The Greatest Love of All – Love for Self
For many years I lived a life defined by other’s expectations of me. From a very early age I was told I was smart and I spoke well, so instead of engaging in activates that I longed for in my heart like dance and sports I conformed. I read books, participated in plays and basically said and did all the things that were expected of me. It all looked great on the outside and looking back it was not all bad.
It wasn’t until my junior year of high school when I heard the lyrics to Whitney Houston’s song Greatest Love of All that I paused to think, “what if”. Now mind you, it was only a pause – a momentary interruption in the normal ebb and flow of my teenage life. But that brief pause planted the seed of “what if” that allowed me to begin to think a little differently.
Later as a young adult, I can recall sitting in my bedroom miles away from everything familiar on a cold, rainy and just plain dreary day, again listening, a little deeper this time, to the lyrics of Greatest Love of All. I was 21-years old and had made the very grown up decision to relocate 1,025.7 miles (15 hours and 21 minutes) from everything I held dear. And again, living a good life but just not fully the life I wanted. This time however, a second song immediately followed. It was Stephanie Mills’ “Home”. Now I know what you’re thinking, “God does not speak through R&B music”. Well, I am here to tell you that on that faithful morning God used the morning DJ on a Milwaukee radio station to play just the right songs at just the right time and in just the right order to get this girl’s attention!
The lyrics that struck a chord in me where:
I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone's shadows
If I fail, if I succeed
At least I'll live as I believe
No matter what they take from me
They can't take away my dignity……
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all
(Whitney Houston, Greatest Love of All)
Maybe there's a chance for me to go back
Now that I have some direction
(Maybe there's a chance I'll get home)
It sure would be nice to be back at home
Where there's love and affection
And just maybe I can convince time to slow up
Givin me enough time, ooh, in my life to grow up
Time be my friend
And let me start again
(Stephanie Mills, Home)
I won’t say that everything changed overnight, and I immediately began to make decisions without giving a second thought to what others believed. I will say that this revelation started me on a journey of self-discovery. One that has had it’s ups and downs and wins and losses, but a journey that I will never regret, because it has led me to discover the fearfully and wonderfully made woman God designed me to be!
What I have learned and strive every day to pass along to those I encounter and engage with, is that living authentically begins with accepting ourselves as we are, flaws and all. It is living a life where our daily actions align with our beliefs and values. It is being true to ourselves and boldly embracing the amazing person that God has designed us to be!
I have also learned that I do not have to be the smartest person in the room. God has generously gifted many amazing people with the ability to encourage and teach others. So, with that I encourage you to take a listen to the 4-minute video below featuring Brene` Brown and Oprah Winfrey discussing Faking it, Perfectionism and Living Wholeheartedly.
As a young child I enjoyed dressing up in my moms high heeled shoes, jewelry and any piece of fancy clothing that I could get my hands on. It was like being transported to a magical land of make believe. I would spend hours pretending to be a fairy princess or a celebrity! It was great, but at some point, the make believe would end, the clothes, shoes and jewelry would go back in their proper places and I would once again go back to being Crystal. The little girl that lived on West 6th Street.
Even as a teenager and young adult I would spend hours getting lost between the pages of a romance novel. I would spend hours reading about and dreaming about love everlasting, moonlight kisses and magical romances. Again, this was enjoyable, but there would yet again come a time when I had to return to reality and embrace my life for what is was. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, but most of all tangible and real!
Even today as a wife, mother and mental health clinician I still find myself getting lost from time to time in a great day dream. The key word however is dream and the reality that it is just that a series of thoughts, images and sensations that are occurring in my mind, not in my reality.
So often, however, it is hard for many to accept the everyday realities of life. This leads them to hide behind their titles, careers, money, marital status and so on. Many of us on the outside looking in buy into the mask, engage in the superficial conversation and walk away with the belief that because everything looks good it is good. This is so far from the truth!
With the tragic deaths this week of Fashion Designer, Kate Spade and Celebrity Chef and TV Personality, Anthony Bourdain, it has become all to clear that we must pause as a society and take the time to look behind the façade that so many put forth. We must begin today to ask the uncomfortable questions of those we love and often of those we have chance encounters with. Questions like:
We can no longer accept the standard polite “I am good” or “things are fine” responses. If we claim to love someone we must be OK with maintaining eye contact during those few moments of awkward silence that often come when we ask the tough stuff.
We must begin to look past materialism and titles when we feel in our gut that something is just not right. Feelings of hopelessness are real. People are hurting. People are dying because of the stigma associated with Mental Illness. We no longer have the luxury of keeping it safely tucked away in the shadows only to be discussed in secret discreet whispers during family gatherings.
According to a 2016 Center for Disease Control Report, suicide claimed the lives of nearly 45,000 people and was listed as the tenth leading cause of death overall in the United States. However, suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34 and the fourth leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 35 and 54. In 2016 there were twice as many suicides (44,965) in the United States as there were homicides (19,362).
When you feel something is not right 9 times out of 10 something is not right. Below are a few warning signs that someone may be having suicidal thoughts:
Proverbs 20:5 says “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out”. We must start today to be that man/woman that will take the time to draw out what is really going on within a person.
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255). It’s always open, and you can speak to a trained counselor.