Tag Archives: insecurity

The Beautiful Breakdown

Sometimes the healthiest thing we can do is to let ourselves break…

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If I’ve learned anything over the past few years it is this: the beauty and the ugly come together. One tangled knot and try as you might – you can’t deny the presence of either. So often we wait to live the lives we want until we have it together. Until our embarrassing weaknesses are controlled and easily kept away from the view of our life’s company.

Last year I found myself sitting on a mountainside deep in the upcountry of Burundi, Africa. The dirt was bright red and the smiles of those around me a bold white against their beautiful dark skin. We sat waiting until we could hear them coming in the distance. The villagers and I. Waiting for the faint pounding we felt coming up the mountain.

It grew louder and ever closer until the men broke through the bushes into the open space before us. Twenty or so men carrying barrel sized drums on their heads. The mountain pulsated with the rhythm of their drums as we watched. The beat was inescapable. As if I was wrapped up in it’s echo that surged through the hills below. It was all I could feel and think about. The deep thudding almost seemed as if it was coming from inside me. In that moment there was no getting away from the beat. Everything I felt and thought was permeated by the dominant pounding.

And I find myself craving the simplicity of that moment again and again. No matter what thoughts tried to creep up it was impossible to think them through the drums. Their pounding was the boss. I long for that overwhelming beat because so often I feel the music at war within myself.

A gracious tune of inspiration and wonder. The kind of music that accompanies majestic and playful things. And then the suspenseful melody rivaling it as fear’s soundtrack. And there is no beauty in this place.

Today I cried in the car on the way to write this. I was listening to Bethel’s new song “No Longer A Slave” and I could. not. contain. it.

The pain. The weariness. The shadows that make their ways into the sunniest of my days. Fear. It unhinges the deep peace I have been promised.

Lies have tricked us into believing that we cannot be great until we are whole.

But our offerings which are healing to others are often given from the midst of our own pain.

In the midst of our lack, we can offer a blessing. From our own brokeness we can offer strength to another. While we fight our own battles we can love with passion. The dreams and the fears – they are a messy lot. 

And you know what? I did a poll with my Baller Status crew and the thing they said held them back the most was fear. How do you move past it?

How do you walk through fear?

It is as simple as it is hard.

You just keep walking. On the days that make you freeze in your tracks. During the conversations that make the tears flow. Through the nights that grip you with their loneliness. You keep moving. Clawing your way along if you have to. Being dragged by the friends brave enough not to leave you behind. Even if it is only by an inch, you keep moving.

In the moments when the lies taunt you with the most dreaded of your thoughts. When the ugliest parts of you seem to tattoo themselves to you for all to see – keep walking.

Walk toward the mountain – toward the One whose beat can drown out all of your thoughts. That will overpower the negative emotions plaguing you. Tune your ear. Listen. Let yourself be wrapped up in it.

In Him there is no darkness at all. In Him there is no darkness at all. In Him there is no darkness at all.

How do you stop the war of melodies in your mind?

Introduce a new beat. A stronger beat.

Even if you are lost beyond all measure. Not even sure which way is up anymore. Lean in. His song will carry you up the mountain – up to the high ground – when your own feet can’t carry you.

Just move. On the hard days when you betray and battle yourself to believe the best. Have hope. Listen for the beat.

For all of us up on the mountain or deep in the scratchy and dry valley – my prayer is that His pulse becomes our pulse. Just like on the African mountain. He will carry us. And with Him, we can walk through the fear. We just have to keep leaning in.

I’ve had a hard week. An embarrassing and raw realization of my own desperate need for a Savior. So here I am saying to you, “Hey guys, I’m a little broken.” And you know what? I see you in your ugliest places and I value you right there.

You and me? We may have seasons that leave us bruised and battered. But we will make it through and live lives of neon hope to the world around us. How do I know? Because we’ve got a God who makes broken bones dance.

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Be Fully Seen

I’ve never really had an addiction to anything until Instagram came along. That is where I found Alisha Sommers whose pictures and captions draw me in every time. She is the coolest lady , just check out her bio at the bottom if you don’t believe me. Plus, I have a total crush on her hair. So, when I was thinking through guest posts for An Uncomfortable January, I knew she would provide a very vulnerable insight about getting outside of our comfort zones. And that is what this series is about – being real with ourselves and taking risks. Alisha is taking us into the risk of being seen. So, go on and read it if you are feeling risky. 

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2013 was a transformative year for me. I learned so much about what I want in life, what my true values are, and how I want to move about in this world. I chose the word “illuminate.” I wanted to do things that lift up my soul and show others that there was another way to live if they really wanted to. But I knew the only way to do that was to fully embrace who I was becoming. So I dug deep to rediscover my heart’s desires and learn how to honor the gifts and talents given to me. As I began to write more, share more, and connect with more people, I got more attention. And I got more uncomfortable. Here I was living out this word “illuminate” and feeling uncomfortable with shining. Which meant that I was not living as fully as I wanted.

I am that woman who tilts her head down when someone makes eye contact with her as she walks down the street. When I’m having a conversation with someone I don’t know well, I will not hold their gaze for more than 3 seconds. I suppose it is out of the fear that the old saying is true: That my eyes are the window to my sould and that when you look at me – look into me – you will see everything. I can no longer hide. Yet this is how we truly connect with one another. It is why new lovers lean in across the table. It is why, when I need my children to listen to me, I get down on their level – I want to look into their eyes. But it is scary, right? It is scary because it means that I might face rejection. Just stepping outside of the door every day and choosing to be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you into something else is so uncomfortable. But I choose to do it every day. So many of us do.

This year I knew that I wanted to really embody the rediscovered me that was ready to move forward in her life. This year is all about the integration of what I believe to be true about myself and the world and finally acting upon it. Late last year, when Elizabeth asked me to contribute to this series, I knew that my challenge was to look people in the eye. Because looking people in the eye is not just about being polite or letting them know that I am paying attention to them. It is also about me being okay with being fully seen. It is about me owning my beliefs and values and standing tall in them. It is about allowing myself to be fully seen and walking with that uncomfortable feeling, while trusting that I would still be loved and accepted.

A few weeks ago I went to dinner with a friend who told me about her conscious effort to look people in the eye as she interacted with them throughout her day. She mentioned an afternoon when she saw a panhandler on the side of the street and while she did not have any money to give him, what she did give him was eye contact and a smile. She could have looked away and pretended not to see him like most of us do – like I do. Instead she chose to see him. She said there was just something about that brief moment they shared, separated by concrete and steel and glass, that moved her. I am sure it touched him too.

When we really choose to see people, we remember they are human. We see their essence. We feel a little more compassion. We feel a little more love. When I choose to let you see me, I give you the opportunity to love me too. And Love – that’s something we could all use a little more of.

Even if it makes us uncomfortable.

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Processed with VSCOcamAlisha Sommer is a writer living in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband and three children. She loves fresh-baked bread, laying in the sun, and the smell of the sea. When she’s not knee-deep in laundry and lunch-making, she edits and publishes BLACKBERRY: a magazine, a literary magazine featuring black women writers and artists. She is the co-creator of liberated lines, an Instagram-based poetry course, and a guide in the upcoming writing collective, Our Word. You can find her at her favorite playgrounds, Instagram and Pinterest.

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Filed under Uncategorized, Uncomfortable January 2014

You Just Have To Keep Breathing

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Sometimes what we need is simply to remember to take the next breath. Life can throw hard punches to all of us. The wind gets knocked out of our souls and we feel our spirits staggering to regain footing. Panic, pain and dread creep in as we gasp for air. We just need to catch our breath…

I had a moment this week where insecurity took my breath away. Funny, I wrote a post a few weeks ago about uniqueness and how we can be so bogged down trying to find our own brand of “special”. Yet here I was, giving into the temptation to look at a peer and compare myself.

Each person has their own demons they struggle with. My insecurity isn’t so much what other people think about me, the number on a scale or if I am liked. The battle I face is an internal one. There are times where I feel insecure about how my personality comes off or if my failures will define me.

This isn’t embarrassing for me to share because I know that we all have our own places of vulnerability – the place we loose our breath. Maybe it is low self-esteem, feeling isolated, fear of the unknown or being hyper-performance driven.

The holidays bring pain for many people whose vulnerabilities are centered around their families. Perhaps you experienced an abusive childhood, absent parents, you are single and long for a family of your own.

I don’t know what your is, but you do. You know the cause of your stress, anxiety and makes you want to switch off.

When I feel that heaviness creeping in I remember that this isn’t the way I was meant to live. The unsettiling tide of dread and suffocating situations do not have to be my normal. I remind myself to breathe.

I slow down & remember that my life is bigger than this problem I am facing.

I remind myself that I can choose to let go of the burden I am carrying.

My thoughts focus back on what I truly value & what matters to me the most.

I also meditate & recite this passage:

“… For I am convinced that neither death nor life,

neither angels nor demons,

neither present nor future, nor any powers,

neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,

will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

– Romans 8:37

If you don’t have something to cling to in those moments of vulnerable pain, I recommend meditating on this. Not one single thing – not terminal illness, personal failure, abusive pasts, an unknown future, addictions, no situation or circumstance, nothing you could have done could separate you from Love.

When I take time to slowly breath and meditate on that Truth, I find myself refreshed and ready to walk through whatever is confronting me.

Some of you may need professional help to assist you in catching your breath again. Get it, no shame in that.

Most of us though simply need to remember that whatever is weighing us down doesn’t really own us. We simply need to keep breathing and remember that Love is holding us all the way.

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Filed under Faith, Fire, Lifestyle, Uncategorized, Whimsy

Why I Speak To Cats In Russian

illustration by Gemma Correll

illustration by Gemma Correll

I speak to cats in Russian.  I know, right?  Weird. Why would a girl from Texas do that?

During the ages of 11-13 I lived in Irkutsk, Russia with my family. So much of my life has been shaped by those years. When there is a bowl of soup in front of me, you can bet I will put sour cream in it. The smell of dill is synonymous with summer in my mind. I believe that eating ice cream in freezing temperatures will keep you warm and I draw a line through my ” 7 ” s and ” Z ” s.

Also, I still speak to cats in Russian. I’m not sure why, it is just one of those things that stuck with me. I wish it was a more useful skill that remained from my time there, like knowing how to tell which berries can be eaten in the woods. That would be helpful to remember. Instead it is the cat quirk that has stayed with me.

In high school I tried to be cool and keep the cat thing under wraps. I was a closet Russian-cat-speaker. I moonlighted as an average American teenager. Pretending to be angsty about life and acting like platform sandals really looked cool. ( they didn’t. The NEVER were cool. )

And I was accepted. I was accepted for the perception of myself I put out there. The bummer was that the acceptance felt really limited to me. My peers weren’t accepting the Russian speaking, politically driven, and senior citizen loving teenager that I really was.

In college it all came out. Time had taught me to embrace some of the cross-cultural traits I had picked up. I developed my friendships differently – high outer walls and low inner walls. I made factual statements in question form and tended to clap in unison with the person next to me.

I stopped hiding all the little things I was so insecure about before. Shout out to hipsters for making quirky cool I guess. I wasn’t afraid of who I was anymore. Encouragements were breathed in deep and owned because they were spoken to the real me.

When we are honest about who we really are, we can be loved for who we really are. And we all need to be loved. —> click to tweet

Sure, I am still quirky. I’d like to think it is charming in a Zoe Deschanel kind of way, but it probably isn’t. And it doesn’t matter really because it is who I am.

So many of us are surrounded by people who care about us, but we still don’t feel loved. Perhaps it is because we aren’t being honest and showing them our true selves. The cat thing is a funny example, but there are more serious things we keep hidden.

Our sins, our weaknesses, past failures or deeply rooted insecurities. Maybe you struggle with depression and are afraid people will misunderstand you. Perhaps you think your religious beliefs will be judged or maybe you are afraid your personality isn’t right.

I believe we were all made to be loved. By God and by others. So be yourself – insecurities and all – and be loved for it. And if you speak to cats in Russian too, let me know. We could start a club.

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Filed under Faith, Funny, Global, My Life Thus Far, Uncategorized, Whimsy