When I was a little girl, I was faced adversity that was easily judged and looked down on.
It took many things from me and my childhood. It left me with an overwhelming feeling of "I have to be the best." If I could just be accepted, loved, adored, chosen... I would be rid of the pain.
And that's where it started. I would lie to people about my life, hoping the less beautiful things would be less visible due to the grandiose ideas I shared.
I did things I didn't actually enjoy but everyone else did. I tried to look like someone I wasn't. I created this whole persona that just wasn't me.
It started when I changed my name in elementary school.
My mom told me the story a year ago, and it shook me. I want to be called Anna (my first name), not MacKenzie anymore, the girl whose dad was in prison. I wanted a new identity.
I stuck with that name until my third trip to treatment for drug addiction, just last year.
I remember sitting in a chair in group, bursting into tears when I was asked when my walls went up. When had I started wearing these masks?
I had built walls so thick and high that I couldn't even see past them anymore. I had to protect myself from everything and everyone.
My persona after years of pain and bullying became “Anna - the tough bitch… intimidating, angry, and hard.”
Sadly, I found pride in being this person that no one was allowed to know. Don't get me wrong, I was still loving, funny, and loyal, but I was miserable inside.
I didn't know who I was at my core. I was searching endlessly to find her. To be her.
Through treatment, learned that she had been there all along, trapped in this overwhelming maze I built around her.
After I came to this realization, my eyes were opened. I had been silently killing myself, carrying the heavyweight of every feather-light mistake or failure. Building unnecessary walls that hurt no one but me. Convincing myself that I would never be good enough.
Tallying all of the things I had done wrong. Everyone who didn't like me. There were so many little things that I made large in my mind.
It is so easy for us to focus on the negative things. Why can't we leave the past in the past, where it belongs? I’m not advocating that we pretend they didn’t happen. But work through it. Stop adding cement and bricks. Finally, take a wrecking ball to all of it. It is over.
It's not easy. You have to look at every single brick that's been stacked. What kind of things trigger my emotions and feelings. How can I change the way I process feeling rather than locking them away.
I'm learning how to communicate my feelings and things I need. Voicing my opinions instead of absorbing what's popular. Forgiving myself for mistakes and choosing to learn from them instead. Accepting my past and being grateful for what I was given instead of playing the victim.
Most importantly, I am beginning to understand who I am, who I was at my core all along.
I am MacKenzie, a young woman filled with compassion and forgiveness. Strong and resilient. Still, a girl who doesn't take shit from anyone, but refuses to let the shitty things life brings harden her.
Someone who stands up for people in need without passing judgment on other people's lives or choices. A woman I am proud of.
I still struggle with knowing who I am and being the person I want to be. We all want to be proud of who we are and accepted by the world. What the world thinks isn’t important. What's essential is being okay with yourself when you're alone with your thoughts. It's loving yourself through imperfections and brokenness.
Takedown those walls of protection and let people in. Remove the masks. It may hurt at times, but you will be stronger for it. Learn to let people in, and the ones who are worthy will cherish every part of you.
Your heart is made of gold, be proud of the things you've overcome. Own the amazing person you are and the woman you’re becoming. I am proud of you.
Your brokenness is beautiful.
"She is clothed in strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future" - Proverbs 31:25