Monday, February 27, 2017

The Struggle is Real

Have you ever met the Joneses? 

Yeah, me neither.

1950's Joneses
2017 Joneses

However, I am a witness to and a victim of their influence on society. They're the standard of what to live by, what to wear, how to act, how to decorate your home, and even what you should wear in your engagement photo shoot.
As many of you know, I am in a major transitional phase in my life. And to be honest, it's a little crazy (Although, many of you I'm sure can completely relate!) 

Currently I am: 

  1. Attempting to qualify for full time employment by building my client case load;
  2. Planning a wedding and everything involved in that;
  3. Researching, saving, and planning for a house of my own; 
  4. Investing in my relationship with my future husband while preparing to be a wife;
  5. Teaching high school Sunday school and a middle school small group at my local church;
  6. Trying to focus on my physical health by working out and (trying) making healthy food choices; and
  7. Struggling to stay caught up on my two current favorite shows (This is Us and Grey's Anatomy). 
Not to mention, both of my parents are currently unemployed (although actively looking) due to extenuating circumstances in my dad's previous company. 

When I list this out, it sounds like so much more than it did in my head. The last month or so of my life has been very emotional for me. I have cried more than I ever had, and I have struggled to maintain my typical confident composure. But when I look back at this list, those are some major things going on. They each take time, effort, money, and more time to do right and to do well. 

What I don't want them to take, however, is my sanity, my love of life, and my joy. So tonight... as I sit in front of my computer... a little unsure of what I should do next... I open a new post on the blog. This post has absolutely nothing to do with being a Child Life Specialist, but everything to do with reality. Life can be so overwhelming. And those Jones'... they make it hard. I want to do it all right. I want it to appear as if I always have myself together, but the reality is that I don't. I struggle. I struggle with anxiety, stress, worry, comparison, and obsession. I struggle with what people think of me and how they might perceive me. I struggle with comparing myself to other people and their successes they post about on social media. I struggle with wanting people to see the good I do, and I forget that I am not here to impress anyone. I struggle with body image and thinking that I am not good enough. 

We all have struggles. I know you guys all have your own you try to keep tucked away in the closet so no one else can see them. Some of you, like me, post the perfect pictures on social media that show your best side, your newest outfits, and your best hair days. You check your social media for likes and comments, hoping for approval and acceptance from the Jones'. 

The sad thing is, none of this brings fulfillment, none of this brings a deepened sense of self-worth, and none of it does anything for our anxiety or insecurities. In fact, it feeds them. It's been quoted, "Comparison is the thief of joy," and I've found that to be true in my life. But I don't want it to be true. I don't want other people to have so much power over me that I allow what I perceive their opinions to be to steal my identity, my joy, and my peace. Notice I said "What I perceive their opinions to be." This is because our minds are our worst enemies. We create our own perceptions of what we think others think and then those perceptions become our realities. We compare ourselves to others until we've withered away. We forget our own strengths, downplay our own victories, and wallow in our shame. 

I think to myself, "Where is that girl who thought she could conquer the world?" Where is the version of me that knew I was so smart and I could do anything I set my mind to? Where is the confident, fearless, and assertive Caroline who never let anyone tell her no? What has become of me that I am so anxious about everything in life that it has literally crippled my ability to function? 

As of right now, I don't have answers to these questions. I don't have a full understanding of where things shifted. But something happened, and I feel that vocalizing awareness of it is the first step in the right direction. 

So thank you for being a sounding board for me tonight. Thank you for letting me be vulnerable with you about my struggles. And maybe, just maybe, I am not alone. 


P.S. For those of you who follow me on social media, I want you to know the real story behind my engagement pictures. Bear with me, but I feel the need to share it.

My engagement photo shoot session was included in my wedding package, so of course I couldn't say no! I had seen all of my friends and of course all of Pinterest post the perfect engagement photos. I was excited to say the least, but when it came to picking out clothes it became a major anxiety. My mom even made the comment that it was easier to find a wedding dress than outfits for the engagement photos. I started in my own closet, determined to not spend money on clothes I did not need. Surely I had something already that would work, right? However, after trying on every outfit in my closet, it was determined that we needed to go shopping. Shopping trip number one consisted of trying on a few things, but nothing that was "just right." (Remember, you have to have the perfect outfit for this photo shoot because "everyone is going to see these photos" and they have to "be just right." Or so I thought.) Shopping trip two consisted of trying on nearly every solid colored dress in my size in the whole store. Finally we left with two different dresses. 

I got the dresses and two other shirts home and tried them on again with shoes and such, and had a major meltdown. The dress didn't fit right. My chest looked weird in that dress. What shoes would I wear with that shirt? But I don't look skinny in that outfit... and the list went on. I cried. I felt frustrated that I didn't feel pretty in any of the clothes, and then I felt guilty for caring so much about this *silly* photo shoot. I wanted to look like all of the other girls in the other photos so bad that I was losing sight of who I was. I was caring more about what people thought about my photos and the outfit I wore than the fact that the photo shoot was an opportunity for me to spend time with my fiance. 

The day before the photo shoot came, and I had to give myself a major pep talk. I had to write out truths I knew to be true in order to cancel out the lies floating around in my head. I told myself that I am beautiful no matter what because beauty that counts comes from the inside not the perfect outfit. I told myself that at the end of the day it didn't matter if I wore the white dress or the blue dress because no one will actually care. I put on the outfits one more time and made decisions about shoes and jewelry. I told myself that I would make a decision and not second guess it. So that's what I did. 

Now, there is a lot more to that story that is probably better left untold, but when you see my pictures I want you to know that I'm not perfect, the pictures aren't perfect, our photographer wasn't perfect, and trying to be perfect only leads to failure. When you see my photos, I hope you can share in the little victory I had in choosing the white dress over the blue dress (with the help of my parents and sister) because the anxiety in choosing the "perfect outfit" had become crippling. 

I share this because I don't want you to go through what I went through. I want you to not compare yourself to me or anyone else. I want you to be unapologetically you. I want you to not suffer the thief of joy every time you open your phone or computer. I don't want you to struggle with the anxiety of trying to impress other people because in the world we live today, we're surrounded by a constant pressure to be more than we are and even sometimes more than we are capable of being (i.e. my mind instantly thinks about thigh gaps- who even made that a thing to begin with... I mean really). What's wrong with who I am? What's wrong with the real me? The simple answer... absolutely, positively - nothing. 
Here is one of our beautiful photos, but just know that it is not as perfect as it appears. 


Unknown said...

Thank you thank you thank you for posting this! Your post about identity crisis as well as the engagement photos hits very close to home with things I have dealt with and currently deal with. I struggle to let go of approval and just focus on the successes I have each day. Just reading your honest stories have eased my mind this chaotic Monday, happy I stumbled across your post!

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