“There are a million reasons why people feel broken.” This comment, shared in an email, caused me to sit back in my chair and reflect for several minutes.
“Are there really a million reasons why people can find themselves shattered and on the floor?” I asked. “That seems overwhelming….”
My friend replied, “There are people who grew up in stable, but unloving homes. People abandoned in marriage. People who never found love. People rejected for all sorts of reasons that have left them feeling worthless.”
My friend’s comments remain accurate, some six years later. People are hurting, everywhere. There are real, raw issues and challenges keeping people awake at night. Life is fragile. The human heart is, too. This big, beautiful world can offer up at least a million ways to tear us down. It only takes one of those one-million ways to break us and reduce our sense of worth. Of all the million reasons, I think that rejection may be the most common—and most lethal—of them all.
If you’ve ever felt unloved, abandoned, lost, or alone—then you understand the bruising pain of rejection. It can strip your sense of value, break your spirit, and make you question everything in life. The hurt left by rejection can seem impossible to heal. You may wonder if you matter at all. I’m here to remind you that you do. I’m grateful for those who remind me of my worth, too.
Just seconds ago, as I was writing this blog post, I received another email—this time from a woman I’ve never met. She lives in Manila, Philippines. She writes:
Dear Michelle, I came across your Tedx talk just now (as of this moment, while I am writing this, I am listening to your talk for the 3rd time). My family adopted our youngest son two-years ago. My husband and I involved our eldest son (“delivered into our life biologically”) from the start of the process. We are grateful that we joined a group of adoptive parents that have supported us (cheerleaders actually) along the way. To date, our lives are fuller with action-packed craziness. Come to think of it, my boys make my INSANE world, SANE. We just finalized our son’s amendment birth certificate and one or two more steps before we get our adoption decree. Took us, two years for this, but the journey is all worth it. Tomorrow, February 1, Manila Time, we are honored to be part of Adoption Consciousness Celebration 2020 and we are one of the guest speakers and will share our adoption story. This is our first time to speak out about our journey. At first, I was panicking and nervous about what to say, but because of your talk – the universe is assuring me that I can wing it. I am grateful for YOU. Thank you for sharing your story with the world! Thank you for sharing your advocacy and most of all, thank you for articulating what unconditional love is.
If there are a million reasons why life can break us—I have one bigger reason why you can overcome the brokenness: there is a soul out there—somewhere in the world—hungry for the story that only you can share. In other words, your story holds immense value and meaning. Your life journey has the power to uplift, heal, and encourage another person—unconditionally.
When I recorded my TEDx talk, I shared my journey from the heart and—once my ten minutes was up—I walked off the stage and said a prayer that my story would be a blessing to someone. That was three years ago.
In the wee hours of January 31st, 2020, as I was contemplating if what I do really matters and facing the fear of rejection, I received divine intervention in the form of an email. A note from the Philippines, reminding me that the lessons of my life journey are blessings worthy of sharing. If shame is the #1 reason people hide from their stories and their lives, then I believe that vulnerable sharing can diminish the shame.
This fuels me toward deeper transparency in my work and my life.
Several days ago, I shared that I underwent explant surgery on January 13th. I had been dealing with Breast Implant Illness for several years. For those who don’t already know, Breast Implant Illness (BII) is a very real illness. Far too many women are suffering in silence, confused by their symptoms and afraid they may never find relief. I dealt with the pain and the suffering of BII—mostly—on my own. I beat myself up for deciding to augment my body.
In some ways, I felt that I deserved the pain.
My shame grew.
Here’s the thing: shame thrives in places of isolation—it finds its home there, and where you find shame, you’ll find its neighbor, fear. In my most hidden thoughts, during my struggles with BII, I felt ashamed and afraid. I was ashamed that I decided to have implants and afraid of facing the truth that a sense of inadequacy had brought me to that decision in the first place.
I just didn’t think I was enough. Like so many other adults, I was haunted by a traumatic childhood event. Abandonment was my trauma. It was the one reason, out of a million reasons, why I felt irreversibly broken. For a long time, I believed that there was something wrong with me. Why else would parents leave their daughter? That belief was a lie. I wasn’t equipped, at the time, to recognize it. That’s why I covered my heart. I covered it with saline shields. Anything to hide the pain—anything to mask the hurt.
The hurt wanted out. My body raged against those implants until I finally stopped and listened. That’s when I heard the voice—my voice—of wisdom guiding me to the obvious choice. I needed to rid myself of what was covering my heart and damaging my health. It was the final step along my journey to freedom. Through the process of explant surgery, I’ve faced those lingering lies of inadequacy. I’ve let them go.
I don’t want to numb my life. I want to feel every bit of it. I want to share my journey because I’m alive and my life has meaning! I’m thriving, despite it all. The truth is that life is beautiful and it’s hard. Mostly, it’s both of these things at the same time. The beauty and the challenge can occur—and most often does—simultaneously. We can find ourselves focused on any one of the million challenges in this life, or we can set a new focus on the miracle born of the challenge. The wisdom birthed from the wound.
I don’t know how my new friend in Manila struggled as she traveled the journey of adoption, but I’m sure she struggled. We all struggle. It’s in our willingness to share our struggles that we grow a strength we never knew we had. I’m almost three weeks post-explant surgery. If I ever questioned my strength, I don’t anymore. I’m a warrior. Being awake and aware in all aspects of my life is worth the journey of ups and downs that come along with living. I share the dark moments because it helps me—and others—move closer to the light.