Leading With Who You Are

After experiencing one too many disappointing relationships and “situationships,” I found myself painfully single in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. Having just moved into a new house with a couple of my girlfriends, I suddenly had a lot of time to think about those things that I really wanted in life. As I mulled over past relationships, I was faced with a stark reality— I had never really led with who I was. In the early stages of my past relationships, I hadn’t honestly communicated my desires, boundaries, or interests. I was always more focused on being agreeable— the perfect match for the person in front of me. This approach inevitably led to disappointment after disappointment for me, and thank God that it did.

A few months after realizing this, I was on vacation in Cape May New Jersey with my family. We had invited a close priest friend to come and spend time with us while we were there. Early one morning, after he said a Mass for us, I asked him for confession. As he counseled me, he gave me a piece of advice that will always stay with me. He told me that when I first meet someone and things seem to headed in a romantic direction, to ask myself, “Is this person, in the way they are living right now, capable of providing me with the life I imagine for myself?” This is a question I hadn’t been brave enough to consider in the past. Or maybe I didn’t want to consider it, already knowing that the answer was no. 

I held this question in my heart throughout that whole week of vacation, letting it transform my expectations. It seems like such a simple thing that someone should probably already know at 25 years old, but the idea had never been presented to me like that before. Just days later, I began chatting with a handsome and kind person on a popular dating app. We had similar interests, and I knew from the very start that he would treat me the way that I had always wanted to be treated. He had this gentleness about him, and I could see myself sharing a joyful and fulfilling future with him. I’m not going to lie—the wholesomeness of it all really freaked me out at first, but that’s a blog for another time. 

Mindful of the advice my priest friend had given me, I wanted to be sure that this man and I were truly compatible. So from the very beginning, I was honest about my values and passions: I let him know that I went to Mass daily, that I wanted someone who would pray with and for me, and that I believe The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is unequivocally the greatest movie of all time— the essentials. And as I grew to know him better, I wasn’t afraid to ask those tough questions that before, I would never have dared to let out of my mouth.

At every turn, I expected to be disappointed, but instead, I found someone who exceeded all of my expectations. I couldn’t believe it— for the first time, I felt that the picture I presented of myself actually lined up with who I was. After nine months of dating this wonderful man, I can say with complete confidence that we know each other. We support each other’s dreams and ambitions, and there is not a day that goes by without us praying together.

Sometimes it won’t work out so great. Sometimes we share who we are only to be rejected, or to have someone tell us that they aren’t willing to live according to our values. There is one truth that stands in this— the sooner we move past those things that are not meant for us, the sooner we will encounter what has always been meant for us. Dating isn’t easy, but it is much easier when we realize how important of an element it is to be true to ourselves.

Not everyone in the world is meant to be with you or appreciate the gift that you are. It only takes one.

A Woman’s Story of Healing from Porn

By MaryGrace Straub

I saw porn for the first time when I was six. I was visiting my dad in Florida with my sister. We were watching TV late at night, unsupervised, when we came across a channel that showed two people having sex. I knew that we should change the channel, but I didn’t want to. I was intrigued and wanted to watch longer. A brief exposure was enough to impact me deeply.

After that I was really tuned in to sexual images in magazines, movies and shows; it was like I had developed a radar for it all. I knew that it was not good to be looking at those things, so I kept it secret. Another thing I kept secret was that I learned to masturbate in the third grade. In high school I got a laptop and had access to porn videos online. Nobody knew that I was watching these things and that I had this hidden life, because for a while on the outside I was a “good girl.”

One of the ways that porn influenced me was making me think that guys wanted to use me. I wasn’t aware I had acquired that way of thinking, but when I started to party and become promiscuous in high school, I allowed myself to be used by boys. I learned from porn that that’s what they want and that I could have a sort of power over them by letting them use me.

The biggest impact that viewing porn at a young age had on me was that it introduced a deep sense of shame that I carried with me for almost two decades. When I had a conversion back to Catholicism in college, my new friends were interested in knowing the real me and knowing my story. The fact of the matter was I didn’t know the real me and I hadn’t looked at my story. When I started to, I uncovered this place of shame. I discovered a belief firmly cemented in my mind and heart that I was no good, that I was broken beyond repair and that I was perverted at the core of my being. I eventually connected these beliefs to the early experience of not only watching porn but wanting to watch porn. I thought: Why would someone, especially so young, want to watch something like that unless there was something seriously wrong with her, unless she was perverted and just kind of off?

One thing that was helpful was learning that it’s actually pretty normal that if a child is exposed to porn or has any kind of sexually inappropriate experience there often is a curiosity that later becomes very confusing and shameful for the individual. I also learned that it can be a normal response for a person to become interested in sexual things after an early exposure like that. It turns out that what I experienced was not unusual given what had happened and what I had seen—and that lifted a lot of the shame from me and made me feel a lot more normal and a lot less messed up.

Something happened several years ago that further touched and brought healing to this part of me. I was in prayer on a retreat and was feeling very in touch with the sense of shame and brokenness, unworthiness and perversion. The memory of the first exposure to porn popped into my head and I saw a scene play out. I saw myself and my sister lying on the ground in our sleeping bags in front of the TV, soon after seeing the porn, and we were sleeping. I saw Jesus kneeling on the ground by my head and leaning over me, weeping. I sensed that He was not mad at me and He was not at all interested in punishing me. I sensed that He was sad for me because He knew what this experience would do to me and how long it would take me to heal from it. I also saw in Him a very real and righteous anger at my dad for not protecting me from this. This experience was very healing; it was really important for me to see how Jesus responded to me in that moment, and it allowed me to see the memory and myself differently. I was finally freed from the shame I had carried for so long.

Am I Good Enough Yet?

By Catalina Morales

I have struggled with whether I’m “good enough” all throughout my teens and into adulthood. Like me, you may often ask yourself: “Am I good enough yet?” And yet, when reflecting on this question, we must dig deeper and ask ourselves: Who exactly are we questioning we are good enough for?

For me, it was my family, my friends, the boys I dated, and myself. Whenever someone disappointed me or walked out of my life, I questioned my self-worth. With every heartbreak, I questioned whether I was good enough. Every friend that was no longer my friend, every F on a test, every failure, every disappointment made me question my worth: “Am I not smart enough? Am I not pretty enough? Am I not skinny enough?”

And yet, are we not more than our accomplishments and failures? Are we not more than the numbers on the scale? Are we not more than the way we think people perceive us? Wouldn’t it be nice if every time we had this thought of not being enough, someone would be there to say that we are—If every time we met ourselves with doubt, someone would assure us that we were created for more than this?

Jesus does. He says that He made us; we are made in His image. Jesus reminds us every day that we are enough—in fact, we are to die for. To question our worth is to question His sacrifice. He says not only that we are worthy, but that we have purpose. You are here for a reason, you are blessed, you are beautiful, and you are enough.

One of my favorite lyrics comes from “He Has Time” by Common Hymnal and Jamie MacDonald. It reminds us that “Jesus runs after the broken ones, weeping with those who weep,” and “crowns them with purity.” The great thing about Jesus is that we don’t have to look too far to find him. He see us in our darkest places, in our doubt, in our sadness, and in our failures, and still says we are worthy. He meets us where we are in life and heals us. Once we realize this, we stop putting our worth in other people; we stop looking for our worth in other people. We become set free, we become made new—the only person we put our worth in is Jesus. The only person we question if we are “good enough” for is Jesus, and even then, we know the answer because He answered it when He died on the cross for us.

The answer is, yes, we are enough. If we put our worth in worldly things, we will surely be disappointed. Nothing on this earth is perfect, but if we put our worth in the one thing—the one person—who is perfect, then we will not be disappointed.

Jesus has all the time in the world to remind you every day: You are more than the scale, more than the A’s or F’s you get on a test, more than what people say about you. You are not made of this world, you are made of Him. You are worth dying for, and He did—because you are worth it.

Fearless Strength

By Brigitte Bowman

It was a cold October night. I didn’t know what to expect, thinking this night would be the same as every other. My parents happened to be out of town, so it was just the three youngest of six at home, just us sisters. We weren’t scared about being alone together; as far as we knew, we would always keep each other safe. We finally all went to sleep.

So there I was, asleep in my bed. And then I heard a voice from God saying: “Wake up.” My eyes opened to see an unknown man with a mask standing over me.

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Chivalry Is for Women Too

By Hadley Adair

Valentine’s Day was approaching, and I, being the haughty, single woman I was, had adopted a new motto. I began to tell everyone I encountered: “You know, guys cannot complain about being single on Valentine’s Day. That’s all on them.” This phrase led to my reasoning that if they want a girlfriend, then they have the freedom to ask a girl out, but us poor women are simply maidens in waiting. Poor us, striving for authentic, Christ-centered relationships, yet living in a time when chivalry is far gone. I had reduced my vocation to the mere passivity of waiting to receive, while at the same time demanding of men immediate and heroic action.

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Vulnerability in Sisterhood

By Gabriella Kolarsky

Growing up, I had two wonderful sisters who were close to me in age and many girl friends. I thought I knew what sisterhood was because I had multiple women around me, right? Wrong.

Don’t get me wrong, I had a great relationship with both of my sisters, and we were always around each other, so it was easy to love them and to be around them. My friends were always fun, so I always found myself laughing when I was with them. I had incredible relationships with all these women, but I was rooting those relationships in the wrong places. I had this idea of sisterhood in my head that it was the people you had the most fun with… and that was it.

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