Self Discovery and Lists - New York Times Bestselling Author, J. Sterling

Self Discovery and Lists

I am on a journey right now. It's true. I'm on a serious journey of self-discovery where I am desperately trying to clear out all the negative crap in my life. It's funny because if you know me at all, then the last thing you'd ever associate me with is the word negative.

I am not a negative person.

But things in my life lately have sent me down a path where I'm being forced to look within myself- I mean REALLY look within myself. I want to break old cycles and put a stop to the patterns that have become so normal to me I don't even see them anymore.

Are you with me at all or am I totally speaking jibberish here? lol

Alright, example time... let's just go straight for the gusto- right to the heart- and talk about love (again). I've never been the type of person to think that I was really messed up when it came to love and relationships. Don't get me wrong, I knew I wasn't perfect, but it's like I never took the time to see the things that really affected me, my choices, my decisions and how certain behaviors made me feel or why they made me feel certain ways. Basically, when you fall in love with someone it brings out a lot of fears. Falling in love makes you feel vulnerable and if you're anything like me, feeling vulnerable is very foreign and super uncomfortable. You fight against it. But have you ever wondered why?

This past weekend, I sat down with a notepad and started writing a list. To be honest, the first list I made was in regards to my books and the themes that recurred within them. I realize that I wrote all the stories in my novels, but it was still interesting to me to see the things that I wrote about over and over and over again. It was like I channeled some deep hurt from within me and I was trying to get over it by writing it out in different ways or something?! I'm not entirely sure, but the messages and themes were clear.

I tend to write a lot about guys messing up, screwing up, doing the "wrong" things for what they think are the "right" reasons, keeping their feelings to themselves and shutting the girl out, leaving the main girl in the story (God, my guys ALWAYS seem to leave- abandonment issues anyone?), and then **SPOILER ALERT** the guys always come back, they right their wrongs, make grand gestures to prove their love, admit where they screwed up and the couple lives happily ever after- after she forgives him of course- because forgiveness is key and he absolutely refuses to quit on her.

So I read over that list a couple of times and I started breaking down my feelings about love and relationships. Why did I continually write these specific actions and themes in my books? Where were they coming from? Before I knew it, I was making another list. And this one hurt to write. Because I was trying to figure out my authentic feelings about love and my own worthiness, or lack thereof.

Look, I know we all have fears when it comes to romantic love. The greater the love grows, the greater the fear of losing that love becomes. We all have issues. We all have baggage. But we don't always realize just how heavy that baggage has become because we're so used to carrying it. Our emotional scars become a part of us that we simply expect whoever loves us to accept them, instead of trying to work through or resolve them if possible.

This new list horrified and surprised me, but I wrote it all down anyway. If it entered into my thoughts, I put it on paper. You must understand that I do not see myself as a weak person. I do not consider myself a victim of any kind. And I would never choose to think of myself as someone who wasn't "worthy" of real love or true happiness. Ever. (I think i'm awesome and should have all the awesome things in the world. lol)

But holy shit you guys, I think I figured out that somewhere deep down inside of me, there was this belief that I wasn't worth fighting for. I believed that I wasn't worth sticking around for- that I would truly never be enough for someone. Somewhere along the line of my life, I had accepted as fact that anyone who loved me would eventually leave me. That whatever words they had told me throughout our time together would cease to matter or hold any weight because their actions would say everything. My list was long, filled with short sentences that were truly eye opening. Did I really believe that I didn't deserve to be happy?

It was on the list.
I had written it down.
Who the hell doesn't deserve to be happy???

I didn't even realize that I'd been crying the whole time I was writing that list until I finished writing it.

I sat there for a little while longer, reading over the list and asking myself where those feelings had come from? I wanted answers. I mean, if I was going to do this kind of work, I wanted it all figured out so I could fix it. I'm super patient. lol  But really- why did I not feel worthy of the fight? Why was I so convinced everyone would eventually leave me? I got my answers pretty quickly. I discovered exactly where the feelings had come from initially and how they had been reiterated throughout my life so many times that I started to believe them, simply accepted them as fact instead of a possibility.

I couldn't stop thinking about how gratifying it was that I had done the work to see these things within myself, but I hated that they were sitting there on paper, like they were the bullet points to who I was as a person. I didn't want this list to define me. I didn't want this list to define my heart. I didn't want this list to define my thoughts, my beliefs or my feelings about myself. Everything on it was so negative. There was nothing self loving on that list. Not a single thing. It was all woe is me, no one loves me, no one stays, no one fights for me, i'm not worthy, i'm not deserving, etc etc. And when I read it again later that night, it bothered me. It bothered me so much that I knew what I needed to do.....

I flipped it!
I flipped the script!

I took that piece of paper and I ripped it out of my notebook. And I wrote the exact opposite on another list. I even gave it a title: "Positive Affirmations in Self Love." And that list said things like I am worth staying for. I am worth fighting for. I am deserving of true happiness and authentic love. I give myself permission to give and receive love. And as I wrote down each thing, I did it with a smile on my face. I couldn't stop smiling. This felt so right! This is how I wanted to see myself when it came to love, relationships and my place in them! This is how I wanted to live my life!

I set the original negative list on fire and I watched as the ashes flew away into the night, hopefully letting them go for good.

I'm not sure why I felt so compelled to share this with all of you. To be honest, this is a really personal journey that I'm on and admitting to anyone (especially myself) that I didn't feel worthy of anything is weird for me because I truly try not to see myself in ways that aren't positive and loving- but like I said in the beginning, I think our baggage becomes a part of us that we don't recognize we're carrying it anymore. Maybe I just hoped that if any of you are going through the same kind of thing, you could relate? Or maybe my list idea might spark an idea of your own?

Would love to hear your thoughts or if you think i'm crazy in the comments. Be gentle though, apparently i'm sensitive.  lol  :)



  1. Anonymous5:22 PM

    You are not crazy. We kittens love you and are always here for you.

  2. Jen,

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this. I often feel this way, where negative thoughts take over my mind. Where my scars from the past feel like they are ripped open, but I also know that because of those scars, those fears, I am who I am today. I might be scarred but I am far from broken, I am worth being loved. So are you. Always remember that. You are an amazing, talented woman.

  3. Anonymous10:33 PM

    Sometimes we think that we are on this page of our lives because we deserve it. But let's not forget that there could be something greater in store for you. We love you, Jenn!

  4. I agree that you are definitely not crazy. When I went to marriage counseling with Guy when we had our rough patch a lot of things came out that helped us heal and move forward. It still took some time and I still have to push him to communicate when he tries to clam up. I don't want us going back down that road where he thinks it is right to go talk to someone else and then let it become something more when he knows that isn't right. You remember everything I went through so I don't need to explain. Love you Jenn.

  5. Misty Dawn10:05 PM

    Thank you Jenn! Not only did this resonate so strongly,the timing of you writing this and me finding it is beyond perfect,I lost my father it will be a year in April which coincidentally in a April I'm about to turn 39,I've been in an on again off again relationship for almost 10yrs,he's in the military and always deploying and life is always pulling us in different directions but ultimately he has never fought for me or for us and I couldn't figure out why I kept accepting that and never asking for or searching for more,i swore it was because I'd already lost too much this past year with my mom almost dying twice,watching my dad die and 9 years ago I lost my baby brother,then I told myself it was because I was too old to be starting the dating game again or that he and I had been together too long to just throw away that much history,but ultimately Ive come to conclusions similar to yours,I don't feel worthy of fighting for,of sticking for,I expect everyone to leave,thank you for letting me know I'm not alone in this scary journey and maybe this can be a book you write for all of us at some point?!