My sister in Christ, you are a person.
You are not your work. You are not what others think of you. You are not the sum of what you have. You are not just a friend, girlfriend, fiancé, wife or mom. You are a person — a unique person, a woman made in the image and likeness of God. You have a distinct and multi-faceted purpose. You are made for Heaven. And though you are made to work, to love others and to have life abundantly, you cannot be reduced to just any one of those things.
This idea saves me, time and time again. It allows me to refocus when my schedule is so packed with work and nothing else that I find myself discouraged, burnt out and anxious. This is the idea that led me to create The Catholic Woman.
Growing up, I placed the entirety of my identity in a false, reductive sense of womanhood. I came to accept a definition of womanhood that I found in fairy tales, poorly written Christian dating books, and women’s magazines. I was told the lie that as a woman, my sole purpose in life was to be attractive to others. So becoming “attractive” became the focus of many of my actions. Facebook became the storefront for my ambitions — where I tried to make myself look as pretty, charming, and funny as possible. I worked hard to become the “perfect mix” of introvert and extrovert, as I was told a woman should be. I even used to list out all of the compliments I received from others to assure myself that I was being the attractive woman I aspired to be.
This pursuit was exhausting. I treated myself as a trophy, not as a person — and of course, I didn’t quite realize it at the time. This attitude though only led to depression, to contemplating suicide in my youth, and to years living in the darkness of a lie: that I only exist to be attractive.
It wasn’t until I encountered Pope St. John Paul the II’s Philosophy of the human person in my college classes that my understanding of my identity was transformed. He claims that the human person was created fundamentally good. This idea demands that the only proper attitude toward the human person is love (no matter who they are), and that a person can never be treated as an object, or as a means to an end. I remember spending hours in the library, exploring and discovering this truth of humanity. The truth about me and you.
How had I managed to reduce myself to an object of attractiveness for so long? How much had I missed out on because I had lacked this true, wholistic understanding of myself, and consequently, of others, too? Learning to see myself in light of my personhood and dignity has not only transformed my ability to truly see and love myself, but my ability to love others, as well.
So how do you see yourself, sister? Where do you place your identity?
It is good that you exist. You are a person and you are good in your very being because God made you good. To reduce your personhood to your “attractiveness”, to how busy you are, to your relationships with others, or whatever it is for you, is a violence against God and His intentional creation of you.
Whenever you are feeling burnt out, discouraged or a in rut, I encourage you to take a step back and ask yourself, “am I believing the truth about my dignity and my personhood — the truth about who I am? If I’m not, what lie am I accepting about myself instead?” Look at your schedule. Outside of work, are you leaving time for prayer, for studying God’s word, and for loved ones? You are a whole person, with dignity, a multifaceted purpose and with many needs. You can take time to ensure that your schedule reflects this.
No one, including yourself, can take your personhood or dignity from you. You don’t become a dignified person the day you start believing it. You already are one. So today, choose to stand up and embrace the person — the woman — God made you. The woman you already are.
For Sisterhood and For Solidarity,
Corynne Staresinic is the Founder and Creative Director of The Catholic Woman, which is a non-profit storytelling platform with the mission to illustrate the many faces and vocations of women in the Church. They publish handwritten letters, films and interviews with Catholic women from all walks of life. Find them on Instagram @thecatholicwoman or visit thecatholicwoman.co to learn more, including how to submit your own letter.