By Megan Carlton
Brave Women Series - Megan's Story
It can be easy to discount our own bravery. Maybe that’s because it’s easier to see in others, not recognizing the immense courage it takes to be yourself. But being myself, fully, completely, and as authentically as possible, is the bravest thing I’ve ever done.
"But being myself, fully, completely, and as authentically as possible, is the bravest thing I’ve ever done."
In 2020, everything that previously pulled my time, energy, heart, and mind was being stripped away. I realized that I genuinely didn’t know who I was without those people or things. In the emptiness I was feeling, God led me back to Himself. He began rebuilding me from the ground up and revealing who I am to Him.
He wasn’t speaking something new over me, but was making known what was hidden. He was showing me what had been there all along, but it was like I was hearing it for the very first time.
This world has done a pretty good job of telling us who we are, what we’re worth, and what we need to have or do to be loved. I fell for all of it. The lies consumed me and collectively defined me. I was stuck in a web of deception and didn’t even know it. It wasn’t all inherently bad, which is why I was fooled. But even good things can be harmful if our hearts aren’t in the right place.
"This world has done a pretty good job of telling us who we are, what we’re worth, and what we need to have or do to be loved."
One way that expressed itself was by me being helpful. I placed my identity in my relationships, so doing things for others and filling the role of “helper” was often motivated by the fact that their responses to my generosity made me feel secure in our friendship. It made me feel worthy and loved, but those feelings were counterfeit and temporary. While I was trying to earn love and worth, God wanted me to know I didn’t need to earn those things. I’m loved and worthy simply because I’m His.
"While I was trying to earn love and worth, God wanted me to know I didn’t need to earn those things. I’m loved and worthy simply because I’m His."
Because I was scared of rejection, I spent many years burning myself out, trying to prove I was lovable. I was scared I’d do something or say something that would give people a reason to think I wasn’t enough, or maybe worse, that I was too much. Feeling rejected was painful, but at least it gave me an action step. If I’m not enough, I could DO something to be more or better. A better friend, daughter, sister, employee… the list goes on. The effort I put into improving and the time I spent berating myself for never measuring up was exhausting.
But somehow, being too much was even more painful. It didn’t leave me with an action step or a “to-do” list. If I shared something too vulnerable or shared too often or appeared too broken… if I felt too deeply or my authenticity was too heavy of a burden for someone else, there’s no fixing that. It’s just “out there,” and I can’t take it back. If me being me is too much for someone, there’s nowhere to go from there. It left me feeling defective at my core.
Here’s what I learned: The only friendships worth preserving are the ones with people who encourage your authenticity and who will not be scared off by your genuine feelings.
"The only friendships worth preserving are the ones with people who encourage your authenticity and who will not be scared off by your genuine feelings."
I spent years minimizing myself and suppressing my feelings to preserve relationships. I preserved relationships with people that didn’t value my genuineness. Then, the people who wanted my authentic and vulnerable self never experienced the true me because I had already made the (incorrect) assumption that I was too much for them.
So not only did I hold onto unhealthy relationships, but I also never fully stepped into the healthy ones either. In doing that, I didn’t love others fully or let myself be loved fully in return. I wasted years of my life at a level of love that was so mediocre and inadequate compared to the fullness I’m experiencing right now. We can’t be scared to be who God made us to be. We are His workmanship, and we are created in His image. That’s our destiny and our design. And honestly, being me feels really good.
"We can’t be scared to be who God made us to be. We are His workmanship, and we are created in His image. That’s our destiny and our design."
So what happened when I started believing what God says about me? For starters, I became better equipped to deflect the lies that try to lead me astray, and there are SO many. Knowing who I am in Him allows me to stand firm amid changing circumstances because none of those circumstances change who I am to God.
"Knowing who I am in Him allows me to stand firm amid changing circumstances because none of those circumstances change who I am to God."
I make different decisions now. I choose people who see me, know me, challenge me, and love me for me. I say no to things that don’t seem right, and I give myself grace as I figure out what does.
There will likely still be people who can’t handle us in our fullness, and that doesn’t necessarily get easier. There will still be pressure to live up to unrealistic worldly expectations. That doesn’t really get easier, either. But believing what God says about us versus what the world says empowers us to choose another route and not get stuck in a cycle revolving around lies. Instead, God infuses us with His truth, and as He does, He’ll start forming connections in our lives with others chasing after Him and walking in their unique purposes. Relationships with these people fuel us.
"God infuses us with His truth, and as He does, He’ll start forming connections in our lives with others chasing after Him and walking in their unique purposes."
Start opening up. Let others you trust see pieces of you that you’ve previously been scared to show. Do things that make you feel like the person God has called you to be.
I believe that with God’s guidance, you will find your people and experience a depth of love that is impossible outside of a genuine community. In the context of community, we become a force to be reckoned with. We become vessels with greater capacity to share His love, do His work, and light up the darkness in the world. When we let people know us and let them love us, and when we do the same for them, we get a glimpse of Heaven.
"When we let people know us and let them love us, and when we do the same for them, we get a glimpse of Heaven."
This world is constantly trying to entice us to tie our identity to all kinds of things that give us the perception of status or worth, but the only One who can honestly tell you who you are and what you’re worth is God. And if you ask Jesus, He’ll say you’re worth EVERYTHING.
Brave Woman Manifesto
Make sure to check back next week as another courageous Sister shares her story. And by the way...
You are Brave!
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Megan Carlton is a lifelong learner and knowledge seeker. With a deep love for God and a nurturing spirit, she brings her own experiences struggling with identity to life through her writing in a way that offers hope and a workable process for others. Megan is a night owl turned morning person through a call to 4:30am quiet time and has used that time with God to personally work through and subsequently document her identity journey. She currently resides in the Greater Cincinnati area, where she has made it her personal goal to find the best tacos in the city.