Sometimes I walk past a window or a mirror and I don’t recognize the image I see.
For a long time I hated myself. Not just the reflection. The actual person staring back; I hated me.
It took me a lot of years and a lot of therapy to get to a place of self-love and acceptance. The journey there was long and painful and shrouded in hard, ugly things.
Early on in my life, the seeds of self-hatred were planted. They grew, and shaped not just the image of myself that I saw, but also the image I believed to be true in my mind. I didn’t have to look in a mirror to know I hated myself. In fact, I preferred not to look at all.
There was a period of my life where I literally couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. I would walk into a bathroom and turn my eyes from the glass because my own reflection was too painful.
I was filled with so much shame and personal disgust that I couldn’t even face myself. But, it wasn’t only the image that confirmed the filth I thought I saw. It was my thoughts. The things I believed about myself deep in my heart and mind.
I believed I was worthless. I was too much to be handled and not enough to be held. I was a failure and a disappointment. I was a disgrace to my family. I wasn’t valuable. I was ugly, fat and unlovable. I would forever be an inconvenience and not worth anyone else’s time or effort.
I was endlessly disposable.
All these lies became my truth and they shaped everything I did.
So I destroyed myself from the inside out.
I presented an image of togetherness and strength; meanwhile, I was suffering a sick, slow suicide.
I continued behaviors and formed relationships with people who confirmed the lies I believed about myself; therefore, cementing me into those patterns of destruction.
I was trapped.
Trapped inside this body I hated, with a brain filled with lies and a heart constantly bleeding. The life was draining from my body before my eyes and though I could feel it, I couldn’t face it.
After pouring out all I had into other people and trying to somehow patch up my holes by seeking their acceptance, I realized one thing: It was killing me. And slowly, I was killing myself.
Motherhood saved my life. It gave me the gift of life—both my babies and my own. When I gave birth to them, I was reborn as well.
I began to realize what I was doing to myself. I began to see truth. I began to recognize the lies I once believed and I stopped accepting them. I began to understand my purpose on this earth and why God didn’t take me home many years before.
It was because of my babies and my unhealthy marriage that I finally learned who I was and what I deserved.
Since separating from my husband almost one-and-half years ago, I’ve traveled the road to rebuilding myself.
Not every day is awesome, but I am finally in a place of freedom, acceptance and self-love. I feel strong. I feel brave and confident. I feel worthy. I feel like I have a purpose and I’m living each day for that purpose. I feel like I have broken the chains of my past and am living truly free for the first time, ever.
Most of the time now, the image I see in the mirror is one that I admire.
Not because I don’t still see my flaws or find things I’d like to change. Not because every day is a picnic underneath a sky full of rainbows and dancing unicorns. And definitely not because I’ve figured it all out.
I like what I see today because it’s the real me. The me that got buried in lies. The me that was suffocated and choked out by self-destruction. The me that got lost living for everyone else. The me that God created and intended me to be. The me I want to be.
I still have “off” days and struggle like everyone else with insecurity and self-doubt and fear. But now it doesn’t consume me and swallow me whole.
Today, when I walk past a window or mirror and see my reflection, I see all the things about myself that I now feel and believe to be true. I see strength and confidence. I see resilience and perseverance. I see a person of value and worth. I see a woman.
I see me.
It shocks me a little bit momentarily. Those old lies die hard, and some days for no reason at all, they come to life. They sit dormant for a while and then something, anything, will awaken them and I fight back to the truth again. It doesn’t take long anymore, but some days there is a fight. With God’s help, I have finally learned to win that fight.
Seeing my reflection—that image which matches exactly none of the lies I used to believe—is liberating. Lies are a prison, even the ones we tell ourselves.
It has been like stepping out into the sun after a many-years-long winter, or diving into a pool after hours in the hot sun.
These years have been painful, but they’ve helped me find myself. They’ve helped me love myself. Believe in myself. Value myself. Respect myself. Trust myself.
The reflection in the mirror and the image in my head finally match.
That’s what freedom feels like.