If you are anything like me and I was to sit in front of you and say, ‘You are special,’ it is likely you would feel very uncomfortable. You might squirm in your seat, your face might turn a shade of red and you may even start to recall all the ‘facts’ that would prove that you aren’t special. You would tell me things like, ‘You don’t know what I have done in my past. You don’t know what I have said to others or all the stupid mistakes that I have made.' I am here to tell you today that your past and the marks others have left on you doesn’t mean that you aren’t special and that you are worth more than you think.
I remember standing at my sister’s work desk when I was maybe 11 or 12 years old. My sister had to pop out for a couple of minutes and her colleague, who we will call Lucy, was looking after me while my sis attended to her responsibilities. Lucy and I got on to the subject of how wonderful my sister is. And she is wonderful. All of my siblings have a measure of bravery that is astounding and when I think of what they have overcome I am inspired. So yes, it was true.
I had met Lucy a number of times and I knew enough about her to be in awe of her. She was a Christian who was in ministry and at that time of my life I wanted to be just like her. I wanted to know the God she knew. The God who loved the stained and oppressed of society and saw them for who they were and who they could become. The God who could love someone like me.
I came from a safe family but the world outside my home was not. I, even at that age, had a lot of baggage. I wanted to have someone to see me in the way I wanted to be seen which was… ‘special.’ Not weird, or slow, or dumb, or ugly or frizzy haired. I wanted someone to see me the way that would give me peace and rest. I just wanted to belong and not feel like my birth was a mistake and my life was just a consequence of a 'cuddling session.' I also needed them to not be family. Why? Mainly because for me family members are meant to be the ones that see the best in you so it didn't really count.
Lucy said about how my sister was special and she could see Gods love shining from her. Not knowing God that well, other than from what I learned at school, I enquired about this ‘light.’ Lucy went on to explain that God made all of us and is with us and that he places something within us and that light shines. It was basically a ‘This little light of mine, I am going to let it shine’ deal and if you don’t know the song check out the YouTube video from Listener Kids.
What happened next I didn’t expect and it sent me on a path which wasn’t the healthiest if I am honest. I asked if she could see light within me. Her quite blunt reply was ‘no, you don’t have this 'light.’ Lucy might not have noticed, but the no that I received devastated a very fragile me.
My understanding of this event is different now to how I felt about this back then. Back then I already felt so different to everyone else. I remember feeling like I was waiting around for something to happen. I was searching for 'my people.' People that understood me and liked what they saw. My understanding now is that Lucy was in an uncomfortable position and didn't recognise that I was ripe for the picking.
If you wanted to share God with others and convert people to Christianity, then I was very low hanging fruit. It would have been easy for Lucy to guide me in accepting a life with Christ there and then. Lucy could have said that the light doesn’t switch on until you accept Jesus fully and that would have changed the events that then transpired. However, she did not. And whether she realised it or not she chose to leave or conversation and me as it was, and I was embarrassed and heart broken.
I was confused and what self confidence I had left shrunk. My brain filled in the gaps and it ran with the narrative that I was nothing. I had questions.
Why can 4 year olds sing about their shining their light and be valued as special, but I couldn’t?
Was I too old and I had missed an opportunity somewhere down the line?
Had I done too much wrong to be worth saving?
Had I done too much wrong to be worth loving?
But I am not a terrible person, so why can't I have this life?
Maybe I am just not worth the attention?
Anytime I was upset by someone's interaction with me or I didn't do well at school or I struggled, I constantly told myself that it was because I was just a shell. I would say things to myself like, 'What did you expect? You're nothing? You have nothing good inside of you. Why try? You will just fail. Maybe those people at school are right? Maybe I am a waste of oxygen?'
If a child was to ask you if they were as good as another person, would you say no? I know I couldn’t. Firstly because that is just brutal, but secondly because it is a lie. No matter your personality abundance or lack there-of; no matter the talents and abilities you have or don’t, you are special. You might need more time to find that one thing that gets you excited. You might not learn the same way as your classmates. It may take years of exploring what you don’t like to find the things or the career that makes you smile. It might be a decade of trying to make a breakthrough that then sets you on a path of helping others. But know this, we are all special. You are special. And you were made with something inside you, a buried treasure just waiting to be found.
This event messed up by mind and my heart for sometime. I would go on to torture myself every time my life didn't live up to expectations that I had. I was hungry. I had a need that I needed satisfied but it never was. i tried different things. i tried working hard. Doing everything I could to do things right and to know everything about everything. but the fact is, I was interested in everything so topics that would come up with people I would be clueless about but I still acted like I knew what they were talking about to feed the desire within me to be untouchable. If they couldn't touch me, if they couldn't embarrass me then I was safe. I would throw everything in to relationships and like a match to would start with a flash and that was exciting and felt good but then it would burn out as quickly as it would start.
I would tried to be everything everybody else wanted and it didn't work. I tried being individualistic, it didn’t help either. I tried hopping on the milestone train of getting my education, getting a job, finding a partner, settling down, having a family but the hunger just raged on.
I worked so hard to be a ‘doer,’ thinking that if I can’t shut these feelings out then at least I can present the facts that I am doing all I can. But everything I did wasn’t enough for me to stop the hunger, or fill the void inside me that I needed filled.
Everything came to a head a few years after my child was born. I no longer wanted to live in strife. I no longer wanted to find living stressful and after a great deal of work, a lot of changes and exploration I found my buried treasure. When I dug up these skills that had been sitting there waiting to be discovered I, at first, didn't know what they were or what they were worth but they meant something. I just knew my life would never be the same.
Looking back on that day I realised I should have been bold and asked questions or at least talked to someone. I think about the possiblity that life would have been different and that I could have avoided some of the hurt that came my way. But my past is what it is but my future is new and untouched.
Some days the hunger comes back. Those are the days of overwhelm. Those are the days I remember the bad stuff. If I am honest, I still have triggers but my healing from my past experiences is underway. And although I have 'icky' days I have good days too.
One thing that drove me to start sharing my stories is that I never want anyone to feel the pain, loneliness and destruction that I have felt in my life. Life is meant to be enjoyed but bad stuff does unfortunately happen. To avoid the ‘why me?’ cycle, I try to think of bad stuff like getting mugged. I know, uplifting right? But you see, you can lose the stuff you possess and not tell anyone and move on with your life, or you can tell the right people, go to the bank and reclaim anything you have lost.
Taking in to consideration that some muggings are more violent than others, counselling might be a good path to go down to start healing but please don't rule yourself out from a better life. Don't give up on yourself. Bad things happening doesn’t disqualify you from taking back what’s yours. In fact it can qualify you to support others by overcoming the challenges you face, by being an example.
I would encourage you to find within yourself the one thing that you can share with others that is good. The thing that brings warmth and empowers others, that gives you that little tweak of confidence to realise that you are fundamentally good and of value. Yes, you might make mistakes but having the courage to move through and past them, is the proof that you will use, to help you realise you are special and you can do this.
Our choices will either help us realise and unlock everything we are meant to be or keep our true selves like buried treasure, locked away.
As for how I speak to and think about myself these days, I have had to adjust a lot. I have taught myself to evaluate the things I say and think and if I wouldn’t say it to a kid, I will not say it to myself. That rule of thumb, that standard has allowed me to filter and remove the destructive negativity in my life.
I have seen how being kind to yourself, that act of goodness, will naturally spread to how you treat others, in good situations and in bad. But promise me one thing? Don’t be a doormat for others lousy behaviour either. Everyone is working through their own stuff and will make their own choices for their lives, but I know I needed to know my character and who I was so that I could see things for what they were and not take responsibility for things when other people made poor choices.
Remember that you have a place here, even if right now you don't see it. Keep digging and don’t doubt your worth or value. You are special.
I hope that I have encouraged you today. If you need support do reach out to someone or an organisation that can help. If you would like to share your story or contact me please feel free to private message me on our Facebook page or on Instagram. You can also email me using firstname.lastname@example.org address. Be sure to check out our next article here on ‘The Encouragers Life.’
Article written by J. Bingham