The Blog: On Second Thought

comparison

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In middle school, one of my classmates and I did this thing where we would shout at each other, “What grade did you get?” across the room, then feel either the elation of victory or the shame of defeat, depending on the other’s answers.

In high school, I compared my writing to that of one of my best friends.

In college, I compared my relationship status to that of my roommate.

Now, I compare my post-grad lifestyle with that of everyone who’s ever graduated from college — you’re 15 years out, have a full-time job, a husband and two babies? You’re beating me. No, it doesn’t matter that you’ve had 14 extra years to get to where you are. I should be there, too.

That’s my problem when I compare myself with others. It doesn’t even have to be on an even playing field; in fact, it’s almost better if it’s not.


I will happily pit myself against you in any field, and come up wanting almost every time. 


My favorite person to compare my writing success to is my best friend; she’s an actress. I love to compare my publication history with someone who’s been freelancing for twelve years; I compare my apartment to that of someone making $30,000/year more than I can dream of.

I will happily pit myself against you in any field, and come up wanting almost every time. And somehow, this brings me pleasure?

Well, not pleasure in the real sense of the word. It brings me pleasure in the same way that Facebook-stalking my old crush’s new girlfriend brings me pleasure; in the same way that inflicting pain upon my body brings me pleasure; in the same way that reminding myself constantly of how unlovable I am brings me pleasure.

It brings me pleasure in a masochistic way, and it forces me to come to terms with something I don’t want to admit to (or about) myself: I am a masochist.

Not just in the traditional, physical sense (although, I am in that sense, as well). I’m an emotional masochist, someone who seeks out ways to make my heart ache and then sits back and watches it happen.


One of the biggest ways I hurt myself emotionally is by weighing myself against others. 


One of the biggest ways I hurt myself emotionally is by weighing myself against others. I’ve been doing it for years, and I don’t know how to stop. I don’t have insight or wisdom to offer you in how to get over the comparison plague.

I can only say that I’m there with you; that I, too, have this tendency to calculate my worth based on others.

And I can also say that this is hurtful and harmful and a terrible way to live life.

And — let’s work to stop it. Let’s try and get over this.

I think there are things we can do to get ourselves out of the comparison rut, and I’m not talking  about praying and spending time with God, while that may be the given, the least we can do.

Though, another thing we can do is to be honest and reach out to others.

If you’re comparing yourself to, say, that woman in your office who’s been in the business for 20 years and whoops your butt every time, go to her. Ask her to mentor you. Ask her to impart her wisdom on you because you admire her and want to reach her level. She might say no. But she might take you under her wing and help you get better.

If you’re comparing yourself to your best friend who has a steady stream of men wanting to take her out while you do not — be honest. I wonder if, after you tell her your thoughts, she will explain that has been jealous of you, you whose heart isn’t broken easily and who doesn’t always fall for the wrong man.

Maybe you’re comparing yourself to your sibling (Hey, Josh). Be honest. Tell your brother or sister how you think they’re better than you, more loved than you, favored. Most likely, they feel the same way about you.


I’m learning that my comparison might be a unique expression of my masochism (something I need to work on so I don’t self-destruct), but it’s not unique to me.


What I’m saying is — everyone compares. That’s what I’m learning. I’m learning that my comparison might be a unique expression of my masochism (something I need to work on so I don’t self-destruct), but it’s not unique to me.

We all look inside and find ourselves wanting, stack ourselves up against someone else and discover that they’re winning. And if we would just be honest, just be open and vulnerable, we might find that we’re not alone in this.

Now, it’s possible that you’ll tell someone you feel inferior and they’ll agree, say you are, indeed, inferior. Mostly, that just means that they’re insecure. And they’re comparing themselves to you.


We’re all in the same ocean, paddling along on our driftwood and envying our neighbors in their yachts.


I know I’ve talked before about how important vulnerability is, and I want to repeat that. It’s important in every aspect of life. Especially when it comes to comparison. We’re all in the same ocean, paddling along on our driftwood and envying our neighbors in their yachts. If we get close enough, though, we might see that they think their yacht is a more rickety piece of driftwood than yours. And maybe you can put them together and build a yacht!

OK, maybe I got carried away with that metaphor there. Guys, we can’t survive and thrive on our own. We have to reach out to others, we have to hold each other up and help each other out. Let’s do that.

Karis is a grad student at NYU in New York City. Her writing has appeared online with Seventeen as well as Good Housekeeping. She blogs at karisrogerson.com. To stay informed about all her writing, sign up here.

mikewilsoncomparison

(Photo source: Mike Wilson via Unsplash.com)

Have you ever been in a room and started to wonder about the other people? Am I the youngest person in this room? Or the oldest? Am I smarter than everybody else in here? Am I better looking than him or her? If everybody in here gave my appearance a grade, what would I end up with. Well, at least I know I would do better than that guy… and she would definitely get a lower score than I would.

We take some comfort in knowing that while we may not be at the top of the pile, we’re definitely not at the bottom of it.

Maybe you’re a super model. Or crazy smart. Or filthy rich. Even if you’re at the top in some settings, I could probably find a bigger room with more “competition.” I could also just change the category to find an area where you don’t want to put yourself up for comparison.

That’s the danger of comparison: you’ll always find somebody better than you in something.

I’m a fairly competitive person, so it took me a long time to be okay with not being the best at something.


That’s the danger of comparison: you’ll always find somebody better than you in something.


In fact, I didn’t start running races until I was in my late 20s specifically because I knew I wouldn’t win them. Once I got over myself in that area, I found a new love. I almost missed out on adventure races because I couldn’t bear the thought of not winning.

But you know what? When I check the results (in races that post results), my ego swells a bit when I find out I was in the top 5%. Maybe I didn’t win, but I was better than 9 out of 10 people on that day. I didn’t win, but I definitely did not lose.


When I get addicted to the “at least I wasn’t last” syndrome, it means I’m willing to let others do poorly


I think that’s the bigger problem than my fear of not winning ever was.

See, when I get addicted to the “at least I wasn’t last” syndrome, it means I’m willing to let others do poorly. Maybe I’d even be willing to push them down in order to keep myself out of last place. It’s why sometimes other people failing actually makes me happy. I’d never let on, but we’re being honest in this space, right?

And a world where people like me are okay with others doing poorly (and maybe helping them do poorly in my worst moments) just to avoid last place would look like…well, just look around.

Bullying.

Huge wealth gaps.

Major health problems in other countries.

Now, I’m not trying to blame you for all the evils in our world. I’m not saying that I am in possession of the immediate practical solution for all that ails us but keeping it secret to make my life better than it would be otherwise.


Would you put yourself in last place?


But let me ask a question: If you could make literally everybody else on earth better than you (looking, richer, smarter, whatever), would you do it? Would you put yourself in last place? I mean, the world would be better off, but you wouldn’t be.

Honestly, I don’t know if I could pull that off.

The Bible tells the story of a man who did exactly that. I find it to be not only an inspirational story, but a transformational one in my life.

Here’s the thing: I said I didn’t have the immediate solution for all the problems in this world, but I believe that this attitude – of caring about other people more than myself; the idea of getting my value by lifting others up instead of working to avoid last place – I think that actually IS the solution to the majority of the problems in our world.

Imagine a world without bullying.

Imagine a world where we collaborate to solve social issues.

Imagine a world where creating healthy environments for children is more important than attaining the new luxury product on the market.

If I didn’t spend my time comparing myself to others, but helping others; making them the best version of themselves, I know things would get better.


I need to stop seeing competitors and start seeing teammates.


There’s an African proverb which says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

We’ve got a long way to go in our world. We’re gonna need to do it together. So the stronger you are, the farther we can go.

That’s the solution to my problem. I need to stop seeing competitors and start seeing teammates. And a team is only as good as its weakest member. So instead of pushing you down to make me feel better, I need to encourage you and build you up so that we can reach our potential.

reflection

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The title of “perfectionist” never seemed to fit me.

Perfection would be hands free mama, and I’m looking at my phone all the time. Perfection would be a size 6, and ahem, I’m not. Perfection would be artistic, and I feel like I limp through the creative field on a wing and a prayer.

Perfection would be athletic. I’m not.

Perfection would be well-spoken, and I struggle being concise.

Perfection wouldn’t yell, and I’m good at it.

Perfection would have a clean car, and mine is full of stale French fries and sandy flip flops. Perfection would at least put on mascara each day. I don’t even dry my hair, let alone wear mascara.

Perfection would be an organized house. Ours has “organized” piles.

Perfection would know how to forgive herself. And obviously, I don’t. How can I forgive someone who is so blatantly failing?

My inner critic lectures me:

Just put the phone down, work out, focus, run, shut up, be quiet, wear makeup, and clean your car and house. How hard can it be? You must lack self-discipline.

Yes, irresponsible and lazy. Those are the obvious labels.

But perfection? SNORT. You are SO obviously NOT PERFECT.

Have you ever felt like this?

Tell me I’m not alone.

But here’s what I’ve learned lately: the definition of a perfectionist isn’t necessarily someone who does it all perfectly, every time. It’s someone who wants it to be done perfectly every time.

That’s me.


Has the barrage of negative self-talk left you defeated on more days than not?


I am constantly thinking about what could be better, and how I could attain it. The fact that I don’t attain it doesn’t make me any less of a perfectionist.

If you think you’re not a perfectionist, let me ask:

Has the barrage of negative self-talk left you defeated on more days than not? If you answer no, I’d challenge you to ask yourself if any of the following statements hit home:

  • A good mom would put down her phone.
  • A good dad wouldn’t yell.
  • A healthy woman would workout.
  • A fit guy would get to the gym more often.
  • A good business woman would know how to navigate the creative and business world.
  • A good businessman would be an esteemed leader in his field.
  • An inspiring leader would be articulate and well-spoken.
  • A good wife would have a clean house and car and wear make up every day.
  • A good husband would fix all the broken honey-dos around the house.
  • Do these statements conjure up emotions of disgust, resignation, shame, guilt, embarrassment, timidity?

Isn’t it funny how there is some kind of invisible standard we hold ourselves to?

I don’t know where we get this image of this ideal person from: TV shows, how-to books authored by people who have all the solutions and none of the problems, beautiful Instagram feeds, so perfectly curated?

We know it’s not all true; we know it’s impossible.

Yet we still fall into the practice of comparison.

When comparison lies to me, telling me I am not enough, perfectionism quickly steps in to affirm them. The lies turn into beliefs.

I must not be a good mom, a healthy wife, or a business leader. I mean, I’ll keep trying, but the chances of success are slim. I always backslide to my phone, my heavy weight, and my I don’t think I can do this business thing.

The scary thing about these lies-turned-beliefs is they become action.

We cannot act apart from our beliefs, so the self-sabotage cycle begins. We thrust ourselves into self-fulfilling prophecies. When the worst becomes true, it is affirmed by our beliefs, which are derived from the lies of comparison and perfectionism.

I don’t know about you, but it’s a cycle I feel like I cannot survive.

It must be reversed in order for me to breathe again, develop beautiful relationships, and live a life that means something.

I’m learning that perfectionism, no matter how it exhibits itself, is an addiction to comparison.

And like most addictions, it’s never fully gone.


The battle will be daily, but the good news is, it will be easily won. 


A perfectionist must face the demons of sobriety if he or she is going to ever see the other side of that dark wall. The battle will be daily, but the good news is, it will be easily won.

You simply have to catch yourself beating yourself up.

Feeling guilty about looking at your phone? 

Remind yourself of the last time (probably yesterday) you were really attentive to your loved ones, and tell yourself you know you’re going to finish up soon, and leave the phone in the other room.

Feeling defeated about not getting to the gym? 

Remind yourself it’s a slow process, and that change happens in minute increments. You’ve had successes before: congratulate yourself on them! And don’t berate yourself if you didn’t make it to the gym today.

Feeling “less than” in your career?

Remind yourself that everyone, including you, is given certain gifts and certain seasons. You work hard, and you’ll keep working hard and doing your best, and your season, however it looks is one that you WILL enjoy, without comparison.

The solution to perfectionism is simple, and like all things that really push us forward in life, easier said than done.

Take captive every negative thought and turn it into something positive. You can do it.

This post originally appeared on Storyline and was republished with permission. 


For more on comparison, watch Shawn Johnson’s short film below: 

audience1

(Photo source: Pexels.com)

A friend recently introduced me to a fabulous talk Brené Brown gave at a conference for creatives.

In it, she uses the metaphor of a coliseum-type arena as the place where we display our work, art, ourselves. The place where we must be vulnerable and put it out there. Whatever “it” happens to be. In the audience of the arena are many people, including the critics.

Brown says there are always four internal critics present in our arena:

  1. Scarcity – which asks, “What am I doing that’s original?”
  2. Shame – which says, “You’re not enough. Who do you think you are, trying to act like you belong here?”
  3. Comparison – Does this one even need an explanation?
  4. Fill in the blank

Only you know who occupies seat number four, and I think the critic in this seat rotates depending on what you’re up to in the arena.

My 12th-grade math teacher will, on occasion, occupy that fourth seat.

I went to a small Episcopalian high school and one of its (many) traditions was The Senior Chapel Talk. The entire school attended chapel every day at 10 a.m., and at some point during the year, instead of our chaplain speaking, a senior would get up and give a 15-minute speech.

I was very nervous about my chapel talk.

I liked theater and choir and performing, but when it came to being on stage and acting like myself, I was terrified and had little to no experience.

I remember my dad sat down with me at our kitchen table and helped me plan out what I was going to say. Then, I practiced saying it aloud in front my mirror about 17 times. When the day came to give my talk, my mouth was dry and my hands were shaking, but I stood up at the podium anyway, and I got through it.

I sat back down in my seat, feeling pretty proud of myself and very relieved.

After chapel, I went to math class, and the first thing my teacher said when she saw me was, “Wow, I’ve never heard anyone give a speech so fast!” I was mortified. I was so nervous I didn’t even know I had talked fast and flown through my speech. I looked around the classroom at my friends with questioning eyes. They averted my gaze. I decided this meant they must agree with her and slunk down into my seat.

Her comment echoed in my head for a long time.

Since that day I’ve always told people I hate public speaking, and I’m terrible at it. “My mouth gets dry and I talk too fast,” I tell them.

We have so many voices like this don’t we?

Maybe we have some we’re not even aware of that are taunting us from the nosebleed section, and we’re listening to them even though they’re mean. In her talk, Brown suggests replacing these voices with kind, trusted ones.


Listen to the people who love you and cheer for you, no matter what, and have a picture of the strong person you know you’re becoming.


Listen to the people who love you and cheer for you, no matter what, and have a picture of the strong person you know you’re becoming.

One way of conquering my math teacher’s voice was volunteering to do chapel for the company I used to work for. I had 15 minutes (again) and the crowd would be 20-30 people. It sounds small but it was a really big deal for me.

And you know what? I was ok.

I received kind feedback, and I even enjoyed the experience.

Sometimes you have to do the thing that one person told you weren’t good at in order to kick them out of your arena.

They don’t belong there. Don’t let them have a seat.

This post originally appeared on Storyline and was republished with permission. 

(Photo source: Pexels)

(Photo source: Pexels)

I expect a lot of myself. I expect more from Karis Rogerson than I do from just about anyone else in the world. And you don’t have to take my word for it; you could ask my mom, my best friend, my counselor. They would all agree that I set supremely high standards that I’m unlikely to meet.

I expect myself to be the best writer in the world, the writer with the most acceptances and publications and fans. And I don’t expect this because I think I deserve it; I expect this because I think I don’t deserve it.

Let me explain that better. When it comes down to the heart of things, I’ve never really believed that I deserve my life. For some reason I’ve gotten it in my head that my birth was a fluke, that some other sperm, if only it could have swam faster, would have produced a better human being.


For some reason I’ve gotten it in my head that my birth was a fluke, that some other sperm, if only it could have swam faster, would have produced a better human being.


Maybe this human would still be called Karis Rogerson, but she would be a better friend, a kinder soul, a more upstanding Christian. She would have had more selfless dreams and aspirations, would never take her life for granted and would make people happier than I can. In short, she would have been a better gift to the world.

I’ve spent most of what I remember of my life believing that I’m starting from behind, that I’m struggling just to prove that I deserve the oxygen I consume and the space I take up. So in order to make up for my myriad failings, I need to do better than everyone else.

If I don’t — if I come in second or, God forbid, dead last, I beat myself up to within an inch of my life.

Yes, I mean that in all seriousness. I walk around telling myself that I don’t deserve to live and should do the world a favor by killing myself. I come to a place where I’m determine to throw myself in front of a moving vehicle. I whisper, You don’t deserve life, things would be better if you died, again and again and again, until I’m a sobbing wreck on a bustling and uncaring corner.

If someone is a better writer; if someone else’s article gets published instead of mine; if my friend turns to someone other than me for comfort in hardship; if I make my mom’s voice break or fail at being a good roommate, I come down upon myself with all the swiftness and deadliness of a falling blade on a guillotine.

I have a hard enough time forgiving those who hurt me; imagine the struggle it is to forgive myself.

Every time I don’t succeed, I consider it a failure. Recently I’ve been beating myself up because I lost my job, was irresponsible with my money, and am hovering right above being broke in New York City.

And that, in my eyes, is a glaring failure.

If only I were more qualified, more talented, better at managing my money. If only I were less ambitious, less attached to New York, less of a total and complete screw-up.

If only, if only, if only.

I moved to the city with lofty goals of succeeding: of being the top of my grad school class, of getting a publishing deal for my second novel within a few months, of making friends, climbing the social ladder and being sought out by publications like The New York Times.

Instead my professor suggested I take time off from school because my mental health is so bad, my novels are still nowhere near being published, I’ve lost two best friends, the social ladder is 20 feet out of my reach and I got fired from PuckerMob.

And yet.

And yet my professor also tells me she believes in me and wants the best for me, I’ve written one-and-three-quarters new novels, I’ve gained a family at church, the social ladder is unimportant, and I’ve been published by Seventeen, Bustle, and I Am Second.

And yet my audience is growing steadily, I’m making friends with fellow writers, I received a rejection letter that complimented my poetry, I believe in myself as a writer now.

And yet I’m good friends with my roommates, I have incredible people who fight to pay for my lunch because I can’t afford it and they don’t want to see me hungry, I’m being prayed for by people all across the country and the world.

And yet in my darkest hour God revealed himself to me, He gave me hope where there was none, He offered me salvation that I didn’t deserve.

I don’t know what the answer is to my feelings on unworthiness when it comes to life; I don’t know how to forgive myself for all my mistakes; I don’t know how I’ll stop seeing everything as a failure.

When I began this piece, I didn’t know how it would end because I still felt hopeless.

It ends like this: “and yet.”


I’m not the person I thought I would be; and yet I’m proud of who I am.


I’m not the person I thought I would be; and yet I’m proud of who I am.

Maybe another sperm would have been a better person; and yet God chose me.

I screw up every day; and yet He offers forgiveness every second.

I am a failure; and yet He makes me a success.

This is how we succeed: in the “and yet,” the gift of a second chance or a new perspective.

Karis is a grad student at NYU in New York City. Her writing has appeared online with Seventeen as well as Good Housekeeping. She blogs at karisrogerson.com. To stay informed about all her writing, sign up here.


For more on overcoming failure, watch Shawn Johnson’s short film below: 

(Source: Pexels.com)

(Source: Pexels.com)

I broke a promise recently. Not a promise I’d made to anyone specifically, but a promise I made publicly, online, to you. A promise to stop cutting.

After 23 weeks of, well, sobriety, I drew a sharp blade across my own skin. I ran into the bathroom, vomited, and then cried — heaving because I’d broken a promise and fallen back into an addiction I’d hoped to leave behind for good.

Things didn’t get better from there. I got sick — physically sick — and spent two days cooped up at home. My depression, or this latest depressive episode, worsened. It got real bad, guys, so bad that I was afraid to tell anyone because I’d also promised not to go back to a hospital and I knew if I was honest, that’s where I’d be headed.

And I began to wonder: Where is God in all this pain? Isn’t He supposed to be strong in my weakness? So why isn’t He here?


Where is God in all this pain?


If He existed, He would be here.

If. He. Existed.

It’s not the first time I’ve wondered if God isn’t just a myth. But it is the first time I feared I was actually going to lose my faith. That shook me.

I was depressed. I was scared. I was disbelieving. And I was angry. So, so angry.

Which led to more cutting, more despair, more doubts.

It seemed like I was going to be sucked into an endless cycle of depression with no visible outcome. And I knew that if God wasn’t real I would kill myself. Then and there; one and done. Because if He’s not real, I’m not willing to go through this life without Him.

So I guess that’s why I went to church on Sunday. Because I was going to expect and demand that God make himself real to me. And because, as I’ve said before, church is about more than worship and preaching. It’s about community, and I’ve found a family at my church here in New York City.

***

I call myself a “sympathy cryer,” someone who will shed tears for no reason other than that you look a little sad. I’m a happy cryer, a sad cryer, an, “I had an emotion or even just a thought” cryer. I’ll say it again: I cry a lot. I cry most Sundays during worship or the message or because there was a cute baby. I cry, is what I’m saying.

I started crying in that church service. But these tears weren’t for no reason. They were because God did exactly what I asked him to do: He made Himself real to me. I shouldn’t be surprised that God did exactly what I asked him to, but I was.

It started when He said I needed to let go of my negative self-talk.

Y’all, I am master at ripping myself to shreds. I can demolish my own happiness in a matter of mere thought fragments. So that got to me.

It got worse when He said, “I’m not in love with the perfect you, I’m in love with the real you.


“I’m not in love with the perfect you, I’m in love with the real you.”


And then — and then — in a sign of how truly epic He is, God made himself real to me using a human. That human was me.

It’s mind-blowing how simple yet brilliant it was. God took the person I hate, distrust, despise, belittle the most, and He used me to prove to me that He is real.

I started talking to him about someone who has hurt me, someone I thought I’d never forgive or want to see happy. But sitting there in church, what can only be described as God’s love filled me for this person.

And as I continued to talk to God about it, this kinda sassy, I-told-you-so voice said, “Would you be doing this if I weren’t real?”

And the truth is — no, I wouldn’t.

I’m not innately a good person. I don’t forgive easily. I have a perennial chip on my shoulder. I judge people and don’t always root for their success, even if it doesn’t hurt me. I want to be liked and admired above all else. I may be loyal to a fault, but if you hurt me or one of my friends, I will turn on you so fast.

So to find myself in a situation where I was praying for someone who’d hurt me, where I was beseeching God to shower goodness and mercy and good things upon this person…that wasn’t me. It was entirely not me. I’m just not that person.

That’s the kind of thing that doesn’t happen without divine intervention.

And the fact that God used me to show me that He’s real…needless to say, I was a sobbing wreck.

And He wasn’t done yet.

I’ve been so depressed recently in part because I lost my job on June 1 and haven’t been able to find a new one. And the more time I spend without a routine, a structure, a purpose, people to interact with, the more I sink.

But it’s more than that. It’s also that I’ve been filled with the fear that I’ll have to leave New York City if I don’t get a job.

There are so many reasons why I think my heart and soul are tangled up in this city. It’s not just that the very layout of this place soothes me, that in the depths of my depressive episode a walk through the streets or a few hours in Bryant Park settles my heart; it’s also that here I’ve found a place to put down roots, to make good friendships and find a solid therapist and a mentor and a church that lets me serve and then serves me in return. And it’s that this place is the hub of the writing and publishing industry.

And this is a city that needs me. I feel it in my bones. I can be good for this city. I love this city. I have a heart for this city.

But I can’t stay in this city without a job. And maybe, just maybe, God doesn’t want me in this city.

I’ve been very scared for the past few weeks, scared that He’ll ask me to leave. Because: If God exists (which He proved to me that He does), then He is everything. He is creator, He is life-giver, He is the master storyteller and He is wise and He is good. His plan for my life is wise and it is good, and that scares me because maybe, just maybe, it’s different from my plan.

And in church, as God told me of His existence, He told me that if He says “go,” then I need to go.

So I bowed my head and I sobbed and I said, “OK.”

I said that if that’s what God wants, that’s what He’ll get — my obedience.

Guys, I am scared. I am petrified. I do not want to leave.

But if He asks it of me, He who bled and suffered and died for me — I will give it to Him.

I told God this, and within seconds I felt…cleansed. Healed. Delivered. Now I don’t know if I’m healed of depression or of a depressive episode. But I know that this darkness that has haunted me for the past three weeks has been banished.

 God is powerful, y’all.

Karis is a grad student at NYU in New York City. Her writing has appeared online with Seventeen as well as Good Housekeeping. She blogs at karisrogerson.com. To stay informed about all her writing, sign up here.

darkface

(Photo source: Unsplash.com via Pexels)

This article originally appeared on To Write Love on Her Arms and was republished with permission. 

Shame: (n.) a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety.

From the time I was 16 until I was almost 23, shame ruled my life. How could someone who was given so much in life feel so hopeless? How could someone who seemed to have it all together be struggling with addiction?

No one can know I’m struggling. 

Is this pain ever going to end?

I am beyond help. 

No one will care if I’m gone. 

These were the thoughts that ran through my mind the week leading up to my suicide attempt. When I thought I had adequately pushed my friends away and convinced myself that they would be better off without me, I locked myself in my house and attempted to end the pain.

When I felt like I would soon be closing my eyes forever, I got a text from a close friend saying, “Open your front door.” I had texted her one-word responses all night hoping she would leave me alone. My inebriated self couldn’t fully grasp this text.

Why is she here? I can’t open my front door; it’ll be synonymous with opening the door to my secrets. If I open the door, my lies will come flooding out.

My friend texted me again. I began to panic but stumbled to the door and opened it.

Shame said, “Don’t drag anyone into your problems.”

Shame told me, “You’re not worthy of hope.”

Shame whispered, “You are never going to get better.”

Shame screamed, “You don’t deserve help!”

Community: (n.) a unified body of individuals.

She said we needed to talk. I tried to build another wall as fast as I could and acted like everything was fine, but she already knew about my self-injury. Everything I had struggled with for the past seven years was on the table, and I felt exposed. She made me promise her I would start going to counseling.

That night I learned that your community doesn’t leave you when you’re hurting. When you hurt, they hurt with you. But your community doesn’t only empathize with you; your community also supports you while you fight for freedom.

Community said, “No one is ever truly alone.”

Community told me, “You impact people’s lives.”

Community whispered, “You are important.”

Community screamed, “You are loved!”

Recovery: (n.) the act or process of returning to a normal state after a period of difficulty; the return of something that has been lost or stolen.

For me, recovery started with talking to one friend. Then it involved seeing a counselor and a psychiatrist. Now I know recovery will be a lifelong adventure, and the more I learn about my ability to recover, the more I understand how important it is to be outspoken about the reality of mental illness. I am not alone in my fight, and it’s important for others to know that as well.

Recovery said, “Mental illness is not a character flaw.”

Recovery told me, “Your story is significant.”

Recovery whispered, “You shouldn’t be ashamed of your past.”

Recovery screamed, “Your story is one to be shared.”

Shame told me I could never change. Community proved my friends and family were there for me. Recovery taught me the importance of speaking out about mental illness.

I hope you know you are not alone.

I hope you know you are loved.

I hope you learn to let go of stigma.

I hope you let your community embrace you.

And I hope you learn to believe that recovery can be yours.

(Photo source: Pexels.com)

(Photo source: Pexels.com)

When I hear the word “bored” an image pops into my mind of being a kid in the summer, tossing around those lethargic words when it seems too hot to play outside and no one can come over, and you’re in between your favorite Nickelodeon shows.

When we were young, bored was a word that meant, “There’s nothing to do.”

As an adult, I find I can feel something like “bored” whether I’m busy or not so much—and for better or worse, there’s technically always something I could be doing, so it’s not really a matter of needing to come up with more to-dos.


Perhaps now being bored has less to do with “there’s nothing to do” and more to do with “why am I doing this thing I’m doing right now?”


Perhaps now being bored has less to do with “there’s nothing to do” and more to do with “why am I doing this thing I’m doing right now?” Whether that thing be another random Wednesday at your job, studying for a standardized test you’re not even sure you should take, or cleaning up the kitchen…again.

This version of boredom seems to be more about meaning than about a lack of activity.

When my kid-self was “I’m bored”-ing to a parent or a babysitter or a grandparent, it seemed like that older-and-in-charge person was able to spot so many things to do that I couldn’t see, and/or had this cheerful, enthusiastic approach to pastimes that I saw as old hat or unattainable or too much trouble.

As an older and wiser adult, I’m sure it’s easy to look at a seven-year-old and think, “Oh my gosh! It’s a beautiful summer day, we have a water hose and a sprinkler to our name, you’ve got a stack of books to read, and there’s an entire tub of play-doh you could get out.

The options are endless, and on top of that, they’re fun!”

Their more seasoned perspective could easily see the joys of the options at hand.

I wonder if sometimes there’s a similar relationship between the grown up version of being bored and a God who looks down and says, “Oh man! If you could only see how many great choices you’ve got and what gifts are all around you!”

This doesn’t change that adult life is not always brimming with the grown-up equivalents of water sprinklers and play-doh; there are of course times to confront big questions about calling and purpose and the practical solutions to those questions.

But it reminds me that the tedium we encounter in the day-to-day can be alleviated at least a little by adjusting my attitude to include a wider perspective, even if it’s only an imagined one.


 “To be bored is to turn down cold whatever life happens to be offering you at the moment.” – Frederick Buechner


Something good happens when I see my same situation from a new angle.

Frederick Buechner says that “to be bored is to turn down cold whatever life happens to be offering you at the moment.” For me, this means that sometimes, getting un-bored is a matter of seeing things in a new light.

Whatever form that bored feeling takes, I’m telling myself not to dramatically lament the circumstances like my younger self, but to see the feeling as a “ding ding ding” urging me to look a little closer, see what else is here, and enjoy whatever I can about the moment that’s presenting itself.

What can I enjoy about this exact moment in my life?


Maybe it’s just a chance to remember that some moments are less sensational than others and that’s part of life. 


Maybe this moment allows me to zoom in and appreciate something small, or zoom out and remember something bigger than me or someone other than me, or maybe it’s just a chance to remember that some moments are less sensational than others and that’s part of life.

Either way, it’s a ping on my radar:

What am I missing here? What can I give my attention to? What can I try better to see?


This blog post originally appeared on Storyline and was republished with permission.

Jackie Bradley Jr., the center fielder for the Boston Red Sox, poses from the dugout with his I Am Second bracelet. (Source: I Am Second)

Jackie Bradley Jr., the center fielder for the Boston Red Sox, poses from the dugout with his I Am Second bracelet. (Source: I Am Second)

At first glance, it appears to be part of a simple ritual. One of the many, compulsive acts that baseball players do without thinking. But it’s so much more than that.

Before Boston Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley, Jr., enters the batter’s box, he gently bends his waist, points his bat down at the dirt near the catcher, and begins writing. One letter, written twice, takes shape: MM. Only then does he step up to the plate.

If you want to use a cliche, you could say Bradley has done a lot of stepping up to the plate. Earlier this year, he dominated baseball with a 29-game hit streak, the fourth longest in Red Sox history. His batting average is hovering around .300, he already has 13 home runs, and this month he’ll be starting in his first All Star Game.

But all those successes on the field haven’t given him as much perspective as the two tragedies he endured off of it. It’s those tragedies that show up in the dirt with every at-bat.

***

Matt Saye was more than a best friend to Bradley — he was like a brother. Ever since they were 10 years old, they did everything together. Then came 2011. On August 6, Bradley got a frantic call from Saye’s mother.

“He’s gone. He’s gone.”

Saye went to the grocery store and never returned, the lone victim of fatal car accident on the way back.

“That put a lot of perspective on my life, about how short life is. He was only 21 years old,” Bradley tells I Am Second from the Red Sox dugout before a recent game against the Texas Rangers. Saye’s death came right as Bradley was getting ready to make a decision about signing with the Red Sox.

If there was any doubt about how close the two were, Saye’s obituary made it clear: “He is survived by his parents and his sister, Elizabeth Jane Saye of Nashville, Tenn., and his brother, Jackie Bradley Jr. of Prince George, Va.”

As a result, Bradley started his silent ritual: Before every at-bat he began etching “MS” into the dirt — a memorial to William “Matt” Matthew Saye.

But it wouldn’t stay that way.

***

Three years after losing Saye, Bradley’s world once again changed forever. It was April 2014. WEEI RADIO explains:

Martha Brown was, as Bradley described her, his “everything.” His maternal grandmother, she helped raise Bradley and his younger brother when they were growing up. She was a strong woman with a soft nature, one who let people know when they were wrong and supported them when they were right. Bradley shared his dream of being a major league baseball player with her when he was four, and she encouraged him every step of the way.

Health issues were a concern for Brown. She was born with only two valves in her heart, not four, and required a triple bypass surgery in her early 50s. Diabetes added to the risks. In February she underwent a second heart surgery that was followed by complications, including pneumonia.

Brown made progress as time went on. She was able to talk again and eat without a feeding tube. Other than expressing feeling tired, she seemed to be making a positive recovery.

Not too long ago, though, she began telling people she was ready to go home. The doctors interpreted it as she was ready to leave the hospital. Bradley took it differently. On April 21, two days after his 24th birthday, Bradley received the news his grandmother had died. She was 67 years old.

And that’s when the drawing in the dirt changed. Instead of “MS,” Bradley started writing “MM” for both Matt and Martha.

“It’s letting me know they have my back and are in full support of me,” he says, sitting on the end of the dugout bench, unable to help himself from tilting his head as the batting practice balls from his teammates leave the park.

Jackie Bradley, Jr., watches as his teammates take batting practice on June 25, 2016 at Globe Life Park in Arlington. (Source: I Am Second)

Jackie Bradley, Jr., watches as his teammates take batting practice on June 25, 2016 at Globe Life Park in Arlington. (Source: I Am Second)

***

For someone who has experienced such tragedies, you might expect Bradley to talk about death like a middle-schooler talks about a bully — sheepishly, dismissively, or spitefully. He doesn’t. It has no power over him.

“My grandma used to always tell me, ‘I don’t understand why people get so upset when people die. Everyone has to pass. Everyone always talks about how they want to get to heaven, but how else are you going to get to heaven unless you die? It’s just the passageway to get there. So don’t be afraid of it.'”

In fact, Bradley can be so dismissive of death his wife gets upset.

“My wife always hates when I say it, but I say, ‘If this is my time, it’s my time.’ She always says, ‘Don’t say that!’ But I tell her that I’m ready when that time comes,” he adds with a serious chuckle. He tries to balance that attitude with the reality that he’s a new father to a months-old baby girl.

“I think people are more afraid of the how of death instead of death itself,” he explains as fans file into the ballpark and call out his name, his magnetic smile flashing from time to time. “If you told someone they would die a peaceful death in their sleep, they’re not too fearful of that, but if you tell someone it’s going to be a grueling, tough struggle, that’s what gets people worked up a little more.”

A large part of that attitude, Bradley says, can be attributed to the peace he’s found in his faith. He’s been a Christian since he was young and wears an I Am Second bracelet as a way to remind himself and others of how he strives to live.

“It’s not just about the game. It’s about living what you’re preaching,” he says. “You’re going to make mistakes, but as long as God is your main focus more often than not you’re going to make the right decision.”

A player's hat, gloves, and bat lay on the bench before the Red Sox-Rangers game on June 25, 2016. (Source: I Am Second)

A player’s hat, gloves, and bat lay on the bench before the Red Sox-Rangers game on June 25, 2016. (Source: I Am Second)

That doesn’t mean life is easy. After enduring the deaths of two of those closest to him, Bradley yo-yoed between the minor leagues and the majors. He would get called up to the Red Sox for some brief stints before being sent right back down. Through it all, though, he kept perspective, knowing he “was meant to play this game at the highest level.”

“Obviously everyone has things they go through in life, and you have to get through them,” he says.

“There will be times you go through stuff, but you just have to know it’s going to get better. It always does, as long as you stay steadfast in Him and trust Him. You might not understand what He’s doing at the time.”

Exactly a week after this interview, the Red Sox suffered an embarrassing 21-2 loss. It was a low point for a team that has been having an otherwise solid season. It was especially tough for Bradley, who went 0-4 and struck out three times. While not another death in the family, it certainly wasn’t the easiest of times.

But the next day?

Bradley had two hits, two runs, an RBI, and threw out two runners from center field. The Red Sox won 10-5.

It’s reminiscent of some of his words a week earlier: “Struggle is only temporary.”


Jonathon M. Seidl is the editor-in-chief of I Am Second. Follow him on Twitter (@jonseidl) Instagram (@jonseidl), and Facebook (Jonathon M. Seidl).

sharing

(Source: Pexels.com)

Have you ever read something really inspiring, encouraging, or enlightening and immediately had the urge to share it before you even finished the article? This happens to me all the time.

My thoughts are flooded with a list of people in my life that could benefit from what I just read. The speedy texting and emailing begins. “Check this out, you will LOVE it.”

I’m a notorious sharer. I’ve always been this way. If I see a really good movie, everyone that I know and love HAS to go see the film before it leaves theaters. If I’m eating an amazing meal, it kills me inside when someone turns down my offer of a taste. “You don’t understand. This bite will literally change your life!” (I’m not dramatic).

I don’t think it’s inherently bad of me to feel this way. Though, I have noticed something lately that has made me second-guess this seemingly innocent habit of mine.

Often times, especially after reading a convicting chapter in a book, I rarely let the message sink in before I’m thinking of people who I need to share it with. Even if a book was titled, “Caitlin, you need to read this.” I would probably subconsciously replace it with my husband’s name.


Could I potentially be avoiding the work that needs to be done in my self by always deflecting the truth to others? Totally.


Is it because I love him? Yes. Is it because the message is awesome and I’m excited to share it with others? For sure. Could I potentially be avoiding the work that needs to be done in my self by always deflecting the truth to others? Totally.

Do you catch yourself doing this? It’s a humbling pill to swallow, though by admitting this to yourself, you are opening a whole new door to a healthier life. I had to get off of my prideful high-horse and tell myself, “Caitlin, you are not everyone’s doctor. You cannot ‘fix’ someone if you constantly avoid what you need to work on in yourself.”

I see this happening in comments on our blog posts all the time. Comments like “Wow, I have two ‘friends’ who need to read this” or “I wish my ex knew this years ago” are not uncommon. If you have commented like this, don’t worry, my mind tends do the same thing! Though, you know what’s really refreshing to read? Comments like “Wow, this is me, I have a lot of work to do.”

Hear me out; I think sharing an article that you find inspiring or interesting is great. Keep doing that. However, before you shoot out your posts, texts and emails, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is this something I need to work on?

If your honest answer to that question is yes, hit pause on your urge to share. Take a moment, or take an entire day, to really search your heart on the matter. Perhaps it wasn’t meant to be shared at all. After doing so, move on to number 2 and 3.

  1. Is my reasoning for wanting to share this coming from a place of pure love?

I have definitely felt this ugly, pious inclination to share something  simply because I think others have some work to do in that area. I’d be very careful with this. Odds are, you’re judgment is going to be sniffed out and whatever you shared wont be received very well (this is coming from experience).

  1. Will this actually encourage someone?

Is your sharing of that email or blog post going to bring life to someone? Is it going to positively challenge them to be better? Or is it going to upset them, annoy them, or turn them off? Think about the place of life your friend might be in before you send something. Maybe now isn’t the best time to share because they just had their heart broken. Give it a few weeks, and it could be substantially more effective!


Our like-and-share-society opens the door to causing a lot of unnecessary pain and judgement.


Listen. I’m telling you this because I’m the worst at sharing things when maybe I shouldn’t. Our like-and-share-society opens the door to causing a lot of unnecessary pain and judgement. On the flip side, it creates an awesome opportunity to quickly give hope and encouragement to those who need it most. Let’s do the latter.

Share away! 😉