Hooray! I get to introduce you to another one of my friends! This is Amy Parker, and she is badass.
That's really all you need to know about Amy. But let me share more, because I do love to brag on my friends. Amy is a colleague-turned-close-friend. She has been in recovery from opioid addiction for more than six years. Believe it or not, that's one of the least interesting things about her. She's spunky and passionate. She's a great mom. A rising professional super star. She's a compassionate and patient friend. She has fantastic taste in music. But what as made me love Amy is that she is confident and courageous. Amy has a hell of a story, and she wears it like a freaking tiara. It makes her sparkly and beautiful. It is no secret that I run around with Amy hoping that some of her confidence will rub off on me one day, or I'll at least get to be sparkly and beautiful by association. In the meantime, I'm pretty damn lucky to know her. As you get to know her, I bet you'll agree.
A quote that I posted on social media a few years ago came up on my memories this morning. “It took many years of vomiting up all the filth I’d been taught about myself, and half-believed. Before I was able to walk on the earth as though I had a right to be here.” – james baldwin
The truth is that I’m the very one that created the filth about myself, that I completely believed. Looking back, deep into my childhood even. I can’t come up with one time that anyone ever told me that I couldn’t do something or accomplish something. In fact, it was the complete opposite of that. Most people who cared about me would say things like “you would be so good at… if only you would…why can’t you just…”. They believed in me, but once I dropped out of high school, I think they accepted that I wasn’t going to be a successful person in life. They certainly didn’t have unreasonable expectations of how I should live my life. They just wanted to see me alive and happy. That’s not too much to ask for, right?
For so many years, my confidence came from two things. How well I could commit a crime without being caught and how many men’s attention I had. These two things certainly didn’t communicate what I needed to tell myself. I needed to tell myself so many things but the problem with that is, I couldn’t hear any of it. I couldn’t hear anything but my pain, guilt and shame. What I had actually taught myself to believe was that I am not capable or worthy of deserving happiness, honesty or loyalty, nor giving any of that back. Because I believed these things, I allowed myself to live as though happiness wasn’t possible. I accepted pain and abuse to be a normal thing in my life. That was a very, very dark life to live.
In 2014, after I had been free from my heroin addiction for more than two years, I began to do some things a bit differently. Even though I wasn’t using heroin anymore, I was still very sick and lost. I was broken and battered beyond repair, or so I taught myself to believe. I knew that I needed to learn some new tactics. After some soul searching and time out in a cabin in the woods, I started to find some new words to speak to myself. This time I was ready to listen, closely. The most important conversations you will ever have are with your reflection in the mirror.
How did I change my language, you ask? Consistency and awareness. Every single time a negative thought or self-loathing words entered my mind, I replaced them with a positive. Finding the silver lining, I called it. I can remember sitting down to begin a certification course and telling myself, “you’re not going to finish this.” I immediately replaced that thought with telling myself, “fuck that, let’s do this.” Something had to change and I had to be the one to spark that change. No one else was going to teach me how to do this. I had to figure this out and make it happen, myself. For the first several weeks, that’s all I focused on. My thoughts and my words, to myself and to others. Before I knew it, I had completely changed the trajectory of my life.
The most important words we use, are the words we say to ourselves. The vocabulary I had used for myself for so many years was finally different. Once I began speaking to myself differently, my entire life changed. I no longer believe that I will fail before I even begin. The wonderful thing about failure is that it’s just another chance to try again. I’m not afraid of failure anymore. I afraid of not trying. I’ve been able to challenge myself and accomplish so much, just by changing my words. Today I’m able to believe in myself that I can do anything, with knowledge that I do not have to do everything. I believe that I have a place in this world and a voice to be heard.
By changing how I speak to myself, I’ve developed an entirely new future for me. I believe in myself. I’m excited to take on huge challenges and I look forward to doing my absolute best to accomplish everything I try to do. I no longer believe that I’m not worthy to sit among my colleagues in a board room. I belong there. I’ve had a difficult time accepting why I deserve to live the life I live today with the amazing career I have. I’ve often asked myself, "What do these people see in me? Why do these people keep supporting me and let me keep climbing my way up? Why do so many people believe in me?" I’m tired of asking myself the same questions over and over. I’m tired of wondering why. I know why. I’ve always known why, but I was afraid to tell myself the beautiful truth. I was afraid to hear myself say, I can, I will and I have. I’m done rejecting what I deserve to hear myself say – "Amy, you have worked your ass off to get here. You deserve all of this. Keep going."
To anyone who needs to hear your own words of wonder, speak louder, you’re listening even when you can’t hear as well.