We’ve all been there—the toddler stage of emotional health.
The getting-back-on-your-feet phase after the world as you knew it was pulled from under you like a rug.
Everything feels high stakes. The relationships that felt so close are suddenly over your head and out of reach on a shelf where you never placed them.
The exhaustion, the crying, the fear of darkness that you thought you had overcome.
How do you recover when someone has pushed you down and kicked you in the gut on the playground called life? How did relationships go from feeling safe to feeling like a laughable concept? Like a game of cat and mouse—Tom & Jerry chasing and tormenting each other for the entertainment of others.
I was drowning in pain, and I felt powerless to stop the waves that kept pulling the ground from beneath my feet. No one had taught me how to survive a tsunami. No one had told me your best friends could rip your world apart and act indifferent to the heart attack that left you bawling your eyes out for months.
I was 20, but I felt five.
I didn’t know until 22 years old, that I needed to reparent myself. I mean, I knew my parents abandoned me, but I didn’t know how badly until I learned to love myself.
I started realizing that I didn’t need someone to hold my hand in order to stand on my own two feet. The crazy thing is, for most of my life, I was waiting for someone to save me from my pain. I thought friendships, people-pleasing, and a good dose of religion would do the trick.
Most days I felt trapped in a corner and completely exposed—all at once.
I blamed my childhood. I blamed my parents for never saying I love you. I blamed my dad for being emotionally distant and my mom for being emotionally abusive. And yet, all the blaming never helped. I just got angrier and angrier and felt even more trapped. Like a kid who’s sent to the corner and can’t leave until the parent says the word.
And that’s where I was—I was stuck believing I couldn’t leave my past behind me unless others took responsibility for their actions.
I thought communication was the answer. If I talked about the pain, surely they would care. Surely my dad, my friends, my family would take my heart seriously. They sure didn’t.
Was it a me thing? Maybe I wasn’t communicating clearly. Maybe I needed to say it again. And again. And again? I was a good communicator, right?
But, they weren’t bad people. No, no, no. There weren’t bad people in my life. I’d never, say, be best friends with a narcissist. Impossible—laughable even. It wasn’t them. It was me. I just knew it.
I just knew if I kept polishing up my approach they—being the good people they were—would see the truth. And what’s more, they would accept responsibility for their actions.
It took me 22 years to realize that I’d been doing most of the work in all my relationships—that I was extremely codependent.
And I thought I needed to be. I thought people needed me to save them. I thought they didn’t know any better. I thought I could be some type of Jesus to them. That’s what the Bible teaches—right?
I’m so glad I was wrong. I’m so glad Jesus gives me the power to choose into or choose out of relationships. I’m so glad he advocates for boundaries. I’m so glad that Jesus takes on the responsibility of loving people at their worst and staying with them, so I don’t have to.
I’m so glad Jesus warns me to not cast my pearls before swine.
Before, I’d just been throwing my heart out there like it wasn’t the most precious thing I own. Now, I’m more guarded. I watch actions instead of words. I give away trust slowly—because I’m realizing it’s not a gift that everyone deserves.
And the beautiful thing is—I’m falling in love with myself.
I didn’t know I could love myself.
I thought I was only lovable if I poured my life into others. I didn’t know I mattered enough to be prioritized over other relationships. I didn’t know that I didn’t need the approval of others to hold me up. And that’s the beauty of self-love. Even if no one likes you, when you love you, that hatred falls right off.
On the flip side, I think it takes being hated to recognize that you hate yourself.
But it also takes recognizing your own self-hatred to realize that you don’t have to stay there. You don’t have to stay stuck in that corner you created for yourself. No one is keeping you there besides you.
And the more you heal, the more you realize that corners and boxes are really just an illusion.
No one can keep you trapped when your heart is free.
And if you could see your heart for just a second, you’d see a little boy or girl inside who’s been longing for love all along. A kid who’s been ignored, shut down, and silenced by your adult logic. A kid who wanted to be loved and accepted—but you told her she wasn’t enough. You told her she had to perform to earn love.
You told her all the things your parents and the world told you—and you didn’t even know it.
But that kid doesn’t have to be ignored.
What if instead of abandoning yourself, you pursued all the dreams your little heart ever wanted?
What if you walked back to that little you and apologized for all the abusive things you told you? What if you apologized and took responsibility for believing lies? What if you forgave yourself for all the times you walked away and didn’t stand up for yourself?
What if you believed you’re worth pursuing; you’re worth loving; you’re worth taking seriously; you’re worth your own time? What if you changed the narrative of your life from blaming others to powerfully choosing you?
What if you chose compassion and love instead of self-hatred and self-judgment?
What if you spent time every day asking your little self and current self what you need?
Here’s the thing: I thought I needed to change the world. Turns out, I needed to change how I saw me. I thought I needed to stay stuck in a corner. Turns out, my little girl was begging to be free. I thought I needed to shut myself down in order to be loved. Turns out, that even I hated the fake me.
I thought love meant abandoning my heart to pursue everyone else’s needs. Turns out, my heart needs me more than it ever needs the approval of others.
I thought love was unattainable. Turns out, it’s right inside of me.
For 22 years, I was so wrong. Thank God I was wrong. I don’t have to chase down relationships. I don’t need everyone to “love” me. I don’t need to suffocate the little girl in me who’s been screaming for attention. I don’t need to save the world.
All I need is to take my heart seriously every day.
For the first time, I’ve realized that when I love me, it changes my whole world.
And when I get knocked off my feet? No problem. Jesus is right there to pick me up again. Before, I was so busy dying to myself to save others, that I didn’t realize that I needed a savior.
I didn’t realize that I wasn’t Jesus.
I didn’t know he was the only one I could truly trust. I didn’t know he had died for me so I don’t have to kill myself for “love”. I didn’t know he is the best friend I could ever have. I didn’t know he’d never betray me. I didn’t know he loves me more than I could ever love myself.
I didn’t know he loved me every moment of my 22 years—the little me and the current me. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I didn’t know he didn’t walk away from me even though I did.
I didn’t know that he was waiting for me to find myself all along. I didn’t know he was walking beside me—begging me to step out of the boxes I’d created around love and acceptance. I didn’t know he never wanted me to reject myself—and that he loves me to my core. I didn’t know he was in my corner—and that he still is when I get scared and run back to spaces that can never save me.
I didn’t know—but he’s helping me break down my illusions. And when I falter—he helps me get back on my feet.