To give you the context you need about me, there is something you should know.
When I was about 5 years old, my parents got divorced. On the official paperwork, the reason was cited as irreconcilable differences, but those two words didn’t tell the whole story. Not even close.
My mom is incredible. She is warm, she is loving, and she is my hero. She fought tooth and nail to get to where she is today, and has always told me that I can do absolutely anything I set my mind to.
My father was everything she wasn’t. He was cold, cruel, and everything a father shouldn’t be.
Their divorce meant court ordered visitation, and that meant I had to spend every Wednesday and every other weekend with him. During those visits, I never knew if I would eat, where I would sleep, or if I would be locked outside in the Michigan cold for simply “misbehaving.” This meant that I had to take care of my little brother, who, at the time, was about 2 years old. I was 5.
But above all of that, these visits meant that about 3 days a week, I had someone telling me that I wasn’t smart, I wasn’t strong, and I wasn’t worth it.
Eventually, when I reached middle school, our visits stopped, but his words ringing in my ears never did.
Now, everyone has that voice in the back of their head telling them that they aren’t good enough. I know you do. But for me, that voice is his. It’s the voice of my father, telling me that I’m not smart enough, strong enough, or good enough. Someone who was supposed to love and support me through everything, in my head telling me the exact opposite. For a really long time, I believed it, and his voice in my head drowned out my own. I let it dictate who I was.
When I got to UVA, I was still listening to that voice. It was in everything I did. It didn’t matter that I was succeeding here; all that mattered was that it would never be enough. That little voice kept telling me I wasn’t smart enough to be here, strong enough to attain my goals, or worthy of the relationships I was building or the things I was doing.
It took a long time for me to realize that the voice was wrong. I had to realize who I was. I had to realize that I am strong, I am smart, and I am worthy. I had to realize that I was not defined by my experiences, but that they had shaped me into the person I am today. In fact, they had given me something really special. When I became an RA and an OL, I realized that my experiences had given me the capacity to love other people really well. I know how they feel; I know what it’s like to be scared, and I know what it’s like to feel like you aren’t enough.
I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that the voice goes away. I don’t think it ever does. Every once in a while, I hear it telling me that I’m not smart enough, strong enough, or worthy, but I remind myself that I am. I remind myself that I am more than my father, or even myself, could have ever imagined.
I don’t know your story, but I do know this: whoever you are, and whatever your past is, you are so smart, you are incredibly strong, and you are worthy of love. You are the person you’re meant to be in this moment, and I believe in you. Give yourself the gift of believing in you. And always remember, you are enough.
Lauren F., University of Virginia ‘19