I have debated whether I should write this blog post for a couple of days. However, it has been on my mind a lot and I think it would be worthwhile to share it. If nothing else, this blog is our family journal and this is a big deal to me and therefore important to document. And maybe - just maybe - some of you can relate.
Over the past few months I have been struggling off and on with some emotions that I have ignored for a very long time. Without going into too much personal detail, let me say that I have struggled with poor self-esteem and feelings on inadequacy for most of my life. Recently I have gotten to a point where it hurts more to stay where I am than it does to change. Although I have identified things that have gotten me to this point, I haven't really been able to figure out why I have been struggling so much (and crying so much). I have even had good friends of mine suggest getting some counseling to try to resolve some of this.
In desperation this past week I went in to see my bishop at church to get a referral for an LDS Family Services counselor. The bishop gave me a copy of a talk to read that was given by Hyrum W. Smith in 2002 at the funeral of a friend that had committed suicide. In one section of this talk he addresses the difference between pessimists, optimists, and realists. He refers to observations made by Admiral Stockdale who was a POW in the North Vietnamese prison camps for over 6 years.
"The pessimists saw the brutal facts around them and quit. The optimists had boundless faith and ignored the brutal facts. The realists saw the brutal facts and had faith that they could be dealt with... The interesting thing about these three groups is that the first two groups of people died in the camps in Vietnam."
"I understood why the pessimists didn't make it... The second group stunned me! The optimists died as well! How come the optimists died? Because the optimists had boundless faith but were not willing to look at the brutal facts. And they said to each other, 'You know we'll be out of here by Christmas. We'll be out of here by Valentine's Day.' Every rustle in the bush was the marines coming to save them. And when every rustle of the bush wasn't the marines coming to save them, and when they weren't out by Christmas and they weren't out by Valentine's Day, they died. They gave up and died."
"The optimists ignore the facts - put on smiley faces and pretend it didn't happen. However, the optimists live a lie." (Emphasis added)
As I read this I cried all over again, because I realized this is the root of my problem. I have been living a lie. What's the lie? What are the "brutal facts"? I could say that it was my tough childhood or the drama that happened with my dad, or the result of poor decisions I made growing up. But you know what? It doesn't really matter how I got to this place. The brutal fact is that mortality hurts. And I can't avoid it. That's what being mortal means. The problem is that, as an "optimist", I have been relying on my faith and expecting things to be fine. And when I have to face the fact that they aren't always fine I feel like a failure, and like nothing I ever do will be good enough.
With this realization has come the ability to change. The only way that I can truly love myself and know my worth is to come to see myself as God sees me. And a week ago I didn't want to know how God saw me, because no matter what my mind knew about God's love, my heart was afraid that I just wasn't good enough. But God doesn't love people based on whether or not they are "good". He loves us because we are his children.
Now I can start moving forward again. Change still won't come easy, and I still need to retrain my heart to be a realist instead of an optimist, but the walls are starting to come down. Because I did not learn a father's love from my own father, I am immensely grateful for the constancy of my husband's love. He shows his love for me every day, and it heals me. Granted, he doesn't understand what I'm talking about half the time when I get all analytical and introspective at times like these, but he loves me and supports me anyway. And that is more than enough.