From Melissa’s blog, published January 15, 2021. We thought this was such a timely post, as we focus this month on self-worth and self-love. Survivor or not, we’re suspecting you can relate to this. We hope you’re encouraged by it. And as always, if you’re a survivor, we’d love to help you “be real.”

”You become. It takes a long time…Generally, by the time you’re Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all..”

A friend posted this photo recently on FB, and it hit me with all the feels. 

My mind immediately flashed back to when I sat in a children’s theatre performance of the Velveteen Rabbit with Olivia when she was four years old, and I sobbed my way through it. Although it’s an emotionally wrenching story with the boy’s illness, what strikes most of us, of course, is the Velveteen Rabbit’s journey to “being real,” to being loved. 

The girls and I tend to read this book every Christmas, but I honestly hadn’t thought much of it outside of the context of the theatre and reading it with them until this popped up on Facebook and hit me straight in the heart.

We’re all like the Velveteen rabbit. In retrospect, that’s what struck me so much in the theatre performance—I could relate. We all want to become real, we all want to be loved. I look back upon my life and can see that although my adoptive parents loved me unconditionally, as did so many other family members and friends, I so much wanted to become real to others. I wanted so badly to be loved by them that I lost sight of who I am, who God made me to be, what He was calling on me to do in those late teen and early adulthood years. I let myself be walked all over, trampled on, really, by people in my life, friends and boyfriends, who professed their love and care for me, but rarely showed it in deed.  Although it was up to me to place boundaries with them to protect myself and demand more and better from them, it was really their own issues that prevented them from being able to love me, to help me in becoming “real.” When you’re young, though, it’s hard to not see yourself as the problem. Somehow, you must not be real, ie, “lovable” enough if they can’t love you. And so that cycle spins, right? You try harder and harder to be a person who you think they could love, while becoming less and less “real” to who you really are. 

It’s a bit of a dilemma. We all want to be real, to be loved until our “eyes drop off and joints become loose,” but, in order to become real through being loved, we have to be real with others. Of course, you can’t really be real unless you trust someone enough to let your guard down and be yourself, ie, be real. (I honestly don’t think I’ve typed the word real so many times EVER). Therein lies the dilemma, right? 

How do we get to the point where we can safely be “real” with others, while allowing them to love us into being real? It’s a simultaneous process. 

Of course, surrounding ourselves with people who will love the real us, unconditionally, is key. But allowing ourselves to be the truest version of ourselves is probably an even harder task as we build trust with people. When you’ve been unloved, made to feel like you shouldn’t be real, it’s hard to trust someone will love you into being real. 

But trust, you must. Little steps will get you there—we shouldn’t trust someone with the most personal parts of our lives right away, but we can spend time with them, get to know them, allow them to get to know us. That’s what builds that trust. As trust builds, then we can be more real with deeper and deeper layers of who we are. We can be our real selves, yet maintain boundaries with people throughout this process. If people overstep your boundaries, then it’s important to reevaluate whether they’re someone who will love you into being real, what role they will play in your life. 

I’m at a point in my life where I feel more “real,” more sure of who I am, more true to who I was created to be, more than ever. Those gray hairs that have been cropping up at the crown of my head are a bit like the Velveteen Rabbit’s worn out fur. My eyes may not be dropping out, but I do have wrinkles at the corner of my eyes when I smile. I may not look shabby and worn out, but I can tell you that I’m very well loved at this stage in my life—by my husband and daughters, our families, friends, colleagues and people that I meet around the world. And you know what…I wouldn’t give up being a little worn out around the edges for anything. How about you?

Which stage of the Velveteen Rabbit’s life do you find yourself in right now? Are you still looking and feeling pretty new but a little lacking and love and realness to who you are? Are you in the process of being made real, and your stitches are starting to stretch a bit? Are you so real, authentically you, so loved that you’re stuffing is falling out? (Maybe that’s where that belly bulge of mine comes from the older I get—it’s my stuffing being squeezed out from love!)

We all deserve to become. Become real.