Sometimes when I look at myself in the mirror, I see a quiet crack that dances downward in a jagged spiral. Okay, honestly, sometimes it’s more of a gaping hole than a simple crack. There are days that I feel so outrageously broken that I wonder how I am capable of moving the muscles in my body; I wonder how I am ever going to continue putting one foot in front of the other. There are days where the crack in the mirror serves as a jagged edge and it cuts me straight to the core – but there are also days where that crack that splits my reflection is simply a dull rolling edge in the mirror that’s staring back at me. I am thankful for those days of relief where I can feel a little bit more at home in my own life.
Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking (yikes, I know! haha). To be completely honest – it really sucks. I don’t like to address my feelings or emotions. I will avoid confrontation at all costs…including (aka: especially) confrontation with myself. But when glass gets shattered, you don’t stand in the broken shards and pieces hoping that you won’t get too badly cut up – you step out of the mess and proceed to clean it up. In hind sight, that’s kind of what the past 3 years of my life have been life – cleaning up shattered glass.
Not to be overly dramatic but sometimes I wonder if someone snuck into my life and dropped the same ball of glass that falls in Times Square, NYC every New Year’s Eve because I feel like I’ve been doing a whole LOT of cleaning for a whole LONG of time. To say that there were a ton of pieces of cracked and shattered glass to pick up would be an understatement and I’ve gotten sliced open in the cleaning-up process more times than I can count. But I am slowly and surely making progress, although there is still work to do.
There are 2 words/phrases for which I have become obsessed with during the past few months~
1. Authenticity: of undisputed origin; genuine:
2. Introspection (or self examination): Introspection is the examination of one’s own conscious thoughts and feelings. In psychology the process of introspection relies exclusively on observation of one’s mental state, while in a spiritual context it may refer to the examination of one’s soul. Introspection is closely related to human self-reflection and is contrasted with external observation.
Authentic introspection. It sounds like some fancy scientific term but it’s actually quite simple when you boil it all down: soul-searching.
I don’t really know how to write or say this so that it sounds nice, pretty, clean-cut, etc. Life just isn’t like that and that’s part of what I’ve been learning lately. When it comes down to being authentic, and I mean TRULY authentic, sometimes I think I’d rather be locked up in prison with murderers for the rest of my life instead of letting others see what and who I really am and the things that plague me day to day. But then, I realized that it’s actually the act of being shamelessly authentic that frees you from the prison you’re in.
It’s one of the most difficult things – to speak to your emotions, to recognize them, to acknowledge their existence, and to decide to attempt to figure them out. When someone asks me how I’m doing, the automatic reply is, “I’m good, how are you?” And that’s fine. Sometimes that’s necessary – especially depending on the type of relationship I have with said individual. But sometimes it’s wrong. Sometimes, it’s a cop-out. And although I’ve realized that that specific response is my attempt at protecting the person who asks the question, it actually just ends up isolating me and amplifying all the icky things I may be feeling and experiencing.
Being authentic means that we are our true selves. It means that we don’t look to the world around us for answers or for verification that we are indeed good or bad. It means that we don’t let others and their decisions influence how we choose to carry out our lives. It means that we speak up when we see injustices that move our soul. But most importantly, it means that we take the time to assess and reassess and reassess again (as many times as it may take) our feelings, our morals, our emotions, and how our souls are managing life. Being authentic means knowing our needs and then making the conscious decision to speak them out loud, unafraid to ask for help, admit weaknesses and failures, and to show that we are willing to learn and grow from whatever life throws our way.
Here’s the biggest caveat: You can’t be truly authentic unless you take the time to be introspective.
Soul searching sucks. (sorry mom, that’s the cleanest word I have to accurately describe it.) Sometimes it feels like having an epiphany that changes your thought processes and makes you want to go out and change the world – those are the good days, the days where you see a future filled with joy, happiness, hope, etc. Sometimes soul searching produces feelings of elation and “oh, I get it now!” types of revelations.
But most of the time it reveals one thing: pain.
It hurts like hell. I’ve found that, in soul searching, I often times am able to trace my feelings/emotions/issues back to specific times, places, and people. Although this is helpful in understanding the “why’s” and the “how’s” it doesn’t ease the pain. One thing I’ve come to learn is that diving head first into your past is terrifying and it doesn’t solve the present pain you may be experiencing, but it can aid in changing the future. I used to judge my future by my present pain and it almost always left me feeling hopeless, angry, helpless, and depressed. It made the crack that I saw in the mirror as sharp as a butcher’s knife and it often times made me feel as though someone had stabbed me and then continued twisting the knife into my back. All that resulted was confusion and immense pain.
But it has been through introspection and soul-searching that I’ve been able to find hope for healing. Our past doesn’t dictate our future unless we choose to let it – and that’s just it: we have a CHOICE. Over the past 3 years I have learned and grown in such immense ways that I sometimes look back and don’t even recognize the person that I was then. But in a way, I don’t want to lose that girl. I don’t want to lose her because it was through her, her experiences with life and with pain, with sadness and with joy, with trauma and with abounding blessings, that I have crawled and struggled to where (and who) I am now.
Soul-searching has helped me learn more about myself and to grow and evolve. Being authentic has helped me formed bonds, relationships, and to heal in ways I never envisioned were possible. Authentic introspection has helped me learn to speak to my needs, my failures, my successes, and to (try my hardest to) live without shame regarding who I am, where I am, and how I carry out my life.
Soul-searching revealed immense pain and hurt – broken shards of glass exploding everywhere around me. For the longest time I felt trapped and scared. But now I’m learning to clean up the mess. I’m learning that life is messy and broken for ALL of us – no exceptions. I’m growing in authenticity and forming bonds and connections with other broken humans so that we can help each other up when we fall – we need each other.
I’m learning to be shameless.
I’m learning to be unafraid of my weaknesses.
I’m learning to acknowledge the beauty that God works into my brokenness (and yours!).
I’m learning to live in the light.
I’m learning that that broken mirror may be a part of my past, but it doesn’t need to control my future – the severity and deepness of those wounds are slowly being healed by an Almighty, all-powerful God who has already fought all these battles (and won them!) for me and for you. God is remodeling our hearts through our brokenness and pain. He won’t stop until He is finished.
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
-1 Peter 5:10
“The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.”
― Ben Okri
“Make a pact with yourself today to not be defined by your past. Sometimes the greatest thing to come out of all your hard work isn’t what you get for it, but what you become for it.