I also want it to be a joy. Work is work; I use my accounting skills and education to help support my family. I write for God and for my own enjoyment, and I pray others will benefit. And now that I’m back to part time hours, I pray this perspective stays and I don’t get caught up in the comparison game again.
I’ll wrap this up with a few quotes from the movie, “Facing the Giants”, which we watched as a family the other night. The first one is “Your attitude’s like the aroma of your heart. If your attitude stinks, your heart’s not right.” I can sure attest to this truth, going back to school days! Looking into my past, I can see that so much could have been different if I’d had a better attitude. But we’re all works in progress, even well into our forties!
The other quote I loved from the movie was “I’ve resolved to give God everything I’ve got and leave the results up to Him.” Instead of going through life not trying hard and making excuses, I want to use the gifts He’s given me. If I keep asking Him for guidance and follow through, I can give control over to Him and find a peace that goes beyond my human understanding (a paraphrase of Philippians 4:7).
If any of you out there have a running monologue inside of negative messages, I pray you find a way to change your perspective and start living a life of fulfillment. I’m still in the process of working through baggage from my past, but I can already feel the difference. Don’t give up and give in to the “victim” mindset. God made you for a purpose and you ARE worth it!