When you’re a kid you think, “When I grow up, I’m going to do whatever I want, when I want.”  That declaration of independence is extremely motivating.  It gets you out the door and into the world, electrified with a sense of possibility.

But, if you’ve been an adult for any length of time, you know that perspective of adulthood is…uninformed.  You learn really quickly that adult independence is a dangerous combination of freedom and responsibility.  Sure, you can eat whatever you want, but your teenaged metabolism is gone.  You can do whatever you want, but if you don’t go to work, you don’t have the resources to do whatever you want.  You can spend time with whomever you want, but choosing bad friends only brings your own suffering.  Your freedom and independence is only as good as your wisdom and decision-making.

A few difficult lessons in, you start to put up boundaries around yourself.  You give yourself permission to do, be, and think some things but not others.  This process often ends up being mostly haphazard and guess-and-test.  You have a bad experience and you make adjustments.  The problem is, sometimes your adjustments lead to more complications.

For example, say you start dating a guy who is wild and exciting.  He’s fun to be around and he makes you feel interesting and exciting too.  He is refreshingly unbound by expectations and does whatever he wants to do. You get caught up in a romantic whirlwind.  Pretty soon, you are pregnant and not long after that, you have a beautiful baby.  

Everything has changed.  Your body is different, your life is different, your future is different and your perspective is different.  But he is the same.  He is frustrated and tells you that you’re no fun anymore, that you’re too fat, that you are holding him back.  He fires these accusations at you day in and day out and you start to snipe at him.  In no time at all you’ve gone from optimistic, confident, kind, and fun to unhappy, depressed, angry, and bitter. You don’t recognize yourself anymore and you’re certainly not happy with the person who has replaced you.

So, you make adjustments.  You go on a diet and you start working out.  Healthy changes by all standards.  You start going out again, partying with your friends, being “fun”.  You tell him that you don’t want to hold him back so you will support him in whatever he wants to do.  You change yourself in all the ways he was criticizing you, trying to recreate the freedom and excitement you felt before your baby came along.   

But, it doesn’t work.  He decides that another girl, who is not “encumbered” by a child is more worth his while.  He leaves and in his absence you realize that the skinnier, “fun-er”, more supportive you is still unhappy, angry, depressed and bitter.  You don’t want to be this way so you start digging into yourself and trying to figure it out.  You find yourself blocked off from your sense of worth and your hope for the future. You find that to survive, you have been denying yourself the permission to like yourself in spite of your faults and failings; you haven’t allowed yourself to demand respect because you were so afraid of being alone; and you don’t believe in your own importance in the world.

This is a fictional story but I know that there are MANY women who have experienced this scenario or a variation thereof.  The good news is that there are MANY women who have overcome this kind of challenge.  Through faith, counselling, self-care, and loving support, they have learned to give themselves permission to see and celebrate their own value, to love themselves while still trying to make better decisions, and to forgive themselves and others for all the mistakes made and hurts committed. 

With much love and a belief in the God-given value of all people, I wish all of you who relate to this blog post hope and grace as you learn to give yourself the permission to live a life full of love and freedom.

It is my absolute pleasure to share some amazing images of a beautiful, empathetic, young woman. Thanks so much to H for trusting us with the creation of these gorgeous works of art.

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