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

Because We Don’t Have Time

I haven’t written anything for a while, and to be honest, I had to try really hard to convince myself to write right now.  It’s easy to blame it on being too busy, because it’s definitely a hectic time of year for me.  However, I soon started to realize that being too busy was becoming less and less of a fact, and more of a convenient excuse.  It’s true, and it gives me a way out. Sounds like a win-win to me.

The truth of the matter is that I’m not too busy to write.  It’ll take me maybe fifteen minutes max to finish this post.  Yet, I tell myself that I don’t have the time to do it, or that there are more important things that need to be done.  I never really thought about why I find excuses to not do the things I love (partially because I never realized I was doing it), until I read the blog post of a friend of mine this morning.  Her post was about her passion, her absolute favorite thing to do, which is cooking.  As I was reading it I found myself thinking about how wonderful it was that she had something she was both extremely talented at and loved to do.  I caught myself thinking “I wish had something like that”.  Then I thought about this little blog I write on from time to time, and how I used to write nearly every day when I first started it, but now only submit a post every few months.  I love to write.  It’s one of the talents I know I have been blessed with. So, why do I never do it?  Sure, I’ve started a book or two and I run a couple blogs, but soon enough I start to pay less and less attention to them until they’re nothing more than unfinished pages and empty goals. 

Writing isn’t the only thing that I’ve quit on before I really got started.  My first love was music.  I played flute from the age of nine all the way through high school.  I taught myself how to play piano, and in high school I picked up three more instruments.  Yet, as soon as high school was over with it all came to a halt.  I stopped writing songs, the instruments in my house started to collect dust, and my music books were soon moved up to the attic.  I tell myself that the spark was gone.  That it was fun while it lasted, but that it’s not what I want to do anymore.  I tell myself that I just don’t have time.

It’s a cruel and vicious cycle that I have trapped myself in.  Whenever I get passionate about something that I might actually be good at, I run away from it.  I make excuses for myself and push it to the back of my mind.  I don’t think I’m the only person that does this.  Remember when we were little and people would ask us what we wanted to be when we grew up?  We didn’t limit ourselves to what we thought we would have time for or what seemed realistic, we set our goals high.  We were excited to grow up and be what we wanted to be.  How many of us are actually doing the things we said we would?  I bet not very many.  Now of course, we grow up and get a better feel for reality, and we do what we need to do to support ourselves and our families.  That’s okay.  What isn’t okay, is when we stop doing the things we love, the things that make us who we are, because we’re afraid of what will happen if we decide to make a commitment to it.  We become afraid of what will happen if we utilize our talents and try to make something come out of them.  Will people judge us for wasting our time?  Will we not be as good as it as we thought we were? Or even worse: what if we are even better at it than we thought?  What will we do then?  Surely we can’t dedicate any more time to a mere hobby.  After all, we have to work and run errands and do all of the important grown up things we’re supposed to do.  I’m the queen of making excuses to not do the things I love to do.  However, I think we’re not just letting ourselves down when we don’t utilize our talents.  We’re letting God down.  Every single person is blessed with their own unique abilities and qualities that make them who they are.  What if we’re given these talents because we need to learn how to make time for ourselves? Even scarier, what if we’re given these talents because they’re what we are meant to do? 

I’m not saying that I’m going to crank out a book within the next year and a blog post every day.  To be honest, I probably won’t ever write a book and there will definitely be days where I don’t write at all.  But, I’m going to make an effort to make time for myself.  To express myself in the best way I know how: through pen and paper (or, in this case, keyboard and screen).  I challenge you to do the same.  What makes you feel alive?  What’s something that you love to do, but maybe tell yourself you just don’t have time to?  I dare you to do it.  Time is only a barrier if we tell ourselves it is.