“Let’s welcome Brittani for our special music,” Pastor said.
I walked towards the mic and thought,
“Don’t mess up.”
“Oh no—I’m shaking.”
My mouth is quivering.
I begin to cry.
I’m off pitch.
My face is red hot.
“Come on, you know how to do this!”
I begin to feel some relief.
“There’s my voice.”
“Yeah! This is how I sound!”
“I love singing! Why can’t I just start this way?!”
“I wish it wasn’t over.”
I smiled and walked off the stage.
This was my cycle each time I sang in public. It didn’t matter who was watching or how many people told me: “You have a beautiful voice,” “Just sing and don’t worry about everyone else,” “You can do it!”
This cycle played out in other areas of my life too.
I struggled to connect and have conversations (I shared a bit about it here).
I was afraid that things wouldn’t change.
I believed that I was stupid and ugly.
I felt like I didn’t fit in.
I seemed to go over-board at times and then completely shut down at others.
I thought no one really liked me.
I felt lonely.
I was depressed.
Things were so backwards. I was more comfortable avoiding people and social events. It was easier just to retreat. Sadness and hopelessness felt like my friends. Little by little fear and lies caused me to pull back from life and relationships. It was painful.
Fear robbed me of my voice.
These thoughts, emotions, and beliefs were not the entirety of my experience but they were a significant and weighty part of my life.
When you believe you are lonely, stupid, not enough…things get ugly. Living in fear and shame erodes your heart and soul. You begin to lose your voice by forgetting who you are. You make up all kinds of stories about why you can’t bring yourself to do or say something. You create a sort of version of yourself that helps you fake it or maybe you just disengage and cut-off from others entirely. And the more this stuff festers you become jealous and critical of others because they are doing, saying, and being the kind of person you used to believe you could be.
Fear, left un-checked breeds lies.
I hit my whits’ end and it all began to change when I agreed with the longing in my heart for something more for my life. I noticed how other people seemed different—confident, courageous, and joyful. I wanted those things too. I began to face what I did want instead of focus on where I was failing or what I should do.
This was not easy.
The beginning of this journey was fraught with emotional heart ache, attempts and fails, messiness…but for the first time I stepped out of the crazy-making cycle and started to pioneer a worthwhile path. I discovered “no”, identified lies, and learned about “self-care” as part of my growing journey. I started exchanging the lies for the truth of who I am. I began to pay attention to my thoughts and emotions in order to process and heal instead of disregarding, forcing, and pretending in attempts to be someone else. And along with that, I began to face what was actually true about who I am—from God’s perspective.
With practice I got better at kicking lies to the curb and choosing to listen to truth. I’ve become more attuned to God, the voice of love and truth. God brought so many people into my life as I sought to heal and grow. Along with friends and mentors I sought out help from counselors and coaches to untangle my emotional and spiritual knots. I began to accept that I’m lovable, wanted, cherished, and have a purpose in life. There were many more insights, skills, mental re-frames, and spiritual truths that made healing and growth possible. In this process God became real and personal.
None of this is easy. All of this is worth it.
I’m different. And still “me.”
Along my journey I have learned to be more spontaneous, playful, and joyful. I speak up in relationships, and engage in conflict and disagreements with more confidence. And when I’m clumsy or miss the mark, I apologize and keep going. I take time to reflect and pay attention with greater gentleness to my feelings and actions so that I can learn, and be myself more and more. I am still learning. And it is liberating that I get to! I’m not stuck in the cycle anymore.
Finding my voice and guiding others to find theirs is near and dear to my heart. I believe that this is a big part of the work I was created for. I am excited to announce that in my next blog post I will be offering a new program to help people to find their voice. Make sure to sign up for email notifications to my blog below this post to hear about it!