I remember getting my first “A” in Math in middle school.
For as long as I can remember, I had been told how talentless I was at the subject. Me + Numbers equaled chaos. However, I found that after working hard and putting in that extra mile for effort that “A’s” were actually possible in your weaker subjects. Who knew?
My parents beamed with pride when they saw my straight-A report card. Suddenly, I started believing that if I continued performing at a high capacity that I could not only get their approval, but I could get the whole world to love me.
After that, I transformed into a Type A, obsessive-compulsive, overly intense middle and high school student.
I sobbed when I got A-minuses on projects. I got four hours of sleep a night and when I got rejected from the lead role in the play, the school had to call my mother because I was emotionally out of control.
While I excelled in high school despite hurting my health, I hoped to continue my successful streak when I entered college only to have my ego shot down several times: My grades weren’t the same, I never got callbacks in theatre and I got rejected from everything. Literally. Everything.
From acapella groups to leadership committees to Hairspray, the earthly treasures I was hoping would build up my resume and my self-esteem were dwindling one-by-one. I felt I no longer had anything that defined me anymore. I was meeting more intelligent and talented people than myself and resorted to using my physicality to define me.
At a university with many outwardly attractive people, I became “boy-crazy,” and attended fraternity parties with the sole purpose of finding a boy to validate the way I looked and felt about myself. I wore tighter clothing, heavier make-up and was obsessed with being told I was beautiful.
I was miserable.
I made mistake after mistake with different boys. I took pleasure out of being called “sexy,” and “hot.” Instead of working on a Christ-centered beauty, I was focused on the kind of beauty that was shallow and completely fleeting.
Like accomplishments, boys only filled me temporarily. After another meaningless fling with a younger boy ended, I ended up breaking down in front of a sorority sister I barely knew. I told her everything: the boys, the partying, my poor judgment as well as the impossible mountain of insecurity that I could never fully conquer.
It took her few words for me to realize what was wrong.
“Issa, don’t refer to anything as a mountain. There is nothing bigger in your life than God.”
From that day on, she invited me to return to Mass and to spend time with a group of God-fearing men.
They had peace. They had comfort. This was all because they knew that the happiest people are those who tailor their lives to God’s purpose. I never understood that until now: Instead of asking for God’s will in my life, I asked Him to bestow treasures upon treasures for me: a boyfriend, straight A’s, or to get selected for the Honor Society.
But we were not made to be satisfied by things of this earth. While it is easy to find worth in looks, grades, achievements, sports, theater or relationships, we must remember that all of these things can be taken away in a heartbeat.
The only thing that truly remains is God. He is your true companion.
Colossians 3:2 tells us: “Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are upon the earth.”
I never understood the enormity of this message until experiencing it myself. Whenever I find worth in “earthly” things, I become disappointed because it is either never enough or is easily threatened or taken away.
I find that the only lasting happiness I will ever find in my life is God.
I urge you, my brothers and sisters, to find meaning in what really matters: Your relationship with your Father.
While it is good to excel in life, do it for the glory of God and not for your own glory.
Mother Teresa once said:
“At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.”
For a long time, I attempted to perform at a high level to get others to love me. But all along, I already had someone who was watching and wanting me from the time I was in my mother’s womb.
So don’t measure yourself by money, cool clothes, or boys’ attention. Measure yourself by love and how you reflect God in all your decisions. As children of God, we are not only encouraged to do it, but called to.
Editor’s Note: “In My Own Words” is a section of blogs on LifeTeen.com that contains submissions from our readers. If you love reading LifeTeen.com and want to contribute a blog about how you, as a teen, live out your Catholic Faith in your life, feel free to email your submission to Christina at [email protected] Please keep submissions under 750 words.