I can’t remember the first time I heard someone tell me I was worthless. Though it was said in many different ways, sometimes without words at all, I heard it a lot growing up.
I can, however, remember the first time I said it to myself–the first time I believed it.
It seems so silly, now, to retell the story. It was a couple weeks into my freshman year of high school. There was a boy (there’s always a boy) who I had a crush on, who, for a while, at least, felt the same way. We never dated, nothing serious ever became of it. It was the awkward transition from middle school to high school, when most relationships lasted a month, at best, and no one could even make eye contact with the person they were supposedly “dating” during school dances.
He told me I wasn’t skinny enough to be with him.
And, while, today, I embrace the healthy curves, strong muscles, and 140 pounds of awesome I possess (well, most of the time, at least), I, at fourteen years old, was not so secure.
I remember, through sobs and tears, staring at myself in the bathroom mirror and saying, “You’re worthless.”
My whole life up to that point, and for far too long after, I had been led to believe that my worth was based on others’ approval of me. Whether it was my grades, my friends, my chores, my scores in gymnastics, my career goals, anything, really, I had to do well in order to be loved.
The thing is, when you’re taught to believe this, it doesn’t matter how well you do, it will never be enough to really “earn” love.
That moment led to a downward spiral of self-hatred, constant anxiety, an eating disorder that always nagged me, perfectionism, and believing a whole host of lies others told me (and many I told myself).
I made it to a point where I wasn’t willing to accept praise of any kind, to acknowledge anything good about myself, because I didn’t want to (or perhaps couldn’t) believe that there was anything in me worth praising.
I also remember the first time someone told me, “You are good enough.”
It was my freshman/sophomore year of college (things get messed up when you don’t do four full years). I had just gotten in a massive fight with my father, about what, I don’t recall, and (again) there was a boy who, while much kinder than the previous boy, did not reciprocate the feelings I had towards him. I felt so alone and so unloved.
At the time, I was also a part of a prayer ministry on campus. We had an intercessory station outside of a vespers service, where I was pretending to have a handle on things. A dear friend of mine, who I had only known for a few weeks at that point, noticed that something was off and asked if she could pray for me.
Pray for me? No one had ever really prayed for me before. Though all I really wanted to do was keep everything bottled up inside, festering like the gallon of milk you forgot was in the back of the fridge, though I didn’t want to hear what she was about to say, something inside of me wouldn’t let me say no.
She didn’t know what was going on. She just prayed.
And I remember, she looked straight into my eyes, squinted a little bit, and said, “I need you to listen to me. I need you to trust me and believe me, because you’ve been lied to for far too long. You. Are. Good enough.”
I lost it. I just started sobbing. I had never been told that before. And, in that moment, I believed it.
I’ve clung to that since then. In the moments when I feel like all I ever do is screw things up, I repeat that over and over and over, like a worry stone in my mouth.
You. Are. Good enough.
We have this liturgy we say at the beginning of every gathering at my faith community. In it, we say the words, “We tell the story of promises made to those who were too old and too young, too broken and too far outside.” It always resonates with me. We are, without a doubt, the island of misfit toys. Most of us have been through a lot of things that often make us feel worthless.
But we are not.
And you, yes you, you are not worthless.
You, the weary, the depressed, the heavily medicated, the alcoholic, the drug addict, the adulterer, the thief, the single parent, the gay man or lesbian woman, the prostitute, the sex addict, the welfare recipient, the heavily indebted, the lonely, the hungry, the homeless, the heretic, the divorcee, the pregnant teen, the murderer, the whatever-you-are, are good enough.
If you’ve ever believed the lie that you are worthless, listen up.