When I was in elementary school, kindness seemed to be all I knew. I wanted to help others out of the purity and innocence of my childhood heart.
I remember carrying a first aid kit with me wherever I went. It was my genuine pride and joy to be the first to help my classmates whenever someone got hurt.
But something changed when I showed up on the first day of middle school with braces and a face full of acne. My classmates started making fun of me, and the world didn't seem so kind anymore. The harder I tried to fit in, the worse the bullying became.
Most of us had experiences like this. Whether we felt criticized, neglected, dismissed, micromanaged, unappreciated, or unacknowledged, an emotional wound forms.
We instinctively, often unconsciously, decide how we need to be to protect ourselves from such pain in the future.
My emotional wound was feeling unaccepted by my peers. I coped by believing that I needed to be successful; otherwise, no one would like me.
I allowed this story to rule my life for the next decade, bringing it with me into adulthood even though it no longer served me.
I had to learn the hard way that the relationships in my life, especially the one with my parents, mattered more than any external achievement.
The older I get, the more I realize that I'm just returning to that unconditionally loving, younger me. When I started embracing that I no longer needed to prove myself to be loved, the love started effortlessly pouring in and boundlessly flowing out.