Yesterday in RS, I was asked to share some personal information of my choosing surrounding anything physical, mental, emotional or spiritual that I've been through, or currently going through and how the Savior Jesus Christ has or is healing me.
I chose to be extremely vulnerable, knock down my protective walls and talk about loneliness.
It was a very anxious topic for me because naturally when you say that you feel lonely in an authentic, non-aggressive way, you're inviting people to reach out to you......
BUT that's what I was afraid of. I was afraid to receive un-authentic reach outs. People who felt 'bad' for me. I don't enjoy that kind of attention! BUT that didn't happen!
Growing up an only child raised by a single grandmother was difficult. I longed for siblings to have as an immediate playmate, someone to talk to and someone to fight with (yeah I know that sounds weird but raising my children has helped me understand that fighting with siblings and learning how to change better sets you up for success with other relationships.)
Anyways, I struggled to make and keep lasting friendships as oftentimes my unspoken expectations of wanting to feel included in invitations wasn't realized and I put up a wall around my feelings. Despite being an outgoing person by nature, I often felt like an introverted outcast of the sorts.
I made friends that 'needed' me to help them for some reason or another and I suppose I enjoyed that, feeling needed. I helped with friends relationship problems with other friends and family members, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, not feeling enough, struggling in school and simply trying to be the best athlete. I had a wide range of capabilities to connect and build relationships but often felt empty when my 'help' was no longer needed. I found myself often being in one-sided relationships that left me alone, even though I was 'with' people all the time. From the outside, it looked like I was a social butterfly. On the inside, I was lonely and had needs that weren't being met.
As I grew older, I naively assumed that it would get better as I would mature more and not find so much 'need' for others (that's meant to sound better than it does. We all need people but I was needy and I assumed that would change with age and marriage)
THE WORSE THING WAS, IT ONLY GOT WORSE, WAY WORSE! I found myself feeling lonely in a room full of people, and again it had everything to do with my expectations. I wasn't suffering from depression, I was suffering from expecting others to know what I needed and drop everything for me as I would them, and that's where I was wrong. I struggled feeling like I didn't fit in with all the other moms who suffered with postpartum depression, struggling newlyweds, dual income families financially struggling, weight gain, lacking faith, not able to keep my house clean or take a shower for them.
I was struggling with feeling judged for NOT struggling with those things. I felt alone and unloved because I was perceived as portraying a perfect life when I was simply living my best life the way I knew how, a life of dedication to me and my family.
I was literally told that I was 'too good for them', had 'too high expectations' that they 'couldn't be perfect like me' and that I was trying too hard. It was painful and has lasted way longer than I would like to admit.
THEN I GOT REALLY TIRED OF FEELING LONELY AND DID SOMETHING ABOUT IT. I prayed for understanding on how I could rid myself of such insecurities as wanting to fit in, be seen and be invited by all the women I truly admired and wanted to learn from. I CHOSE TO tap into my talents of being outgoing and create the environment that will help me grow, not tear me down.
I CHOSE TO reach out to others more.
I CHOSE TO reach out to new people and find something in common.
I CHOSE TO limit certain friendships.
I CHOSE TO lower my expectations while keeping my standards of a friendship high.
I CHOSE TO allow mentors, counselors and quality friendships to fill my brain waves.
What I CHOSE NOT TO DO was allow my insecurities, weaknesses and emotional struggles with loneliness rule my days and thoughts. This doesn't mean that I'm not frequently tempted to feel lonely, left out, alone, sad, wrongfully judged for perfection, etc, it simply means I spend less time entertaining those thoughts.
I have learned that I GET TO CREATE my own happiness and joy. If I need something, I'm more patiently open and less critical of my expectations for others abilities to be there for me. I have realigned my priorities to decrease my dependance upon others for 'my' happiness.
Something that I have found to be extremely helpful lately is allowing people in my life without reservations. My walls slowly come down and sometimes I put them back up out of instinct to protect myself, but progress is being made and that's what I focus on the most.
Sometimes the people we need the most are on the other side of our vulnerability and ability to tear down our walls of insecurities.
I'm grateful for the opportunity to be vulnerable and to help others feel the need to do so to become a better version of themselves. When we hold on to all of our hurts or air them out like dirty laundry, we're simply withholding some of the best opportunities for growth.