Have you ever felt like a fraud? Perhaps in your health journey? You carry yourself confidently in the successful areas of your life, but when it comes to your health journey, you feel like a fraud. You act cheerful, positive and poised in your public interactions but behind closed doors you are disappointed, insecure and floundering. You can’t stand to be alone with yourself without tv, wine, food, social media, pets or a person at your fingertips. What you see in the mirror doesn’t match up with who you believe yourself to be internally. Your biggest fear is your secret being discovered so every day you slap on a smile and strive to be who you think you need to be in hopes that no one will see the cracks in your armor.
I spent years of my life standing on stage, talking about my beautiful husband (he hated when I called him beautiful, but it was true), my amazing marriage (we were called a “powerhouse” couple), my awesome life (full of positivity and health) before it was obliterated beyond recognition in a moment of exposure. Everything I thought to be true and real, was flipped upside down. I could not find solid ground for my thoughts, my heart or my life. What just happened? Fear gripped me and accusations taunted me inside my head: You are the biggest fraud. That’s how I felt. I felt like an imposter.
The accusations and self-doubt took over my thought life.
- What would I say to encourage women without totally losing it or coming off angry and bitter?
- How could I possibly get up on a stage and empower other women to live their best lives when I despised mine?
- How could I talk to women about loving themselves when I felt so unloveable and rejected?
- How could I encourage them to change their lives in the midst of their circumstances when I was paralyzed by mine?
- Was I even credible anymore? Who would want my life?
- I don't have it in me to survive this.
In that season, I did my best to avoid social situations unless I had my baby girl in my arms as a shield. I could not bring myself to put on a plastic smile and fake enthusiasm or concern for others when my heart was shattered into a million pieces and my life was unrecognizable. I just didn’t have it in me. Have you ever lost the fight to put up the front? Have you ever just wanted to put the mask down and surrender to the mess you really are and just not give a rip what people think about it?
I never have a loss for words, but I found myself with nothing to say. I literally had no words. I entered into a dark season. Only a few people really saw the expansive carnage and emotional turmoil of that season. Initially, all I could do was let the tears flow down my face in an unending cascade and torture myself with the repetitive questions of, why? how? and now what? I teetered between confusion, shock, anger, sadness, despair, denial and hopelessness over a span of 15 minutes, multiple times a day, day after day. I remember thinking, I don’t think I will ever recover from this. I don’t think I will ever stand confidently in front of a group of women (or anyone for that matter) and speak again. I was empty. I felt defeated, lost and exposed. This was an un-welcomed but a necessary part of my journey back to my path and to the real me.
There are gifts in the piles of poop that life dumps on us. One of the gifts I gained during this dark season is not being paralyzed or consumed by what I think people are thinking and allowing those made-up thoughts to influence my actions or reactions. This happened slowly and is still in process. If I am honest, initially I found myself overwhelmed with worry about what this was going to do to my image, my business, our image as a couple and a family. Hello, pride - the root of all downfalls. This was where the feeling of being a fraud or an imposter had been rooted - in the flawless and perfect image I had constructed not just for the world, but for my own ego and emotional security. But when the thing we are hiding behind gets taken away, we are exposed for who we really are. Hello, gift number two, I got to meet the real me.
When life squeezes us, the good and the bad ooze out and what we cling to in the midst of the storm shows where are faith and allegiance are. Many of us would rather think we are safe, secure and free than to really be safe, secure and free. So we look for
- our identity in social media
- our security in money
- peace in drugs and alcohol
- worthiness in our weight
- safety in relationships
- significance in our kids and/or business/career
- wisdom in education
It’s in the dark seasons that we have opportunities to evaluate who we really are versus what we want people to think we are. It’s a rare gift to realize that what we are hiding behind is not protecting us from what we fear the most. In these seasons of pressure and exposure, we can change, grow and develop character and perseverance in the presence of vulnerable insecurity. Only the tough stuff of life creates the fertile ground for this to happen. This is when God is most active - in the moments of instability and transition from our place of familiarity to a place that is unknown. For me, all the stuff I had been denying, avoiding and covering up with my pride, ego and mask was now laying naked in front of me for all to see. I had a choice.
- I could run from it.
- I could numb it.
- I could minimize it.
- I could cover it up.
- I could deny it.
- I could live victimized to it.
Or I could grieve it and retrieve it for God’s glory. It is not fun to go through grief, but if we don’t go through it, then we have to skirt around it for the rest of our life. It will require maintenance too. We will have to stuff it, avoid it and/or numb it because not dealing with it doesn’t make it go away. A doctor would have quickly given me a pill for the discomfort of my grief. And the old Amber would have taken it. But I didn’t need an antidepressant, anti-anxiety med or a sleep med to numb my brain and detach my mind from the trauma I was experiencing. I didn’t need bulimia to feel in control. I didn’t need alcohol to numb the pain. I didn’t need food to combat the loneliness. What I needed was to process my trauma. What I needed was to feel it, talk about it, process it and reconstruct it into something that was no longer debilitating, but useful. It’s mind-blowing how socially acceptable it is to numb and run from the inescapable pains of life. Avoidance is not a healthy life strategy and it underestimates the tenacity of the human spirit. We were designed to battle, overcome and walk in victory. Don’t forget that - YOU were created for victory over the battle of your life because of who lives within you.
The world tells us we aren’t strong enough, brave enough or courageous enough. The enemy dangles escape and coping mechanisms in front of us to lure us off of the very path that will lead us to our freedom and restore us to wholeness. It is only through the battle and opposition that we can be courageous, experience humility, build our faith and develop the character, perseverance and hope required to run the race set before us. But we have to go through the process of picking up the brokenness of our lives - piece by piece - and surrendering it over to God to build us into the masterpiece He has already destined us to be. Scary, right? Depends on the perspective. My faith tells me that I have not been given a spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind (or self-control as it is also translated.) I was wired for love, not fear and God makes the best masterpieces out of the biggest messes.
Perhaps you are in a dark season in your health journey. Maybe it happened like what I am walking through - with an unexpected event or news that sideswiped you and everything changed, but more often than not, it was a slow descent into the dark place where you suddenly caught your reflection in the mirror or saw a picture of yourself on Facebook and you started to ask yourself, “who is that and how did she get here?” See, that’s the crazy thing. Even if it arrived as a sudden shock and seemed to have come out of the blue - more often than not, there were subtle warning signs along the way that our addiction to comfort and need to keep the peace allowed us to sweep under the rug. Note to self: The warning signs should not be ignored. They are a gift of love from God who wants to protect, provide and guide us in everything. I can look back now and see all of the warning signs. At the time they may have seemed like subtle signs, but in retrospect they now look like huge neon signs flashing, DANGER! DO NOT PROCEED!
Same goes for many of our health journeys. It starts with a compromise here and an exception there. It’s one skipped workout that turns into a week and then a month. It’s a nagging pain that starts here and then travels there. It’s a dull headache you realize never really leaves. It’s a snacking habit that creeps in when you sit down to for your nightly television marathon. It’s a glass wine that use to only accompany a special occasion and now is part of your daily wind-down. It’s a yes when it should be a no and now you are stuck in a cycle of people pleasing and seeking significance in being needed. In the moment, these decisions seem so subtle, but strung together and compounded, we find ourselves in a place we never intended to be with flashing danger signs all around us.
I did not see anything good in the rubble of my life during the dark season. But, I knew from previous life experiences that turning my back and avoiding the mess was not going to lead to freedom and peace. So I have been walking among the broken pieces of my life as a part of my healing process and discovering who I really am. Sometimes I sit down in the mess and ponder how I got here, asking for wisdom and revelation from God. Sometimes I lay down among the pieces of my life and let the reality of the carnage wash over me. Some pieces I pick up, hold them in my hands, pull them into my chest, rock them gently back and forth and weep with tears that flow from deep wells inside of me. These are the pieces I mourn. Some I throw in anger until I am so exhausted, I collapse and surrender the anger for forgiveness. Some I just let remain, untouched so I can just remember them as they are. Eventually, I will be ready to leave my mess full of peace and wisdom. I may decide to carry some of the pieces with me for a while as reminders of what I have learned about myself and God while sitting in my rubble of the life I had constructed for myself and my own glory rather than for God. Eventually, I will humby surrender each piece over to God to do what He had already decided to do for my good and for His glory.
As I walk among my rubble, I don’t feel like a fraud. I actually feel more like myself than I have ever before. You see, in the rubble is where we find ourselves, because it’s where we meet who created us and we lay down what we have created. In the rubble, we discover that God is using the broken pieces of our lives to make us whole by showing us how broken we are without Him. It’s in this sacred place that we are reconciled back to the plan that God has for us as we humbly surrender our plan.
It’s time, my sister, for you to do the same. Perhaps you need to go back to a pile of rubble that you have been avoiding for years. It’s time to sit down in the middle of that mess and let the God of all comfort and healing, sift through the pieces with you and pull out the treasures you need to move forward and to hold some pieces close to your heart for a moment or two and then turn them over to God. You don’t need them anymore. This process will allow you to release the habits and thoughts you have had to grasp onto to maintain the mess you haven’t dealt with. You were created for this process and you are not in it alone!