As a survivor, one of the biggest battles I have found myself fighting is not feeling good enough or smart enough, feeling like I don't fit in because I will sometimes struggle with comparing myself to everyone else around me. The other day I was at a group interview for a day camp counselor position for the local YMCA where I live. There was a group of 20 of us in all with 2 program specialist directors for the area and then two camp directors from two different YMCA's in the area. The first thing we had to do was stand up and give an elevator speech, meaning we had to introduce ourselves, talk about any previous experience we've had with children, and why we want to be a day camp counselor.
With the exception for two high school students in the group, I was the only one who did not have a college degree or wasn't in college. Everyone else talked about how they graduated with a college degree in this field or that, about the good jobs they had or how they are attending college and earning their degree in this or that. Many of them had tons of prior experience with working with children and volunteering in the past at camps but all I had to go on was the Vacation Bible School volunteer experience I had from when I was a teenager and also volunteering at a day camp at another YMCA when I was younger. To be honest, hearing everyone else's stories did make me feel a little bit intimidated because that mental comparison habit kicked in and suddenly I felt that I wasn't smart enough or good enough, that I didn't belong in this group. But when I stood up to deliver my elevator speech, I talked about how the YMCA I went to as a little girl changed my life and played an important part in my life, I talked about starting my own non profit for abuse victims and survivors, and how I felt that working at the YMCA would help give me experience to see how a non profit works and operates. After I gave that short speech, I realized that it doesn't matter that I don't have a college education like the rest of the group. What truly matters is the passion I have for helping others and wanting to make a huge difference in their lives just as my friends, loved ones, and all those who have helped me along the way in my life have made a huge difference in mine.
Growing up, I can remember my father always telling me he wasn't proud of me for anything. More than anything I wanted my dad to look at me and be proud of me but yet the only words I heard from him were that there was nothing to be proud of me for, that he couldn't brag about me like other parents at his work could boast about their children. I tried to live up to his expectations and yet somehow always fell far short of them. I wasn't the daughter he had hoped I would be and believe me, he let me know it. Because of that, I went through life thinking I wasn't good enough, that I didn't measure up, and it created an insecurity in me that led me to look for approval in relationships that I got into which turned out to be toxic and abusive. I felt I had to prove myself to everyone else around me, thus losing focus of who I was and who I really wanted to be in life. I put pressure on myself to be what everyone else wanted me to be and tried to live up to their expectations. Instead of living my life and enjoying it, I found myself competing and comparing when it came to my life and your life should never be a competition in which you find yourself competing for approval from anyone. Your life should be yours to enjoy and you should enjoy being who you are while living that life you want.
Often times it is easy for us survivors to not feel good enough or smart enough. It's easy for us to look at everyone else around us and not feel that we belong because of things we have been through in our lives. But you know, we are not alone in feeling this way because there are others out there who feel the exact same way and thinking the same thing. What we need to remember is that every one of us comes from a different background, we've all been through different experiences, and we all have different stories to tell. Each of us has something we can contribute and offer because we have different gifts, talents and abilities we have been blessed with. We've done things that others haven't done in their lives. Just because someone has done this or that in their life and we haven't does not make us any less of a person though. The experiences we have gone through are what help us to help others out there.
Don't ever think that you don't belong, that you don't fit in, that you're not beautiful enough, smart enough, good enough, or that there's nothing to be proud of when it comes to being who you are and the life you've lived and are living. There is always something to be proud of and someone to be proud of; you should be proud of yourself for making it this far in life, for turning struggles into victories, in turning setbacks into comebacks, and turning the negative into positive. It doesn't matter what everyone else is doing in their life and it doesn't matter what achievements they have accomplished, either because their life is not yours just as your life is not theirs. True, they've done things you haven't, but you've done things they haven't, either. However, that is what makes you an inspiration to others. You inspire others by the way you live your life, by what you've overcome and by who you've gone on to be in your life. At the end of the day, life is not a contest of who's done more. It's about how you are living it, what you are putting into it, and it's about living the dreams you have for yourself. Our lives were not meant to be the same as everyone else's and we were not made to be like everyone else, either.
Embrace who you are, be proud of you, and be passionate about the life you have. You are a gift in yourself with all the characteristics that make you that unique, special, extraordinary individual that you are. You've been given talents and abilities that other people probably wish they had. It is who you are though that makes you a gift to the world. There's a saying that goes "What makes you different is what makes you beautiful." Being different is definitely what makes you beautiful for it's being different that makes you one of a kind and thus makes you someone original, someone that no one else can ever be. So don't compare yourself to others, don't sell yourself short, but give yourself credit for everything you've achieved in your own life and continue to let that beauty you have shine for the world to see because the beauty you add to this world is what makes you such a precious gift to those around you.
Jenna Kandyce Linch
Copyright (c) Jenna Kandyce Linch