“For as long as you can remember, you have been a pleaser, depending on others to give you an identity. You need not look at that only in a negative way. You wanted to give your heart to others, and you did so quickly and easily. But now you are being asked to let go of all these self-made props and trust that God is enough for you. You must stop being a pleaser and reclaim your identity as a free self.” (Henri Nouwen)
Today I met with one of my wisest professors. She has been a source of love and guidance for me through every class I've had with her, and she's opened my eyes and heart to see the world and people in a different way. She's shaped who I hope to be as a therapist, and has been an example of grace and poise in my life and in the lives of others. She has a way of seeing things before you even see them, an incredible insight into our deep, dark souls. And that to me is amazing.
So today I sat across from her in her office, and we talked about my life and my future plans. But quickly, she allowed me a space to share a huge weight upon my shoulders: I am one who walks around with much guilt. I am one who feels guilty for leaving home four years ago, and still wrestles with that weight. I am one who feels guilty when I can't fix what I hope to; I feel guilty when I share my hurt, knowing very well that my hurt causes the person who hurt me in the first place to feel pain too. I am one who carries guilt because I can't seem to set up boundaries that need to be in place, because God forbid, I offend the person who is overstepping them.
Guilt, guilt, guilt. It follows me.
But, my professor opened my eyes to something wonderful. "What is the guilt trying to say to you, Angie?" she asked. "It's not telling you that you've done something wrong. So what is it trying to warn you? Why is it yelling at you, trying to get your attention?"
And I sat there for a moment, wrestling with that question. I've found my identity and role as being the solver. I've found my identity in being the one that holds it all together, even if this was done unconsciously. And I can't be that person anymore. Not in my family, not in my friends' lives. Because that role is not even really mine to take on anyway.
I can't solve everything. I can't be the superwoman everyone may need me to be. I can't feel others' emotions or pain for them. I can't be present always, no matter if people want me to be or not. I need to remind myself: I am weak. But He is strong.
I've depended on others' needing me to shape who I am. And although this isn't entirely negative - it's not - but as Henri Nouwen writes in the quote above, I need to let go of this role. I need to trust that He is all I need. I need to give myself the space to find out what my identity is without being a pleaser.
And that realization is a scary one, because it is uncovering a whole new layer of who I am, an unfamiliar one. And although the journey and process will be painful, the outcome and reward will be simply wonderful.