These Four Things

My name is Stephanie Maria Martin.

I was born on June 11, 1994.

I have brown eyes and brown hair.

These are facts.  These are the things that I have always known to be true about myself and that will never change.  But beyond this, there is so much I have left to discover about who I am.

I don’t know what I will have for dinner next Tuesday.

I don’t know what my strengths are.

I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

I don’t know what my purpose in life is.

I don’t know when I’ll take my last breath.

There have been many days that I have found myself in tears over some of these facts.  I have a love-hate relationship with surprises, and uncertainty drains me.  One day I will think I have it all figured out, and then a split second later I realize how wrong I am.

It hasn’t taken me long to learn that I can do all the planning and worrying  that I want, but none of it will matter.  I can plan for the worst and hope for the best, but what good does that really do?  Realizing how little is under my control has been one of the hardest things for me to swallow.  I like to think that I live in present, yet sleepless nights and constant doubts prove otherwise.

There is indeed so much I don’t know about myself, and about the future. But there are some really important truths that, after a lot of time, I now know.

I am unique.

I have a purpose.

I am not a mistake.

I am so, so loved.

It took me far too long to realize these four things, and I’m not so sure that I always believe them to be true.  However, I know that while there is very little I can control, I can always choose to be happy.  I can choose to believe these things.  And that’s exactly what I will do.

I will repeat these truths to myself every day for as long as it takes for me to believe them, even if that means I will be doing it until the day I die.

And I hope that if you read this, you will do the same.

Because in a world that is constantly telling us who we should be, and as we constantly struggle to put the pieces together to figure out who we actually are, these four things will remain the same.

You are so loved.

-SM

Falling For Myself

I have never been the type to be fully comfortable in my own skin.  There has always been a laundry list of things that I would love to change about my appearance tucked away in the back of my mind.  Whenever I’m having a rough day I can recite the things I dislike about myself as readily as if I were being asked to recite the alphabet.  My almost non-existent shoulders, my lazy eye, my nose, my not-so-white teeth, my round face, my thick and often unmanageable hair….

The list goes on and on.

I have also never been the type to like to admit that I have insecurities.  But then I guess no one is.  I hide my insecurities under a smile and makeup, hoping that if I do it just right it will somehow imitate the confidence I seem to have lost so long ago.  It’s gone on this way for a few years now, and it could probably go on for a few years longer.  But what way is that to live?  Who wants to live in fear of mirrors and transparency their entire life?  I make money telling young adults that they cannot live this way, yet I have made it a habit myself.  I have become a hypocrite, and coming to that realization was so incredibly hard to swallow.

I have been my greatest enemy, constantly letting the whispers and expectations of society fill my ears until they get to my head and the lies dance around in my mind.  I let myself lose control over my self image, and in doing so I let the idea of confidence fade away until it was nothing but a nice yet unattainable concept.

It was time to go to war with myself.

When I look in the mirror and feel the urge to look away, I stare myself down instead.  I dare myself to think a negative thought so that I can shut it down and replace it with the truth I have been denying myself: that I am enough.  When I am afraid to look someone in the eye for the fear that they might see right through me, I instead silently dare them to look away first and make sure that I flash them a smile (after all, I’ve always had a brilliant smile).

It isn’t easy to reverse the negative, false image of myself that my mind has so generously created for me.  But it’s something I have to do, and something I will continue to strive to do every day of my life.  I owe it to myself.  If I choose to wear lipstick, it is for myself.  If I decide to wear no makeup and wear clothes that are dangerously on the border of not matching, I will smile because I know I’m doing it for me.  Maybe it’s selfish, and that’s okay.  Because if I can’t be happy with who I am, if I can’t look in the mirror and like what I see, then I’m doing something wrong.

If we as individuals cannot learn to be kind to ourselves and appreciate the things that make us unique, if we are unable to fall in love with ourselves all over again every day, then how could we ever ask or expect that of anyone else?  Or even more importantly, how can we give that kind of love and acceptance to someone else if we deny ourselves it?

Treat others the way you would want to be treated, but also remember to treat yourself the way you would want others to treat you.

-SM

Finding Your Tuesday

It started with the usual suspects: a few glances at the time only to roll back over for a few more minutes of sleep, the joy of knowing I did not have to work, and the inevitable surge of shame as I realized it was almost ten and I was still in bed.

Until today this has been my typical Tuesday morning routine, except usually I can be found sleeping in long past ten.  I’m the type of person who likes to think they can do everything until eventually the exhaustion catches up to me and I just want to go into hibernation  for the next few months.  After taking on two jobs, school, and various Bible study group it became clear to me that I needed more free time.  This realization resulted in me deciding to take Tuesday’s off (unless I get called in to one of my jobs) and spending those Tuesday’s sleeping well into the afternoon and then loafing around the apartment not doing much of anything.

This brings us to this morning, which started off the same was as the past weeks have.  Yet, as I prepared to snooze a little longer I couldn’t help but think that this was not what I should be doing.  Somewhere between my hectic schedule and weekly snoozefests I lost myself.  I was going through the motions of life without really doing anything unique.  In taking on everything I should be doing, I gave up ever doing any of the things I wanted to be doing.  Tuesdays are the one day out of the entire week that I have to myself  to do whatever I desire, and here I’ve been letting them slip by.  This morning as I lied among some dangerously comfortable pillows with the promise of a new, beautiful day hiding behind my curtains I knew that it was time for a change.  I lost myself somewhere between the craziness of everyday life, and I was determined to find myself again.

I decided that I wanted to spend today doing all of the things I always tell myself I don’t have time to do.  I put on an extremely cute outfit for no particular reason.  I gathered my belongings and headed to my local Barnes & Noble for a change of weekday scenery.  It was there with the help of Taylor Swift and a delicious, free nonfat pumpkin spice latte (thanks Brittany!) that I was able to finish a lot of homework that would have otherwise ended up getting done at the last possible minute.  I could have done more, but I was determined to make today about doing what  I wanted to, not what I needed to.

I went to Target and bought new leggings, for no occasion or reason other than the fact that I wanted leggings.  Well, that and they were only eight dollars.  I came home, changed, put on more Taylor Swift, and decided to bake pumpkin chocolate-chip cookies for no particular reason (they taste better than they look, I promise).photo(2)

You better believe that I was singing and dancing around my kitchen in the process.

I repainted my nails.  I did the dishes.  I did all of the things I wanted to do but often found myself convinced that it just wasn’t a good use of my time.  Somewhere in all of this I found myself.  I found the joy in simplicity that I used to pride myself on.  Needless to say, I’m going to make an effort to make sure this is not a one time thing.

I think that it is so easy for us to get caught up in routine.  Don’t get me wrong, I love working and value my education, but I feel like when we let our schedules dictate our happiness we have forgotten what joy really is.  Especially for us ladies, there is so much preasure on us to be perfect.  Whether we strive to be the perfect wife, the perfect mom, or maybe just the perfect person, we are all facing expectations placed on us by the world and even by ourselves.  It’s imporatnt that we allow ourselves time to simply do the things we want to do.  Because of today, I do believe that I am starting fall for a new favorite day of the week.

I realize that not everyone can take a day out of their work week to dedicate to themselves, but that’s okay.  Maybe it could be during the weekend. Perhaps it could even be half of a day per week, or a few days a month.

Regardless, I challenge you to do something this week that you have been wanting to do but have been telling yourself you are too busy to do.  It doesn’t have to be something big.  It can be something as simple as sipping a latte with your favorite music playing in the background.  Whatever it is though, I hope you are able to do it with happiness and contentment, knowing there is nothing else you want to do.

I hope that in this crazy journey called life, you are able to find your Tuesday.

Finding Real Confidence

At one point or another in our lives, we all develop some sort of insecurity.  When people hear the word “insecure”, they often associate it in their mind with someone being self-conscious of their appearance, whether that be their height, weight, facial features, hair, etc.  Because of this, I often thought that I somehow was invincible to the curse of insecurity.  I’ve been blessed enough that I’ve always been happy with my appearance.  I always figured that if I didn’t like my hair I could cut it, if I didn’t like my height I could wear heels, or if I didn’t like my weight I could exercise more and eat healthier.  However, insecurities run a whole lot deeper than physical appearance.

Merriam-Webster defines the word “insecure” as the state of being “not confident or sure”.  In other words, being insecure means that you are uncertain of that area of your life.  After analyzing this word and trying to figure out how it applies to my life, the answer hit me square in the face via Facebook.  While I may be confident about my physical appearance, I have pretty much zero confidence when it comes to who I am inside.  Now, I know exactly who I am. I know my strengths and weaknesses, so that’s not what I am “uncertain” of.  My big insecurity is whether or not I belong, or whether or not people will accept or like me.  A lot of the time I meet people and they think that I’m really shy or quiet, but as time goes on and they spend more and more time with my they learn that I’m actually not quiet at all.  I’m perfectly okay with talking to strangers whether it be at school or somewhere like the store because chances are I’m not expecting to form some sort of long relationship with them, therefore it doesn’t matter to me what they think of my personality.  The big issue is when I’m trying to form meaningful, lasting relationships.  New friends, family friends, family members I don’t see too often, etc.  Those are usually the situations in which my anxiety really kicks in and I just want to hide in a corner and disappear.  Once I came to terms with the fact that this is in fact a form of insecurity, I have to admit that I felt pretty embarrassed.  I felt like a high school freshman who’s afraid of not fitting in with the cool kids.  But after thinking about it harder, I realized that it really is nothing to be ashamed of.  It’s not as though I want to fit in a worldly way, I’m simply afraid of not being able to form healthy relationships because of the fear that others will not find my personality as dazzling as I would like them to. 

Admittedly, I’m still pretty embarrassed to even be writing about this.  As a human, I’d much rather broadcast my strengths and positive aspects.  So, in an effort to make this a positive post, I did some thinking.  Following that thinking, I did some Biblical research (my favorite kind), and what I found really helped me.  First, I analyzed my issue and narrowed it down to one simple statement: I am afraid of feeling as though I don’t belong when it comes to _____.  I could finish that sentence with a couple different things (friends, family, etc.), so I left it open ended.  Then I did my oh-so-scholarly research by going to Bing and literally typing word for word “what does the Bible say about belonging”.  In the blink of an eye (what a time to be alive, am I right?) my computer was filled with various verses and explanations.  A lot of them had to do with how we shouldn’t desire to fit in with the world or to partake with worldly things, which while that is always excellent advice, I didn’t feel it was applicable to my current lack of self-esteem.  One verse that stood out was this one:

“All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”

John 6:37

I felt some instant relief after reading this, because it serves as a reminder that Jesus has accepted me with all of my sins, flaws, and weird quirks, and that should be all that matters.  Then, it occurred to me that there was something I read in my Bible study this morning that went along with this.  At one in the afternoon, that seven o’clock Bible study seemed like forever ago, but after some searching I found what I was looking for, and the best part was that it was in a footnote that I myself had written this morning.  There at the bottom of my page in my first-grade like handwriting I saw, “God is greater than our self-condemnation.”  The verse I had written this in reference to was the following:

If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.  Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God.” -1 John 3:20-21

To me, this verse was saying that no matter what I may not like about myself or what I have done or will do wrong, I have to remember that if God, who is much greater than us, can forgive, love, and accept me through it all, then I need to be able to see past my flaws.  Once I’m able to do that, that’s when I will be able to have true confidence.  I shouldn’t be so concerned about whether or not people accept me.  When I do this, I cause myself to become closed off and don’t allow others to see the light of God in me.  My main purpose in life should be to serve the Lord in everything that I do, and one of the ways I can do this is to open myself up and greet others with the love and grace that God has shown me. 

Whenever we open ourselves up to others we run the risk of being judged or disliked.  Not everyone is going to like us, and that’s okay.  That is to be expected.  Our goal in life shouldn’t be to win people over to satisfy our own selfish needs, it should be to allow other to see God work through us.  If we are allowing others to see Him at work in us, then we are doing his will, and that is all that matters.

I wish that I could say that all of this is going to allow me to open up and be myself 100% of the time without any speck of fear, but I know that wouldn’t be a realistic expectation.  The next time I’m thrust into one of those situations in which I tend to become withdrawn and quiet my anxiety will definitely kick in and the negative self talk telling me that I’m not good enough will be going on in my head.  However, the difference is that now I know how to handle it, and instead of letting those doubts and insecurities take away from who I am, I’m going to utilize the confidence I have in God’s love for me to overcome those insecurities.  It won’t be easy, it’s something that I’ll probably have to struggle with for the rest of my life, but the good news is that it’s not something I have to face alone.

Whatever your insecurity might be, whether it’s regarding who you are externally or internally, know that it doesn’t have to define who you are or how you go about your life.  Focus on those strengths and traits that you love about yourself and really work on embracing those, and once you do that those flaws that used to seem so huge to you will no longer have control over how you live your life.