One of the most challenging and heart wrenching parts about being a mother is watching your child in pain. Whether physical or emotional, seeing your child in pain, and knowing you can do nothing to take their pain away, is the absolute worst.

Two weeks ago my youngest sliced her foot open - a wound that required eleven stitches. Those two weeks were filled with so many tears, from both her and I. But unlike emotional pain, physical pain does ease with time and eventually heals, leaving only the subtlest of scars.

As many of you can attest to, emotional pain is often carried for much longer, depending on the situation. It attacks the very soul of the sufferer, and hovers, like a lingering plume of smoke. Depression at its finest.

My eldest has struggled with the other children in her class, and has been bullied on and off for nearly two years. I can’t even write this without tears making their way to the corners of my eyes. Children can be so brutally mean. The words they’ve said to my daughter have been devastating, to say the least.

For the better part of two years now, my daughter has strived to make friends. She desperately wants to be accepted. But to what cost? How much is she willing to sacrifice to gain the approval and friendship? At times she has chosen to say or do things she wouldn’t normally say or do, all in an effort to fit in and be liked by the other girls.

We have had so many deep conversations while lying side by side in her bed in the evenings, navigating through every scenario that had occured at school that day. During one of these conversations I asked her this question,

“What is the difference between ‘belonging’ and ‘fitting in’?”

She thought about it for a moment and then answered so brilliantly:

“Belonging is being accepted without having to change who you are. Fitting in is changing who you are in order to be accepted. Like, saying you like something even if you don’t.”


Then I asked her which one sounded more appealing. Obviously she said belonging. Who wouldn’t?

Everyone is born with the innate desire to belong. When we don’t feel like we belong, we will sometimes go to great measures to try to achieve it. For some it means a drastic makeover to match the trends of society, or to talk a certain way, etc. But at the root of all of that is the belief that we are not enough, just as we are.

Are you a human being? Then you are worthy of belonging, acceptance, respect and love. Period.

It took me nearly thirty years to believe that I am enough, simply because I exist. I am in no way perfect, I don’t always have my shit together, or my house together, but I am enough, end of story. I have my flaws, but my strengths outweigh my flaws. It took years for me to see that. It took broken friendships, mental breakdowns, and so much prayer and affirmation to start seeing myself the way God sees me - beautifully, fearfully, and wonderfully made.

Today my daughter and I had another lengthy conversation about self-worth and belonging. Grade Four is not a particularly easy year for girls, hormones are rampant, drama is prevalent no matter where you turn, and self-worth is always questioned. I hope that by affirming her often, and reminding her how loved she is, and how remarkably God made her, that she will always feel like she belongs, that she doesn't need to change who she is to be acceptable. At least not by her family. And if the children at school cannot see the amazing little girl that she is, and all that she has to offer as a loyal friend, then may she always stay confident in the knowledge that their opinions, their words, their labels, do not define her.

Brene Brown (one of my favourite authors) posted a quote by Henri Nouwen today that I loved. It goes,

The three big lies:

I am what I have.

I am what I do.

I am what other people say I am.

-Henri Nouwen

Don’t change who you are for anyone who cannot appreciate you and cannot see the value that you bring to the relationship. The cost is too great. It’s not worth it.

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All photos belong to and are copyright of Vanessa Voth unless stated otherwise.

Photo of Vanessa and her family was taken by Rebecca Sehn.

Langley, British Columbia

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