Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Dear Hilary, Love, Hilary: The Raw, Real You

This week I'm linking up with the wonderful Joy over at Joy in this Journey. We write life, unmasked to share the raw and real about our lives. We write to tell the stories of the mess and the beauty. Won't you come share your stories, too?

(photo, mandie sodoma)

Dear Hilary,

I read your blog sometimes, and I noticed that you talk a lot about contentment, being single, all of that. I have a question. How do you long for something like a boyfriend, or a relationship, without becoming consumed by it? How do you stop yourself from measuring who you are, your worth, your sexiness, your intelligence or beauty or goodness, by whether someone wants to date you? I so often feel like I want a boyfriend not because of the guy, but because of what he could affirm for me, what he could reassure me about. I think this is probably not good, and ultimately, not how a whole person lives. What advice do you have for me?

Trying to Be Content, but Not Really There


It's a tough thing to live in bodies. They're visible. We can only imagine so much about them. They're pulled in different directions by gravity, and they're blown around by wind. Hair gets messy when it's wet, and when we're tired we get these puffy circles under our eyes like small dark half moons. We can't really help it - our bodies are our bodies are our bodies. They are the home we have been given. They are the home of our hearts, those trembling and strong and fierce things, and of our minds.

I used to think I would look at my body differently if a guy told me it was beautiful. I really did. I begged on my insides for compliments. I craved hearing, "You look great today," in that off-handed way that people say it on their way to Calculus or French. I would lie in my bed staring up at the ceiling and wonder if a boy would dance with my at the Valentine's dance, or if I would spend it in a circle of girlfriends shouting the lyrics to "Yeah" by Usher while wishing a boy would dance with me.

I sang a lot of Usher in high school, love. And I spent a lot of time measuring. How many boys had a crush on her, I asked myself. How many times had she been told she was funny and smart and cool? How many people wanted to be her lab partner in chemistry or play opposite her in the play? I noticed way too much in high school about that. I took these small lies into myself, that there was only so much admiration to go around, and if they didn't say it to me, it couldn't be true for me.

You're right: this isn't how a whole person lives. I'm already glad that you know this, that you write to me because you realize that you want to live differently, and you aren't sure how. When I was in high school I didn't realize there was a different way. When I was a freshman, sophomore, or junior in college I was just realizing that it could be different. I'm still at the very beginning, with you. 

My advice is to take the tiny step forward of saying out loud to your mirror, "This is me." I want you to look at yourself, standing there, smiling or winking or yawning, and say it. This is me. Not that girl with the long brown hair, not that girl with the straight A's and a dictionary in her head. Not that girl who plays soccer, field hockey and lacrosse. This is you: raw and real, pulled around by wind and gravity, with your passionate beating heart and your laugh and your love.

You write worried that a guy doesn't see it, but I think the real problem is YOU don't see it. You can't look in that mirror and find the you that lives in you. So you get anxious - what if she's not there - and you start asking other people to find her. You say, "Am I beautiful?" a thousand times next to the mailboxes on the way to calculus class. You say, "Am I worthy?" to the smiling stranger on the Metro who doesn't even realize that his yawn and looking at his newspaper has potentially crushed your heart.

But the raw, real you is yours to find, not theirs. 

You have the task of believing that you are raw, and real, and sexy and worthy, with no one else on the planet telling you it is true. Don't ask others to do your work for you, sweetheart. I can tell you a thousand times that you are. But it's not my work. My work is to fill you up with love and strength. My work is to tell you to get in front of that mirror. My work is to laugh with you about the way that I danced by myself in a corner eating potato chips at high school dances.

Your work is to find that raw, real you. Your work is to love her. Your work is to believe.  

Life: Unmasked


  1. So true, we can never fully know or measure our worth by outside stuff, people, whatever. But that's how we are programmed, isn't? We are valuable if we make all A's, have money, the house, the car, the huge diamond ring. No one ever tells the after story--I got it, and I still feel crappy. We are worthy because we are here in this moment...not from our stuff!

    Beautiful piece.

  2. AWESOME post!!! I just randomly found your blog today and was truck by how you could have been inside my head. : ) I was a young 20-something in DC struggling with independence, growing up, exploring relationships, and learning about myself...and I was single. However, it took me a lot longer to fall in love with me and see the child God had created. I watched relationships flourish or even just dates happen and I struggled with loneliness. I'm still single, but God has brought me into a pretty awesome love affair with who I've become and I wish I could go back in time to my younger years and tell that girl that she's A-OKAY on her own! : )

  3.  Thank you, thank you! I'm so glad you made your way over here. It takes time and effort, but I'm hopeful that I will grow into confidence in myself! Thank you for your encouragement.

  4.  Thank you, Sarah. Yes, that is how our culture programs us. I hope we can encourage each other to breathe deep and trust that we are worthy because He gives us life!

  5. Beautiful, Hilary. Really, I would take this whole post -- especially your last line (your work is to find that raw, real you) -- past the having or not having a guy in our lives. Dating someone or marrying someone doesn't signal the end of the quest. If anything, it just launches it further. Thanks, friend, for these encouraging words.

  6. Hilary, I wish that I had realized these truths when I was your age. It took me a long time to understand that no man will ever fill the void and that it's too big of a burden for one to carry anyway. Now that I like myself, the ups and downs of singleness the last several years are easier to take because I know it has less to do with who I am and more to do with the road less traveled.

  7. Like Leigh said I wish I had known these truths when I was in college. Thankful I've found them now. Beautiful post.

  8. And you know what surprises me? Having someone telling me "you're beautiful. you're smart. you're incredible." doesn't shut up the self-doubts. It just pulls the doubts to the surface and confronts me with the necessity that I - I, not someone else - must learn to love myself. And even though he can tell me what he sees in me (and he does), there is still so much of the raw, real me that only I - with God's help - can discover and learn to live. Contentment is work, no matter what relationships we have.


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