Embracing a New Perspective
Things have remained busy here...working with other adult children locally and across the country, collaborating with Dr. Chabaud, educating and raising awareness about hoarding and the issues it raises with local government, social services employees, churches, and even...yes, politicians. The first workshop based on Dr. Frost's facilitated self-help group model is coming to a close...with what appears to be good progress by the group overall. I survived the summer with all the kids home, and sent the oldest ones back to further their education. Additionally, I continue to move forward in my degree, which I am scheduled to complete in May--a BS in Psychology. So far, I have remained on the Dean's List--with a very high (and apparently rather impressive) GPA.
That last part, the "apparently rather impressive" part is one of the things I'm working to integrate into my being. In fact, it's been a surprisingly slow development considering the changes I've made in my acceptance of others and myself. It continues to boggle me...that I have not been able to see this clearly until now.
You know how parents tell their kids, "You're so smart...talented...beautiful...mature...whatever." (Or as I remind my daughter, they are supposed to do this but not all do...) Among the many mixed messages growing up, I heard my mom tell me that I was soooo smart. I think, even, she did this on occasion without the added, "for someone so smart, that was really stupid" addition. Yet, I chose to pick up on the overarching trend...that I was somehow less than I should be, or altogether too much and too complicated. At best, being smart meant I was irritatingly challenging and at the worst, I was just so-so.
My failed attempts to make my biological father proud of me with my grades and scholastic achievement furthered this skewed view. Nothing I did--no report card, no honor society, no graduation ceremony--elicited more than a card and a $20 bill in the mail from my father. Something that was very painful considering he taught elementary school. Surely he must recognize student achievements in his classroom...why wasn't I worth that much? Anyways...back to the point...
A year ago, perhaps for the very first time, a mentor of mine, and someone I respect and deeply value told me that I was extremely capable and intelligent, that anything I chose to put my hand to...I would not only succeed in but also be exceptionally good at. At first, the comment was embarrassing. I didn't even know how to take it. So I think I said awkwardly, "Thank you." The seed was planted, although I still hadn't really taken this statement into myself and integrated it into my self-concept. But it was there...and it grew little by little.
I guess you could see that the little seed has produced it's first bloom. Several weeks ago, I received an email from a college that I hadn't been considering for grad school because of its location, but apparently it has an online program too. Keep in mind, this is one of the best school for social work in the country...and they were showing interest in ME! So I called them and asked about their application process and funding availability. This phone call was kind of like adding Miracle-Gro to the seedling. After disclosing my GPA, the things I have done in my community as well as in other states (somewhat nationally, I suppose) the tone of the conversation changed dramatically. Suddenly it became clear that I was potentially a top candidate!?!
Me? I'm top candidate material??? And if I am a top candidate for a Master's program, then would it be a stretch to consider a doctoral program???
Well...apparently not. It's still something that I'm working on letting soak in. Some part of me truly believed that I just wasn't that smart, or at the least worth enough to go after something so lofty intellectually.
Most of the things that contribute to our self-concept, self-worth, and self-esteem are based on interpretations of what others tell us about ourselves. Sometimes this feedback is crap--not worth the air used to share it. Sometimes it comes in a mixed form, and we are unable to sort out truth in the middle of ambiguity. Sometimes it has nothing to do with us at all!
As children, we are especially limited in our ability to discern what is what. We often pick up inaccurate messages, internalize them, and they become who we believe we are. Inadvertently, we carry these messages with us into adulthood. If we're lucky, we may hit the bottom in some way and realize that something is not quite right. If we're blessed, we may decide to look inward and search for a "healthier and more beneficial" way of being. And if we are truly persistent, we can uncover our true worth and identity.
"We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity." (The Message)
"I destroy every claim and every reason that keeps people from knowing God. I keep every thought under control in order to make it obey Christ." (NIRV)
"(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ..." (KJV)These are different versions of the same portion of the Word, 2 Corinthians 2: 4b-5. This may be controversial, but I believe it to be true...our view of ourselves is often the greatest impediment in becoming what God has created us to be.
In fact, I particularly like the wording used in The Message for this--"our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ." No matter how hard I've tried, I cannot see the "real Ceci G" without God's powerful tools. Trust me, I've tried so hard to do it for so long that thinking about it makes me sleepy! It really wears me out trying to use my own abilities to do that.
Sometimes God speaks to us through mentors, friends, strangers and others. But to know for sure, we must take the statement or thought captive, testing it to see how it falls.
I'm learning that I must employ some philosophy and logic in this process.When someone makes a statement, about me or anything/anyone else, I must evaluate it critically. Is this an emotion, subjective to each person's perspective, or a potential factual statement? Could this be true of someone else? If so, then couldn't it be true of me as well? What motivations lie behind the speaker's statement?
I've begun to see that it's quite possible that I am as smart, capable, gifted, and patient as people are telling me. I'm beginning to see that some of those whose opinions I've valued most were simply those who were the best at hiding their underlying motivations.
It is my deepest prayer and hope that no matter what the negative view or thoughts you hold to regarding yourself, you loosen your grip on. Most of what binds us today, really...is ourselves! I know that is especially true for me.
Going forward this week, CHALLENGE YOURSELF:
Take the thought captive and look it over, from back and forth, up and down. Look at motives behind the thought and the person who shares the thought with you. Be willing to accept that some criticisms are no truer of yourself than some of the compliments we've willing accepted even when we know they are deceptive, or enabling. Attempt to open your mind, heart, and self-concept to the possibility of being more valuable than you've believed so far. And even if it seems like it's a stretch, put on the positive that people give you, and make an action plan to become more like what others see you as. Insight is not enough...now ACT on it!