At birth, we enter into this world pure and beautiful, handled with care by the medical team, and then embraced by our parents’ welcoming arms. Unconditional love reached into our souls long before our physical selves saw the first light of our new physical world. With each passing moment, we learned from our new reality, taking in the goodness of life as well as the shadows that could very well consume us one day.

The passing of my mother left me in a complicated place. My grief encompasses the loss of a parental relationship just as others grieve the death of a parent but also surpasses depths of love by bringing to the surface resentments I’ve protected in my heart since childhood. These resentments cause a number of feelings to stir within me, such as sadness, anger, bitterness, disappointment, shame, embarrassment, denial, and judgment, to name a few. Carrying around these feelings for years has created self-sabotage in my life, and I’m ready to finally break free from the weight I’ve carried far too long.

How do I do that when I am troubled by simply admitting to the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors I have resented nearly my entire life? The ones that became conditioned into core beliefs that are not actually true or serving me in any way?

How do I break free?

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Who am I Behind the Pain?

Seeing myself as pure, fully loved, and living with a sense of belonging can be challenging when I’ve battled low self-worth and value for as long as I can remember. I have worked so hard to show others what I want them to see while hiding the parts of me I don’t want anyone to see. Holding that pain inside has served me over the years, but I’m no longer interested in any of the toxic benefits pain has offered as comfort and protection on my journey to here and the journey that lies ahead.

Thankfully, I recognize that I have persisted to discover ways to overcome the inner pain that I’ve buried. One way to explore that healing is to consider who I am behind all of that pain. Here’s to being vulnerable and leaning into honest reflections.

I am loved and capable of loving.

Recognizing the act of loving as a giver and receiver for myself can at times be dreamlike. Battling low self-worth and personal value has conditioned me to believe that for some of the most important people in my life, I was not loved by them. A paradigm shift occurred when I recognized that my self-worth and value come from within, and as a result, I can say with confidence that not only am I loved, but I can love because I am loved.

I am a wife, mother, daughter, aunt, granddaughter, niece, and friend.

Some of the most joyous moments in my life have happened because of my relationships and my role in them. Being connected gives me a sense of love and belonging. I feel valued, needed, and supported.

This takes courage for me to say because I have not believed this statement until recently. If I wanted to play the blame game, I would direct those feelings of lack directly at the public school system, as well as standardized testing, which educated me and assessed my learning from a young age. I fell into the comparison trap from my early years through most of my career as an educated professional. Why? Because I allowed fears to control my thoughts instead of the truth taking charge of my mind.

I can say to anyone now, that yes, I am one smart cookie. I have a love of learning and a work ethic that drives me to reach for higher challenges on a regular basis. I have recognized my strengths, and that my strengths are personalized to me. I bring value to the table and enjoy the contributions I make to the larger picture.

I am a multi-faceted creative.

I believe that we are all here in the physical world to create. Creating happens in various ways. Many people associate creativity with my art teacher identity, but that is only one of the many ways I am a multi-faceted creative. I love to daydream, exercise my imagination, envision possibilities, and ideate. The process of developing and designing ideas into something tangible is fun for me. My medium of choice ranges on how I am feeling inspired. I love singing, body movement, drawing, painting, writing, photography, dancing, connecting with people, digital artmaking, mapping out ideas, breaking big pictures into small parts, recording my voice, telling stories, reading, coaching people to success, and I know there’s more. Creativity does not have to be packaged and delivered by my visual artist-self, I can pick and choose my vehicle as I please.

I am an educator.

Yes, I have been a teacher by profession for nearly 20 years, but teaching means more to me than teaching art to students in a traditional classroom. For me, my drive for teaching is the act of sharing my passions with others in engaging ways. I love all of the behind-the-scenes work it takes to prepare a lesson to teach any individual about any topic I love, from the research and curriculum development, designing the instructional strategies and visuals, presenting the content, and facilitating the learning. I enjoy being in the position of coach or guide, connecting with individuals during the creative process of learning, and celebrating accomplishments.

I am reflective.

Thinking is one of my favorite things to do. I love exploring memories in my past, but also imagining the potential of what lies ahead. Reflecting also helps me process difficult circumstances, so that I am able to find ways to move beyond whatever may be keeping me stuck.

I am a lover of learning.

Learning is my soulmate. Yeah, yeah, I am married to a wonderful and loving fella, but learning has been my true love ever since I can remember. My love of learning has been steadfast all through my life and continues to strengthen as I age. This is the one thing that lights me up all of the time, and I can’t get enough.

I am future-focused.

I have finally arrived at a place in my mind, body, and soul, where I can use the past to effectively plan for the future. Every time I have been told that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be in this moment in my life has been difficult to swallow until this current chapter. Experiences had to happen, feelings felt, and an awareness that everything I’ve experienced until this time in my life has been establishing and preparing me for the road ahead. I am ready for the challenging inner work to process, release, and heal from all that I’ve carried with me, in order to learn from it, add value and contribute to the lives of those I meet.

So who am I really behind the pain?

Behind the pain I’ve hidden deep inside, I am full of love, I am surrounded and supported by incredible relationships, I am intelligent and creative, I am an educator, I am a reflective woman who loves learning. I am focused on taking the lessons I’ve learned and committed to breaking free from the pain that has hindered me so that my future and the futures of my loved ones are filled with light.