It probably has everything to do with the way I grew up, but I feel like I am a bother to literally everyone.
As I age, I move further away from the unkind words and actions of bullies and family, but the pain that birthed hesitation never left.
I am genuinely fearful, at all times, that I am causing someone to be annoyed with me. This could be a friend, family, a mentor, a boss or a co-worker. There is rarely a time in which I can truly let my guard down and be 100% myself with those around me.
I asked a question of someone I look up to and, thanks to social media, I saw that they read it and didn’t reply. So I unsent the message, immediately worried that I became a bother to them.
I know this is not their issue nor is it my fault, this cautious way I walk through this life is the result of being treated like I was lesser than.
Imani, that was middle school. Get over it.
Well actually, I was bullied well into college. College. I was ostracized in college. I was ganged up on in college. That was 3 years ago. I cannot think of a single year of my life in which I did not experience people treating me differently just because I’m quirky and, admittedly, a little weird.
Even in my own family, I never felt that my voice was loud enough. That my opinion meant … anything. The unkind words of family members have been seared in my brain, making me look at every interaction through a microscope. The way I was treated made me lash out and be unkind.
Now that I’m older, I am more comfortable in my skin. I believe that I am beautiful and smart and worthy but in my quiet time I can still hear the words that were branded on my heart.
“You’re ugly.” “No one likes you.” “You’re stupid.” “No one will ever want you.”
I can clearly remember the times things were stolen from me. The times my class ostracized me and made me feel less than. The times I ate lunch with a book as my only friend.The backhanded compliments. The times people talked about me in front of me. The times I was told that no man would ever want me. The times I was ignored or forgotten about.
I can even remember the many times my ‘friends’ decided to join in on bullying me.
The times I figured out that they stabbed me in the back.
So now, I’m 26 and I struggle daily with feeling like I am enough.
16 years of my life have been plagued with the fear that I am a failure. Ugly. Stupid. Worthless.
As a Christian, I know that I am to find my worth in Christ. Oh if it was that easy!
I know what the Bible says about me. However, my heart has memorized the taunts and jeers like a song that I can never forget the words to. As I ask God to heal me, I fight with the feelings of low self-esteem.
As I pray about my future husband, I fight the thoughts that no man would ever want someone like me. I fight the thoughts that I deserve someone who would treat me wrong because after all, isn’t that all I’ve had before now?
I know that I am more than a conqueror.
The head and not the tail. Above and not beneath.
A friend of God.
A co-heir with Christ.
Saved by grace.
Strong enough to finish the race set before me.
I know these words are true.
In my devotional time, the Holy Spirit washes over my heart with these reminders. These words are a balm to my tattered heart and a mend to my broken mind.
As much as I know these words as truth, I am still hurt by the untrue words hurled at me years ago.
While this post is a transparent moment for me, may it also be a reminder to you.
Be kind. Speak life.
Ephesians 4:29 (NIV) says Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
Jesus wants you to be kind. I want you to be kind.
I know that I am not the only young adult struggling with their self image based on the words they’ve internalized and once believed as true. I know that I am not the only Christian young woman who fights tooth and nail to believe what God says about her and not what she’s heard about herself from other people.
I challenge everyone who reads this, whether you were the bully or you’ve been bullied, be kind.
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against such things there is no law.