Stacey discusses three important tools we can take for us to start our journey for healing as we struggle with self-worth. She shares her personal story and experiences in her own battle of self-love and how through it all, God never left her and always assured her of His love.
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“You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride; you have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace. ”Song of Songs 4:9
- Stacey begins by describing issues she had with not feeling like she was good enough. She realized that she is good enough because in God’s eyes she is precious and valued. Have you ever felt that you are not good enough? Have you ever felt insecure and unworthy of God’s love? If so, take a moment to reflect on the verse above and know that you are loved.
- Next, Stacey offers tools or methods for this concept to, “Take root, then bear fruit”. Which is that if you grow “roots” that are deeply rooted in faith that your faith in God will bear fruit in your life. Her first suggestion is to spend some time reading the Bible. She shares that reading scripture helps her to understand that God is personally interested in us. This Advent, make some time to read the Bible and meditate on the readings.
- Another way to build up and maintain these strong beliefs is to find friends who are going to build you up. Sometimes it is really hard to find good friends. If this is your situation, pray to the Holy Spirit and ask for God to send you the friend that you need at this time. Friends can help you grow and learn more about your faith.
- An interesting way that you can take advantage of nourishing yourself with deep roots is retraining your brain to think more positively instead of with a negative train of thought. If this applies to you, you could begin by saying, “God, I’m addicted to this thought. I cannot save myself. Please step in. Please take this away from me.” You can live the life that God has in mind for you if you allow Him to direct your thoughts.
- The last tool that Stacey shared is to empower you to not be afraid to seek counseling. If you are feeling anxiety on a daily basis, if you’re comparing yourself to others, if you have depression or an eating disorder, please, please seek professional help. God’s given us these tools, and there is no shame in making use of them.
Text: Reclaiming Your Identity, Part II
My name is Stacey Sumereau. Thank you so much for joining me on this Pray More Novenas Advent Retreat. Today, we’ll be talking about self-image and selfworth. Please join me in a prayer.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Jesus, beloved of our hearts, we invite You into this place with us today. We invite You to be here and to show us the depth of Your love for us. Please open our minds in new ways to understand how much You love us. Please help us to love You more. Help us to be more generous with ourselves, with others, and with You. Please inspire our hearts and our minds with truth. God, we love You so much. We thank You so much for the opportunity to live another day in Your love. Thank You. Amen. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We are God’s Beloved
In the previous talk, we discussed how we are the Imago Dei. We are made in the image and likeness of God, and we are His children. There’s another very important aspect to our identity that I want to dive into today, which is that we are God’s beloved. Now, my husband and I were dating for a few months before we got engaged, and during our time of courtship my husband started writing me poetry, and I loved receiving each beautiful poem. Not only is he a talented writer, but what that showed me was that he had taken time to meditate on me, to think about how I made him feel, to think about the things that he loved about me, to take delight in me, and then to take it all and to recollect and to arrange it in a way that was so beautiful, and to give it back to me as a gift.
There’s so much about my husband’s love that has been reflected to me about God’s love. And no matter where you are in your human relationships – if you have a strong relationship, if you are a celibate person in religious life, if you’re single – whatever you are, the beautiful thing is that God writes us love poetry. He really does. He’s adoring us, He’s meditating on us, and He writes us love poetry, which we can easily access in any bible through the Song of Solomon.
Now, this had a very special significance in my life before I ever even met my husband. In the last video, I shared that I was on Broadway tours, my career was going very well. I booked The Wizard of Oz National Tour, so I traveled to 70 different cities in North America performing as a flying munchkin as Glinda’s understudy – I’m sorry, a flying monkey – Glinda’s understudy, and the Mayoress of MunchkinLand. So I had a fellow munchkin on the tour with me, her name was Anna – she was in The Lullaby League – and we used to read the bible together, go to church together.
And at the time, I was still struggling with all of these false beliefs. My paradigms were incorrect; I was operating from the assumption that I wasn’t good enough unless I looked a certain way, and those assumptions were crushing me. And through the friendship with Anna, I started to see the light of a new reality. I started to understand that something in me needed to shift, and that the price tag I had for my self-worth was far too high. That I didn’t want to be miserable the rest of my life. I actually wanted to eat healthy and to exercise, but to maintain a balance. But I was so scared to walk away from these beliefs that had held me captive for so long because I didn’t know what was waiting for me on the other side.
And one day, as I was talking to Anna about all these voices in my head, the little judge that was always in there saying “You’re not good enough, you’ll never be good enough,” all these condemning voices in my head, we sat on the bus and she leaned over a few minutes later and she said “Stacy, sometimes the Holy Spirit gives me verses to tell people, and He just gave me this one for you.” And she opened her bible and pointed to Song of Songs, chapter 4, verse 9. And that verse reads: You have stolen My heart, My sister, My bride; you have stolen My heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace. Hearing that love poetry from God was like light breaking through the clouds in my heart. I finally understood that I’m good enough, not because of anything I do or don’t do, not because of how I look, or what I weight, or my accomplishments, or my career, but simply because I am God’s beloved.
Now, I don’t know what hearing those words does for you. Perhaps you’re sitting there doing an ugly cry. Perhaps you’re thinking “Well, that’s nice for her, but that doesn’t really move me. That can’t really apply to me. Well, let me tell you, God gave me this beautiful mountaintop moment in a way that reached me in that moment, and I can guarantee that He wants to reach you. So just go to Him, put your little vulnerable heart in His hands, and say “What do You have for me? Who am I to You? What do You say of me?” Because He knows how to reach you in a way that you will understand, and He knows how to get through to you. And trust me, He wants to.
The Sacrifice of Christ
Now, one of the other beautiful things about being someone’s beloved is that there’s romance in the relationship. Now, we can associate romance with a lot of different things – flowers, and chocolates – and, believe me, Christ has sent me my fair share of all of those beautiful, loving things. At different points I was just seeing hearts everywhere without trying to, and they were little reminders of His love, whether that be just a shape on the wall, or something on my shoe. Like, I would just see hearts everywhere, and it was at a time when I really needed to know God’s love for me, and He just kept sending me these little signs. But the most romantic thing that I can think of is sacrificing for the one that you love.
Now, as I mentioned, I was a Broadway actress, I was touring with The Wizard of Oz, and I also toured with another show, Beauty and the Beast, which you may be familiar with. “A tale as old as time, true as it can be,” etc. etc. Another time I’ll do my Angela Lansbury impression for you. But I was on the show and touring around the United States and Canada once again, and I never got tired of that show. And every night it would bring tears to my eye when the Beast died for Belle. Now, you see him at the beginning, and he learns slowly to love. Belle, who is lovely and wonderful, teaches him what love is. And slowly the Beast warms up, he becomes polite, then he starts making sacrifices in small ways and then, finally, he offers his life as the ultimate sacrifice for his beloved. And what’s so beautiful is that, at that point in their relationship, Belle had never told the Beast that she loved him. She had never reciprocated his love, and yet he knew without a doubt that he loved her so much that he would rather give his life to save her.
And what’s so beautiful about our faith is that it teaches us that Christ, before we ever had an opportunity to say “Jesus, I love You,” Christ has already made that sacrifice for us, and that He, as our beloved, is hoping that we will reciprocate, but that He loves us so much that He gives us the choice. And He already won the battle, He’s already pursued us. He is still pursuing us today. Through every single Mass, every single communion that you receive, that is God’s affirmation that we are worth dying for, that we are lovable and worth loving.
Take Root, then Bear Fruit
Now, as I started to realize this in my own life, my paradigm started to shift. And I know, I know that one beautiful mountaintop moment is not enough to shake a lifetime of hurt and wounds, and I’m going to talk about that, about how to be released in a real way from all of these judges inside of our heads, these unhealthy, untrue paradigms. So there’s a very simple concept that I want to introduce because, let me tell you, we have to be on the defense, because the world’s never going to come to us and apologize, and say “I’m so sorry that I’ve been telling you the wrong things about yourself this whole time.” That person you’re comparing yourself to on Instagram is never going to come back and say “You know what? I’m so sorry that I look really good in those pictures, and, you know, my bad.” It’s not going to happen. So we have to retrain our brains to actually think in a way that aligns with truth, in a way that helps us to live out of our belovedness and out of our identity as children of God.
So there’s a very simple concept, which is “Take root, then bear fruit.” My husband and I became homeowners this summer. We were very fortunate to inherit a lovely house, including a vegetable plot full of catnip which, frankly, I had no desire for. So I was ripping up the catnip at the end of the season, and what I was amazed by was that, much as there were many stalks above the ground, there were many, many more stalks below, many more roots below the ground. There was a whole network of roots that you would never know were there. These roots had spent so much time slowly growing, plunging themselves into nutrients in the soil, gathering the water, rooting these plants so that even if a storm came they would still have the ability to regrow. They wouldn’t be damaged.
Now, the soil in this analogy is the word of God. Plunging our roots down into the soil and staying rooted there is going to help us grow tall above the soil and bear fruit. But we cannot do that without strong roots, because we are living in a society where it’s threatening to our identity.
So here’s a couple of ways in which you can take root. One of them is just reading the bible, just spend time reading the word of God. What that does for me, when I spend 20 or 30 minutes reading and meditating on the bible, is it puts me into a place of security in the faithfulness and the love of God, because I see, I watch Him leading Israelites out of Egypt, working all these signs and wonders, and it helps me really believe and understand that yes, God is who He says He is, and yes, He can do for you what He says He is going to do.
Reading Psalms, and Proverbs, and the New Testament, and the love of Christ helps me to understand that God is very personally interested in me. And what’s so good about reading it too is that it sits in my mind the rest of the day, it percolates, it really helps me build a strong spiritual life. It’s not just church, Stacey, and then Stacey the rest of the week. It filters through into the rest of my life and into my decisions. So let the word of God be the thing that is sitting in your mind, not your Instagram or Facebook feed.
Another way to build up and maintain these strong beliefs is to find friends, find your friends who are going to build you up. And I know sometimes it’s really hard, I talk to people all the time who say that they have a hard time finding community. But just pray to the Holy Spirit, say “You made me, You know what I need. Please bring me whatever friend that You want me to have in this time.” For me in my life, that was Anna. In that season of my life where I was struggling with selfworth, she encouraged me. She wouldn’t be the kind of person to sit around and gossip about other people, or to just unnecessarily say negative things for no reason at all; she was the kind of person who encouraged me and everyone around her. And she and I still Skype every week even though we live in Calgary, or she lives in Calgary and we live in Virginia.
Another way that you can take advantage of really nourishing yourself with these deep roots is just retraining your brain. Now, this is not easy, it takes time, but it can be done, I promise you. So I was introduced to a book called My stroke of insight by a woman named Jill Bolte Taylor, and she talked about how she had struggled for so many years with self-doubt, negative self-talk – just like I had – and she discusses how, when she had a stroke, she lost one half of her brain. And in those few hours, she lost her ability to read, and to write, and to spell, and to do math. But what she was left with was the side of her brain that was artistic, which fully appreciated the world, fully saw life and herself and everyone else for what they are, which is beautiful, made in God’s image.
And what she retrained her brain to do, was she built up her ability to speak, read, and write, but she didn’t rebuild those negative circuits of thoughts. The way it works is that our thoughts run around in our head like little trains. You’ve heard the expression, “Train of thought.” And what we have the choice to do is to get on a train of thought, or to step off of it. And for me in my own life, operating from the false paradigms that I had for years, I had become so addicted to getting on those negative trains of thought. They had been so strengthened in my brain that they would go around and around uncontrollably. So after I read this book, My Stroke of Insight, I decided that I was going to weaken, break down, and make those negative trains of thoughts just disappear totally, and that was very, very difficult. It took me about a month to start seeing results, and then about six months for it to fully work. But I promise you it can be done.
So let’s say I wasn’t super proud of my audition, and I came home to my apartment and I was thinking about how it could have gone so much better, and why did I freeze up in the moment. And those negative trains of thought started pulling right up at the station saying “You should give up, because you’re never going to be good enough, you’re never going to achieve your dreams. You should just stop now. What are you doing? You’re not lovable, you’re not good.”
So in that moment, I did what everyone in Alcoholics Anonymous does, which is to surrender yourself to God, surrender yourself to your higher power and say “God, I’m addicted to this thought. I cannot save myself. Please step in. Please take this away from me.” And, you know, what’s beautiful, is that He did, every single time. When I really, truly wanted God to be there for me, He was. And what it showed me is that He wants to be my savior, and He wants to be with me in all of those moments when I am struggling. And it helped to build my trust with Him, to a point where I understood that “Yes, God is truly interested in me. I truly am His beloved, and I truly am His daughter.” And you can do it too. You can have the courage to step out and live in a way that is counter-cultural. You can be content with the body and the life that you were given without needing to have excessive money, or to have somebody else’s life, or somebody’s else’s body. You don’t have to make excuses about those things anymore. You can reach out and live the life that God has in mind for you if you allow Him to direct your thoughts. So don’t be afraid to start today retraining your brain if you struggle with self-worth.
It Doesn’t Make You Weak to Seek Help
The last tool I want to put in your toolbox is I want to empower you to not be afraid to seek counselling. I did not go to counselling at the time I was going through my eating disorder. But knowing what I know about it now, I wish I had, because it could have saved me years of anxiety, it could have given me tools that would help me to operate from more true paradigms. I have gone to counselling in recent years for post-partum depression, when I was suffering from that, and the help that it gave me I cannot even begin to describe. So I just want to encourage you that it doesn’t make you weak to seek help, it makes you strong. If you are feeling anxiety on a daily basis, if you’re comparing yourself to others, if you have depression or an eating disorder, please, please seek professional help. God’s given us these tools, and there is no shame in making use of them. You can only gain by investing in yourself, in your future happiness this way.
So please know that my prayer is for you. I’m praying for you, for everyone who struggles to know their own worth and their dignity, and let’s close now in a prayer.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit Amen. Jesus, our beloved, thank You for coming to us today. Lord, please win our hearts. Please break through the noise with beautiful clarity and Your beautiful truth. Lord, we entrust ourselves to You. We give ourselves to You fully. Blessed Mother, we ask for your help on our journey. Please bring us to a place of truth, of realization, of generosity, of grace, of goodness. Jesus, thank You for Your love for us, thank You for Your sacrifice for us, and thank You for coming into the world for us this Christmas. Amen. Thank you, and may God bless you now and always.
About Stacey Sumereau
Stacey Sumereau was a touring Broadway singer and dancer in classic hit shows The Wizard of Oz and Beauty and the Beast. Stacey toured 43 States and nearly every province of Canada before discovering that God was calling her away from the competitive world of theatre. She was sought by cameras to be featured on the Reality TV Show The Sisterhood: Becoming Nuns as one of five young women discerning a religious vocation. Although she discerned that God was calling her to marriage and motherhood, Stacey’s discernment experience sparked a call to encourage other young people to let God guide their life choices and to live out of their God-given dignity.
Stacey uses her unique talents of singing, humorous storytelling, and even fire-eating! She has spoken at the National Catholic Youth Conference, the LA Religious Education Congress, and dioceses and parishes across the Country. She hosts the popular Catholic podcast Called and Caffeinated. You can find her online at staceysumereau.com, and on social media @staceysumereau.