Can you believe this this fantastic week is nearing it's end? It honestly makes me a little weepy to think about. I would just like to thank Kelly for contributing for the week, and doing a FANTASTIC giveaway. I mean, it's international, y'all. And we all know how much I adore her books. Cinder and Ella is the one from her writing I've most recently read, but THE AVERY SHAW EXPERIMENT is awesome. So is V IS FOR VIRGIN, UNGIFTED and pretty much all the other books she has written as well.
On to the guest post + giveaway! To enter the INTERNATIONAL giveaway, leave a comment on the post for Kelly to read about YOUR struggle and what you do (or want to do, try to do) to overcome it. Fight against it. The winner will get their choice of one of Kelly's fantastic books. The giveaway ends SEPTEMBER 30, 2015 at 11:59 PM + LEAVE your email so I can contact you!)
Hey everyone! I’m happy to be here today, and be part of self worth week. I love that Jackie wanted to do something to address this topic, and I’m honored that she thought of me. I’m a little passionate about this issue, so I’ll try to contain myself and not to ramble too much.
The topic of self worth is one that is very personal for me. Loving yourself is one of the most important things a person can do, and also one of the hardest. I have struggled with my own insecurities to the point where they literally ruled my life. I almost destroyed myself because I hated who I was.
It took me years to learn to love myself, and once I finally gained a little bit of self worth, my entire life changed so much. It’s like I was finally free to live my life and enjoy it. I am a better person now for having learned to accept my flaws and love myself despite them. I think that’s why the idea of believing in yourself is so important to me, and why it tends to be a recurring theme in all of my books.
From tomboy Ellie Westley and her socially inept Seth Bishop, to Virgin Val, to the physically scarred Ella Rodriguez, all the way to my favorite warlock Russ Devereaux, I think nearly every single one of my characters in my books has struggled with who they are, and has had to work to overcome their insecurities. I believe that’s what gives them their strength. As readers, we say we love strong characters. Well guess what guys, it’s the same in real life. We all have flaws, and it’s those imperfections that make us strong. We grow when we have to work to overcome our flaws. When we persevere despite our imperfections.
I’m going to get a bit personal with you now. Take what you will from my experiences. All my life I have struggled with mental illness. I have both Bi-Polar disorder and a severe social anxiety disorder. I’ve suffered from depression my entire life, and have been suicidal a handful of times. When I was nineteen, it got so bad that I had a complete psychotic break and had to go through a rehabilitation program.
Being suicidal, hearing voices, nearly flunking out of college, being unable to live on my own, and being mentally unstable aren’t things I’m proud of. For years I was ashamed of it. I hated myself because I wasn’t like other people. I thought I was crazy. I thought I was a freak. I thought I was a failure. I couldn’t handle things the way everyone else could. Everything seemed too hard. Was too big of a deal. Even the simplest things that should have been easy felt impossible.
I was bullied a lot growing up because I was a total tomboy and too shy to make friends. In grade school, before my parents knew what my problems were, my social anxiety made it impossible for me to act like the other kids in my classes at school. I couldn’t talk to people, couldn’t answer questions when I was called on by the teacher. I wouldn’t play with kids at recess. It made me an easy target for teasing, and I was picked on mercilessly. I was teased. I was beat up. I was never called by my name—only a handful of nicknames the entire school used. I was as young as seven years old, and that treatment continued for years.
Eventually my family moved and I went to a new school where no one knew me, and I got medication for my social anxiety. It helped, but the damage the bullies had done to my self-confidence was already done. Then my depression problems and mental illness started to manifest in high school. My lack of self worth became crippling. I stopped caring. I stopped trying. I became suicidal. And then, when I was forced to get help, I didn’t see the point in trying to make myself better. I didn’t think I deserved to feel better. I didn’t think I was worth the effort.
I was wrong.
It took me years, a lot of hard work, a lot of counseling and medication, and a lot of love and support from friends and family, but eventually I crawled out of the dark and started to fight back. I learned the importance of believing in myself. I learned that I am worth saving. That I am a person who deserves happiness. And most importantly, I learned that even though I’m flawed, I am still a great person, and I am capable of having a wonderful life.
Am I still mentally ill? Yes. Will I struggle with depression and anxiety my entire life? Yes. And now that I’ve had four children and have hit my early thirties metabolism slow-down I get the added bonus of struggling with my weight. (woohoo.) But am I happy? Very much so. Because I have learned to look at my flaws as my strengths, and I’ve learned to focus on the good qualities I have.
My life is hard. It’s a constant struggle. An endless battle that most people don’t have to deal with. Bi-polar disorder is an incurable disease. I will always struggle with it. I used to think that made me a crazy freak. Now I realize I am an incredibly strong person because I don’t let it beat me. I fight back, and I will continue to fight back. I have to work hard just to maintain the kind of life that comes naturally to most people. I’m better for it. Not worse.
We all have something we’re struggling with. For me, it’s mental illness. For others it’s body image issues, or money struggles, or home living situations. There are endless things for people to be insecure about. Everyone has flaws. Flaws are a part of life. Embrace your flaws. Learn to appreciate them if not love them. They make you strong, and they make the good things in your life that much more worth it.
I didn’t think I had anything worth sharing. I didn’t think I was talented. I was a horrible student. I’m completely uncoordinated. I’m beyond inept artistically. And to top it off I can barely manage to get by in my day-to-day life. But in my struggles to overcome my flaws, I did a lot of soul searching and started to find things I am good at.
Now, I have a happy, successful, wonderful life filled with more blessings that I ever thought possible. I was told I shouldn’t have children because it might be too hard for me with my condition. I refused to take that. I was stronger than that. I have four amazing kids who are growing up beautifully that are daily proof of just how strong I am. I have an incredible husband who loves me and helps me when I struggle and makes me a better person than I ever have been. I have an amazing career that I love and that allows me to share a little of myself and my own struggles with the world. Every time I get an email from a fan who says my book touched them, or inspired them in some way, it puts me in tears. I’ve had a difficult path, but I’ve made the best of it and I love that my experiences can sometimes help others. That makes my struggles worth it. I’m worth it. And you are too.
Everyone has something that makes them special. Everyone has positive traits to make up for the bad ones. The hard part is focusing on the good instead of the bad. Like the amazingly optimistic Ryan Miller says in Being Jamie Baker says, “Life’s generally not so bad. Most people just choose to see the negative.”
It’s easy to see our flaws, but sometimes it takes serious effort to see our good side. It’s hard. But those good things are there. They exist. Search within yourself and figure out what makes you worth it. Maybe you’re patient. Maybe you’re a great friend. Maybe you are just so stubborn you refuse to quit. Whatever it is, you have self worth. Everyone does. Find yours and hang on to it for dear life. Figure out who you are and be true to yourself. Love yourself. That will be the single most important thing you ever do. I can’t stress that enough. Which is most likely the reason I always bring it up in my books lol.
My next release, The Libby Garrett Intervention is all about learning to love yourself. Libby Garrett (who you may know from The Avery Shaw Experiment) struggles with self-esteem. She’s overweight, and a social outcast. She’s a nerd. The book is about how her insecurity rules her life and how she manages to overcome it. I love the book. It’s more personal for me than most people will ever realize. I’m very excited to get it out there to the world, and I hope that people will not only enjoy the story, but take the underlying message to heart. I hope you all will take the time to read it. It comes out October 24th, and is available for pre-order now on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and iBooks. (hint, hint, wink, wink…) (JACKIE: REMEMBER WHEN I SAID EVERYTHING SHE WRITES YOU SHOULD READ? REAAAD IT)
I’d love to do a giveaway today in honor of self worth week. I’ll give a signed copy of any one of my books (your choice) to one lucky reader. It helps us to hear that we’re not alone, and to see that others struggle with the same things we do, so to enter the giveaway, comment on this blog post and share something that you struggle with and what you do to try to fight back against it. Show me your strength! I know you have it!
Thanks for letting me get all personal and preachy on you today. I truly am passionate about this and hope that you got something out of my story. Best of luck everyone in this life journey, and remember to love yourself!
Find Kelly on her website. It really is such a lovely little place.
(JACKIE: Hey guys! The giveaway ends at the end of the month: September 30, 2015 at 11:59 PM CST. PLEEEASE leave your email so I can contact you that you have won. Don't you want to see that in your inbox?)