#TBT: On Being Broken
I AM A BROKEN PERSON.
The truth is, most of us are. We're just not comfortable admitting to/confronting our brokenness.
One of the most profound parts from touré roberts' book "Wholeness" is that we don't believe we are broken because "we have learned to be functional in our brokenness."
This line hit me pretty hard last week. it forced me to compare the way i'm currently living to the potential i have, and after that, my brokenness became so immediately clear. this line hit me So hard that I went through a week-long funk and didn't know how to get myself out of it. I was angry, sad, hurt, frustrated and I had no idea what was causing it. Upon more reflection, I realize that I was finally confronting my areas of brokenness.
finally confronting my brokenness after 25ish years of being functionally broken.
AND THAT, MY LOVES, IS THE FIRST, MOST COURAGEOUS STEP TOWARDS BECOMING WHOLE.
All of us have experienced moments in our lives that have led to our brokenness. In Touré Roberts' words, these moments cause pain because they shatter our picture-perfect image of the world. these moments are responsible for what he calls our "cracked mirror." at some point in our lives, All of our mirrors have been cracked by something, and if we have not taken consistent and thorough efforts to dig deep, identify these areas of brokenness, and commit to healing those wounds, then we will continue to be broken. if you haven't done this, then like me, you have simply learned to live with your brokenness.
and that is no way to live.
I want to be whole. I started my #FlawsAndAll challenge as one step towards wholeness, and while the self-love and self-acceptance has been liberating to say the least, my issues run so much deeper than my image. i'm willing to bet that yours do, too.
this week, i reflected back on my upbringing, all the way back to my childhood, through the moments that caused deep pain, the moments that have cracked my mirror, and after much analysis and reflection, i came to this realization: i have been suffering with a serious case of the imposter syndrome my whole life. regardless where i go or who i'm with, i constantly feel like i don't deserve to be there. i start creating these theories that other people will realize that i don't belong and they'll look at me as inferior. i have found ways to compensate for and conceal these deep insecurities, but i don't want to react anymore. it seriously breaks my heart to think that i spent so many years feeling this way everywhere i go.
but i'm so grateful. this realization was a huge break-through for me, and i know that digging deeper will help me eventually become whole.
I WANT TO BE EXTREMELY VULNERABLE SO THAT MAYBE YOU CAN FEEL ENCOURAGED TO INVESTIGATE YOUR OWN AREAS OF BROKENNESS AND FINALLY CONFRONT THEM. HERE ARE THE BIG MOMENTS IN MY LIFE THAT BROKE ME:
I. "rima, what church do you go to?"
the first time i remember feeling like i didn't belong was in elementary school. i went to a predominantly white public school in dearborn, and although there was a significant number of arab students like me, i vividly remember feeling like we were "the wrong thing to be." i felt like some of my white teachers pitied us and treated us like we were less capable. of course i couldn't put this into words at the time, but i know for a fact that the inferiority complex i would carry with me to adulthood was developed early on in elementary school.
my best friend at the time was white. her mom chaperoned one of our field trips in 2nd grade. on the bus ride home, her mom asked "rima, what church do you go to?" i was so embarrassed to tell her that my family didn't go to church. that we were muslim. i loved my friend and her family. i still do. when i said i was muslim, her mom didn't seem to think much of it, but that's what makes the imposter syndrome so powerful.
nobody has to explicitly make you feel like you are unworthy for you to constantly feel that way.
the imposter syndrome followed me to middle and high school, where many of my teachers were explicitly racist and islamophobic. towards the end of high school, i found my voice. and boy did i use it. i kept that voice with me in college, and i became loud and proud, even as one of the only arabs in most of my college classes. i have always been proud to be an arab muslim woman. but if i'm really honest, my pride and love for my community didn't change the fact that i never felt like i deserved to be at michigan. the fact that i developed a voice or worked three times as hard as many of my classmates didn't change the fact that i was always secretly afraid that someone would see me for the incompetent and less intelligent person whom i believed i was. all of this pride and hard work were just reactions. they were just symptomatic of my inferiority complex. they never did and never will get to the root of the real issue: that i believed that i was incompetent and undeserving. that i was scared someone would "find me out."
it really hurts me to write these things down, especially because i have been so incredibly functional in this brokenness. but it's true. i feel this way in every single professional and academic setting to date. i haven't even begun to confront the ways in which my brokenness makes me feel unworthy of being in academic or professional spaces,
but i am so relieved that i am no longer committing to stay functional in my brokenness.
II. "..But you're not the wifey type though."
when people say really hurtful things to us, those sentiments are always a reflection of them and not us. 100% of the time. the four agreements taught me that valuable lesson. i just wish my 20 year old self knew this. at a get-together in college, some guy (a friend of a friend) compared me to another [white] girl in the room saying she was the type you "wife up;" but you? nah you're not the wifey type though." i don't even know why it hurt me so much. i don't even remember the guy's name. i don't even think i reacted; i probably just ignored him or said something witty so i could make sure he didn't know i was hurt (aka pride aka defense mechanism aka symptom of brokenness .. sound familiar?). but truthfully, his words hurt so much. i remember i couldn't sleep that night. i called my mentor at 3am (god bless you 'sheda) and bawled my eyes out on the phone. her words?
"welcome to being a woman of color."
i still don't even know what he meant, but it doesn't matter. what matters is that i believed him. why? because i felt the same way about myself. my entire life, i looked at myself like an object, because that's what i believed the world saw me as. something for consumption. something exotic. the many moments in my life when i've been directly or indirectly sexualized have impacted my level of self-worth perhaps more than i was willing to admit. when i was in high school, i remember constantly asking my friends if they would think i was a "good girl" if they didn't know me. i was always so terrified that people would think i was a "bad girl" or, for lack of a better word, a hoe. why was i thinking about this so much? because deep inside, i was judging myself. i felt like i wasn't living up to the image that a "good arab girl" was supposed to live up to, so the storyteller in my head constantly reiterated that i was the very thing i was terrified to be. an imposter. a bad girl pretending to be good. aka a worthless piece of meat pretending to be deserving of something good.
as much as these thoughts and words are painful for me to revisit, i must hold myself accountable for my brokenness here. before i explain further, it's important that you don't take my words out of context: every single woman deserves respect and love regardless what she does/doesn't say; what she does/doesn't wear. point blank period. no if ands or buts about that. no victim-blaming this way: nothing i did or didn't do justifies men sexualizing me and devaluing me. as women, we have no shortage of experiences where men treat us like we're commodities, and as heartbreaking as it is, we cannot control their filthiness. but i can control me. and i just know that in order for me to move on from this, i need to recognize that my brokenness was the only reason i believed that my body was this worthless. that it was there to look and feel good for someone else. that it was something that needed to be shaped a certain way for someone else. my brokenness had me looking at my body as an object. my brokenness had me believing "i wasn't the wifey type though," whatever that even means.
my brokenness is why i believed my body was a means to someone else's end.
III. "so, What color are you?"
during the summer before my senior year of college, i interned for a company in sacramento along with 30 other interns from across the nation. one of my peers was curious about my race, so he asked "sooo what color are you?" i laughed and sarcastically asked him if i looked like a crayon. i'll never forget that moment though. i wasn't offended by his dumb question, but i was probably frustrated because he asked me a question i wasn't truly ready to answer; he indirectly pointed out one of my areas of brokenness: being a person of color whose identity is not recognized in the mainstream. honestly, i spent the majority of my adult life trying to justify to myself and others my identity as a woman of color. i am not black, latinx, native american, asian, and i'm definitely not white. i am arab. but as we all know, arabs don't get representation in our census data, and more often than not, we get excluded in conversations about people of color in america.
in dearborn, we all just get it. we understand the arab experience in america and we know good and well that we are people of color. that our experiences in america are vastly different than our white counterparts. as arab americans, we are also very proud of who we are. me especially, i have always repped my arab and dearborn identities hard, regardless who i was around. after high school, when i wasn't around arabs, i was immersed in the black community. most of my non-arab friends in college were black, and pretty much all of the friends and families i grew close to during my time teaching were black. i love the black community and will forever feel extremely connected to it.
still, i have never wanted to be anything other than exactly who i am, and i'm not with the cultural appropriation that white and non-black people of color are guilty of. i wouldn't be here for it if someone tried that with my community, and i have way too much respect for the black community to pull that. so why do i feel like i'm in constant defense of my identity when i'm in black spaces? the black community has shown me nothing but absolute love and nothing but absolute respect for my identity as an arab muslim woman. so why did i always feel so insecure? so undeserving? so illegitimate? so other? well, because, the imposter syndrome was behind this one too. america has been telling me that i'm not a legitimate person of color, so even around other people of color, even with the pride i feel to be who i am, i felt like a fraud. like i was waiting for someone to call me out for being "too white." for someone to tell me that being arab doesn't count. this one was no different. i was waiting for someone to finally SAY "YOU DON'T BELONG HERE."
I INTERNALIZED The BELIEf THAT WE, as arabs, BELONGED nowhere in america.
IV. "Rima, You're Really INsecure"
i was in a toxic relationship for over three years. i don't really talk about it much (mostly out of love and respect for the other person) but if i could describe it in one sentence, i would say that it was a power trip, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. the constant thoughts in my head for over 3 years were "how can i make sure he knows that i don't need him?" "How can i make sure i keep the upper hand?" "how can i make sure he knows i have other options?" "how can i make sure he doesn't realize how much he hurt me?" " how can i make sure i don't seem attached or needy like the cliché girl from the movies?" in other words
HOW CAN I MAKE SURE HE NEVER SEES ME FOR THE INSECURE, TERRIFIED, BROKEN, EMOTIONALLY DEPENDent WOMAN I AM?
when i think back on what i put myself through to avoid being that girl, i cry. every time. i was so that girl. i was so emotionally abusive to both myself and to him. i was being everything but my most loving self. i can't believe i spent over 3 years away from myself.
and the boy, there is no doubt that i was dealing with a severely broken person. and we all know that "hurt people hurt people." but i was broken too. from the very beginning. and although i experienced things in this relationship that i can't believe i dealt with, the truth is, my brokenness is what kept me there. it wasn't his fault. if i only understood my brokenness, i would have been able to leave long time ago. i would have been able to do the right thing for me and for him. but i was so busy being prideful, playing tough girl and trying to "fix" his brokenness that i ignorantly forgot to look in my very own shattered mirror.
all relationships experience issues, but our issues were particularly toxic because both of us were too prideful to admit there was an issue at all. we would argue and fight while pretending that neither of us was emotionally invested. during one of these pretend-we're-not-arguing-but-we're-both-really-annoyed text convos, he texted me saying "rima, you are seriously so insecure. you don't even realize how insecure you are." let me just tell you...i screenshotted that shit with the quickness, sent it to my friends, and called them immediately freaking out. "how dare he say that to me! me?! does he know who i am? what is this guy smoking? nah, he knew that shit would piss me off, so i'm not even going to react. he's the insecure one who is so scared to confront it, so he's trying to project all that onto me." and of course, my friends would agree.
i convinced them i wasn't broken too.
but he was 100% right. i was so broken. i was so insecure. i was so entirely shattered that i couldn't even see it. i was so destroyed that i was too scared to take a look in the mirror. i was so beyond insecure that i chose toxicity over myself every day for over three years. and my brokenness is to blame. my mind knew better. it knew i deserved to be treated well. it knew i deserved someone who was emotionally available. it knew that i needed someone who was whole. but my heart was so extremely broken that deep, deep down inside, i felt i deserved the level of emotional abuse i was putting myself through.
my heart and mind weren't on the same page for over 3 and a half years because brokenness got between them.
soooo i wrote this all today. i wasn't ready. but i guess that's just how it works with these kinds of things. you will never be ready to confront excruciating pain. bullets aren't removed painlessly, but we all know they need to come out. this is no different. i cried my way to the bottom of this page, but i'm here aren't i?
i highly encourage anyone reading this to order the book, read it, annotate, and let yourself feel all the things you need to feel. chances are, you are letting yourself heal. you are coming back home to yourself. to the person you were put on this earth to be.
the person i am being called on to be cannot continue to function in my brokenness. the person i am being called on to be needs to be taking steps towards wholeness every single day. this was a huge step - i truly feel it in my soul.
i feel lighter.
so who are you being called to be?
the broken person that yesterday yearns for? or the whole person that tomorrow invites you to be?