I stumbled across one of my old journals while I was cleaning my apartment this afternoon. (Three years have convinced me that everything in my life will be all right–or at least manageable–if I just take two hours to clean my home each week. While this may not be for everyone, I’d recommend considering it at least. It could change your life.) The journal began in the summer of 1999 and went through spring 2000. I journaled very faithfully in those days…once a day usually, though sometimes I missed a day here and there. I had to laugh at the ponderings, poutings, and general relatings of my 13- and 14-year-old self. I felt so old then; a wiser me smiles and shakes her head–I was just a little girl, really.
But something I scribbled in an entry caught my eye. My younger self wrote about feeling ugly, inept, and not worthwhile. Over a decade later and “all grown up,” I still struggle with those feelings. I know I’m not alone in this; in fact, I can’t think of any woman I know who doesn’t fight against these kinds of feelings and thoughts, at least sometimes. And too many women don’t even fight them, they just accept them as a matter of course. We all have this deep-down, debilitating sense that we’re just not good enough. (I assume–and have heard–that men struggle with this, too, but I’m not in a position to write with much authority from that perspective.)
At the risk of being blunt, I say: we feel this way because it’s true.
We’re a fallen race, and we carry that mark around with us. We are ugly, inept, and not worthwhile. We aren’t good enough.
Except that we’ve been lifted up by a God who loves us.
Still, we’re marked by what we were before, and that marking shows itself in so many ways–in our constant falling down, our failure to grow in virtue or to perform good acts, and in our giving in to this sense of ugliness. It’s so easy to run ourselves into the ground with our self-loathing, and when we do that we negate what we’ve become by God’s grace, and we stunt our growth into the person he wants us to be.
What keeps us in these patterns of self-dislike? Sin, for one thing. It’s hard to be “okay with me” when I watch myself fall on a daily basis into the same petty, disgusting, stupid sins. And Satan, too. He’s got a self-loathing fetish, and he feeds that sense in us with glee. He feeds it in each of us differently. To take my life as an example, he gets me to compare myself to others. That girl is prettier/smarter/better dressed/holier; she makes more money than I do; she’s engaged, and I’m not even dating; she gets asked out more…the list goes on and on and nauseatingly on. And so I become bitter about who I am, about where I am in my life. Funny, isn’t it? I throw the gift of myself back in God’s face (well, not quite; I’m a polite person by nature, so instead I hint around for a gift receipt) because it isn’t quite the right color, shape, size. I make conditions. I’ll love myself when…
Chances are, I was making those same conditions with God twelve years ago when I wrote that journal entry. Maybe it’s time to pick it all up, tuck it away, and embrace it. This is who I am. Twenty-something, single, Catholic, artsy, scared of just about everything, bad at sports, decent in the kitchen, working a job I like that just barely pays the bills, practically running in the opposite direction when a guy makes eye contact and therefore not going on many–or, okay, at this point any–dates, trying to keep up some semblance of a social life despite the inevitable awkwardness of most parties, doing my best to maintain a life of prayer, and in general just doing my best and trying to keep moving. This is where I am.
And it is very, very good.