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“You become what you believe, not what you think or what you want.” ~Oprah Winfrey
What do you believe? During the forced stillness of the pandemic environment we’re all living in, this is a question I’ve been faced with more intensely than ever. In particular, I’ve come to question what I believe about myself, and how that impacts every element of my life.
Coming out of years of self-help for social and general anxiety, a long-standing eating disorder, and several dissatisfying personal relationships, I had to come to question what these external realities reflected back to me. For what you believe about not only your life, but more importantly, yourself, will show up again and again, and yes, again, until you’ve finally addressed the root of the problem.
In my case, my lack of self-value resulted in many dysfunctions and setbacks in my personal and professional world.
My deteriorating self-image led to my eating obsessions, a lack of confidence exacerbated anxieties, and the low value I placed on myself was most likely written all over me, judging by the way others showed disrespect toward me in personal relationships.
Not only was I devaluing who I was, but I also operated from a place of being closed off to others, afraid that if I showed my true self I wouldn’t measure up to their expectations.
This all came to a head when COVID-19 emerged and led to a global lockdown. Going off of numerous negative relationship experiences, I visited a doctor to discover I had a pelvic floor condition called vaginismus, which results in involuntary vaginal muscle tightening that makes sex and physical exams like pap smears either impossible or extremely painful.
I spent the next four months going through physical therapy to heal my body from this condition, breaking off a new relationship to focus completely on my own journey. It amazed me how the mind and body go hand-in-hand; my muscle tightening felt like a total embodiment of years of being closed off to others and remaining safely isolated from sharing my true self.
As I mentioned previously, prior to being diagnosed with vaginismus I’d spent years healing my mental health problems and gaining strength in my career experience.
After high school, I was lost in my career path for a solid period of time, making lukewarm attempts at artistic endeavors such as acting and modeling, never fully prepared to take a leap and fully immerse myself in any one field.
Again, this would require a bearing of my true self that would frighten me just to think about. Not only that, it would mean that I had the nerve to believe I was worthy of attempting a profession that’s reserved for an elite group of “special” people, a group I never considered myself to be a part of.
I did muster up enough courage to move to Los Angeles, however, where I felt I could start a new identity. My Northern California roots felt outdated, and along with some family I sought to better myself with a fresh start.
One of my first steps toward positive changes was a hostessing gig at a bowling alley, which forced me to get out of my shell and be more social for a change. I still felt very self-conscious, but the more I worked on interacting with customers and coworkers, the more I learned how much I loved people.
This further developed when, following a chance Intro to Journalism course I took at Pasadena City College in Southern California, I found a new joy that I wasn’t expecting.
I began to love writing, and not only that, my favorite element of this new career path was interviewing—something I never thought I’d be able to conquer with the severity of my social anxiety, which prevented me from going into grocery stores at its peak
Deep down, I started to believe that something different could be possible for me. Maybe I could break out of my old mindset and turn into the person I’d always felt I was inside: someone who loved people, longed for and accomplished successful interpersonal relationships, and stood in her power, unapologetically.
By January of 2020, I had gained a local job news writing in my home base of Burbank and felt optimistic about the future. After the pandemic hit, however, I went through a time of feeling down during isolation. This paired with the vaginismus diagnosis made me become initially quite frustrated.
“Why is this happening to me?” I wondered. I had done a lot to overcome other personal issues, but now having to do months of diligent, and sometimes extremely painful, physical therapy felt like a punishment that I didn’t deserve.
After a short bit of contemplation, however, I had a real and sudden shift in perspective. I simply thought, “I’ve been through more than this in the past. I’ll get through it.” I believed I could, and from that moment on dedicated myself to healing not only physically, but emotionally as well.
Within four months I made enough progress to end in-person physical therapy appointments, I started blog writing and continued with news writing in Burbank, earned a journalism scholarship over the summer, which I contributed toward my studies, and now have just started my own independent journalism writing website.
The more I believed that I could accomplish my goals, and the more I felt I was worthy of such things, the more I saw everything in the universe work for me, and not against me.
Today I continue to improve my self-image, and I have a long way to go. But overall, I feel healed from where I once was.
I’m pursuing my passions, now unashamed to show and share who I truly am.
I demonstrate a great deal of self-respect in personal relationships, no longer tolerating poor treatment from others who don’t consider my worth.
My diet and exercise habits are healthier, my vaginismus treatment is complete, and, although I still have to maintain physical therapy exercises, I feel grateful for where I’m at in that regard and in every aspect of my life.
If you had asked me five years ago, prior to all of this self-improvement, what I believed about myself and my life, I probably would have said I had a promising future ahead, although my actions and interactions continuously showed otherwise.
This is why I feel I’m at a much more positive place in life at this moment.
Not only do I propose that I believe positive things about myself, but I now show it through my actions.
I no longer want respect, I demand it.
I no longer want to pursue my goals wholeheartedly, I now do it as much as I can every day.
And not only do I dream of expressing the truth of who I am, I embody it.
So, if you too feel like you’re stuck in a rut in your life, if you feel that the world isn’t treating you fairly, and if you don’t like what the universe is showing you, then I urge you to ask yourself:
What do you believe? About yourself? Your worth? Your life? Your potential?
What do you believe about what you deserve, in relationships and in your career, and what you can accomplish if you try?
How do those beliefs affect how you show up in the world—the decisions you make, the chances you take, the things you tolerate, and the habits you follow each day?
What would you differently if you challenged your beliefs and recognized they’re not facts?
And what can you differently today to create a different outcome for tomorrow?
These are the questions that shape our lives because our beliefs drive our choices, which ultimately determine who we become.
About Devin Herenda
Devin Herenda is an award-winning multimedia journalist and writer based in Los Angeles who has written for numerous publications, including myBurbank News, Songwriting News, and Rom Com Fest. She has recently expanded to create Devine Spark, a website with profiles of subjects who share their passions and lessons they’ve picked up throughout their journeys. A native Californian with New Jersey roots, she enjoys music, fashion, and the opportunity to incorporate storytelling into journalism. You can find her on Instagram here and Twitter here.