You know, I debated writing about this for forever. Because I would never want anyone to feel like I'm seeking their pity, or glorifying my baggage. And though I've left out all names, I'd never, EVER want anyone to feel shamed for what they've done to me. I know that we all do our best with what we've been given. We are all a work in progress.
And -- our God uses ALL things for good. That includes the yucky stuff. So while there's great hurt in my past, it's a significant part of what God has used to mold and shape me into who I am today. And thus, it IS who I am. So I cannot and will not be angry at him for allowing it.
In the recent weeks I feel like God has nudged me. More than once. Saying, "Sara -- honey it's time. It's time to share."
So I'm going to. I genuinely want to be transparent, raw and honest. It's a little scary to discuss what I'm about to, to be this vulnerable. But I think I'm finally ready. I'm ready to dismantle the stereotypes we have forced upon women... Women like ME.
The beautiful, bubbly, eloquent, poised, put together, stylish, loving, confident, friendly, fit type... who seem like they have it "all together."
We hurt just like you. We bleed just like you. We struggle just like you. We are broken just like you.
We ARE just like you.
Let's dismantle. Shall we?
I was not popular. I didn't have a "group" of friends. Ever. I hated high school AND middle school. I literally had to put my "game face" on every single day that I entered those four walls... to deal with the comments, the stares, the mocking, the attention, the verbal attacks and feeling 100% alone.
I wasn't invited to the cool parties. I was not prom queen. I only went to my senior prom because, after no one asked me, I asked a friend of mine and even PAID for him, just so I wouldn't miss my infamous "senior prom."
Though I've been told I radiate confidence, I have always been extremely insecure and have always believed that no one liked me. I'm not sure how much of that was real, or perceived. But the important part to note is that, I believed that it was real. In fact, I've struggled with that belief most of my life. Over the years I've been in various clubs, teams and the like, and I've always felt like the odd man out. The one who didn't fit. Who wasn't liked. Cool. Accepted. In.
I was never a bully. I'm the kid who felt sorry for the ugly rock (that I didn't pick up to be collected) so I intentionally picked it up anyway. True story. My sensitive heart is truly a gift, but it has also allowed me to feel such pain.
I was severely bullied. This started in 6th grade and continued on through my teenage years. Never really stopped. Just shifted. To be honest, I'd say it has continued on in various forms, all of my life.
In high school there were many times I ate lunch in the bathroom or snuck it into the library to avoid the horror of the cafeteria - feeling like I had no one, and didn't belong... Anywhere. One day, around my junior year in high school, some girls who didn't like me threw a bunch of rolls of toilet paper at me in the grocery store. They were laughing. It was anything but funny.
In middle school, horrible profanities were written all over my locker, in sharpie. I was later cornered by the group of girls who loathed me, and told by the leader, "I wish your eyes were brown because then I could say, 'you're so full of sh*t it's all the way up to your eyes,'" then she slapped me across the face.
This same group of girls gave me frequent "hate mail," notes that detailed how much each one of them hated me and why. For some reason I kept those letters until about 5-6 years ago. I think because I never wanted to forget how horrible those years were. But I finally realized that holding onto them served no purpose. And to be honest, I'll never forget that time. Or the pain. Life moves forward and God heals us, but we never forget.
3) Stuck Up.
I was not stuck up, conceited or cocky. To be frank, I had no idea how beautiful I was. I still don't. It wasn't until my 30's that I started to mentally grasp the beauty others see in me. Though I still don't see myself as they do, and I likely never will, I now am starting to finally understand how they see me. Doesn't mean I feel or agree with it. But I can acknowledge it. I can own it.
The unfortunate thing about physical beauty is this: when others see you as beautiful, it's a tricky thing. You develop a love-hate relationship with it. Because it somehow simultaneously holds ALL of your value and praise, AND all of your worthlessness and hurt. You are sought after AND rejected for the exact same thing.
What do you do with that?
It's messy. And when you don't really understand that you possess it, it's REALLY messy.
As a girl/young woman I wasn't told that I was beautiful at home. I can honestly never recall hearing those words. I've always loved all things beauty and style -- but sadly, this was belittled, devalued and never championed in my upbringing. I was told that those things were materialistic and superficial. I actually remember being told that being trendy in my style meant I was copying everyone else and didn't have my own identity. Unfortunately, I was shamed for the things that I was the most naturally gifted in.
Around the time I turned 14, I realized that I stood out. That I couldn't enter a room, go to the grocery store, walk through a restaurant, without EVERYONE noticing. I was a late bloomer, so this kind of sexualized attention was very new for me. And it became a constant. The effect was almost like a drug.
I liked it, but at the same time, I almost felt cursed by it. Sometimes I just wanted to blend in. I remember showing up to high school football games and de-fluffing my hair, wiping off my lipstick, or taking out my earrings. I felt like I had to downplay my beauty so I wouldn't stand out as much.
I was not a slut. Contrary to the relentless rumor mill, I was a virgin in high school. I remember being confronted by my peers about the latest "Sara Mogno" rumor, and begging them not to believe. Because as usual, it wasn't true. But they wouldn't believe me. And it crushed me. Reputation was everything in those days. And when you don't get to control yours, it's brutal.
I actually didn't have my first boyfriend until college. And it wasn't because I didn't want a boyfriend. I had many crushes who never knew I existed. Lol. Most of the girls I knew in high school had steady boyfriends. I often wondered if there was something wrong with me - because I never did. I had many first dates, never followed by a second.
And dates were tricky for me too. I felt like I had to go out with boys who asked me, even if I didn't really want to. Because I didn't want to hurt their feelings. And I didn't know how to say no. Or that I could.
I never knew my worth. Not even a little. I wasn't taught about chivalry or that I deserved to be pursued.
I genuinely thought that you always have to kiss a boy on the first date. Like - it was expected. (Sigh)
And what made all of that even more complicated, was the fact that my daddy died of brain cancer when I was 14. So all at once, I had a giant, dad-sized hole in my life and heart, while at the same time, I was getting more attention from boys than I even knew what to do with. So what did I do?
I tried to fill the hole. Worked temporarily. But left an even bigger one.
It wasn't until college when I discovered God and began looking at myself through a different lens, that I realized the destructive pattern I had created by finding my value and worth in the wrong places.
I am not dumb. Just because I am blonde, goofy and sometimes say things without first thinking them 1000% through, does NOT mean that I am a "ditz." I am intelligent, thoughtful, intuitive and passionate.
I am a slow processor though. Which often gets mistaken for a lack of intelligence. It is not. It means I am not quick-witted. So I will never have a good "come back," or know what to even say when your words hurt me or make me feel attacked. In these situations, I appear like a deer in headlights. Not because I have nothing to say.
Oh I have lots to say.
But in that moment - I am genuinely so stunned that I am unsure of how to even respond. And how to do so with grace. So I usually don't. Additionally, I am a "flighter," not a fighter. So I never show up with "guns blazin'." It's just not the way God wired me.
Well there you have it. This is by no means exhaustive, but I think it's good for now. Plus my melatonin is kicking in. I think it's time to call it a night.
So what are you gonna do with this uber vulnerable, raw and unfiltered info? I suppose that's up to you. My hope? That you'd pause. Pause long enough to stop stereotyping, villainizing, judging, fearing and tearing down those you think aren't like you. Because - as we've just covered, they ARE like you.
And the very moment we allow ourselves to go there - to judge and stereotype and villainize and tear down, we've become that mean girl. The same mean girl who traumatized US.
How exactly do we deal with being on the receiving end of this?? Well, if you're anything like me, you're a lot more like a dry sponge than a glass window. Nothing rolls off. It ALL soaks in. (Joy)
Which means, we have to fight. Not against the one's who say the hurtful words, or cast the crushing judgment - but the words and judgment, themselves. We have to fight not to let them sink in. To repel them.
But it's not a polite, "please leave me alone," kind of fight. Oh no. It's gut wrenching, fist clenching, knock-out, drag-down, fierce battle. A, "GET THE EFF AWAY FROM ME!" kind of fight.
And yes. It's gonna leave a mark.
And even after we have successfully repelled whatever unkindness was spewed at us in order to sit in the TRUTH, the leftover remnants of someone else's judgment, wicked words and condemnation stay with us. In a way we can't really predict or prepare for.
And if we aren't constantly forcing ourselves to fight to sit in what is true, the dark shadows cast by this hurt and destruction will linger and find ways to seep into the cracks of our insecurities and our baggage, and creep back into our minds and hearts... uninvited.
So we keep fighting.
To sit in the truth. To set up camp there.
And eventually... We do.
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."