Investing in relationships with myself and others

This Free to Spiel guest feature has been written by Christal VanEtten, founder of ‘The Superghoul’ (@youglowghoul on Instagram). In the feature, Christal discusses the impact that a military upbringing had upon her identity, and how walking away from a particularly unhealthy relationship led to a self-discovery journey that continues to this day!


“I never knew who I was”

My name is Christal and I’m a content creator and digital marketing manager. I’m a third culture kid, born in Yokosuka, Japan and raised on bases as the daughter of a Marine. I was an only child, a sheltered one at that.

I considered myself lucky though. Most of the military families moved every two years – away from Japan – but I was able to spend most of my developmental years there and call it home. I think this constant change made it difficult for me to want to invest in relationships, as everything felt short-lived. In-turn, I developed a constantly-active sense of belonging and would adapt to different social situations.

Because of this, I never knew who I was.

I never gave myself the chance to come into my own (personality, style – the works). This put me in various roles on the spectrum of people: I’ve been a bully, I’ve made friendships toxic, I’ve experienced a significant loss, and I’ve been in relationships that were abusive to me.


“I’ve grown more with each year that passes”

I’m both terrified and inspired by the self-reflection that constantly replays in my mind.

It wasn’t until age 19 that I became capable of doing perspective checks and processing experiences – both good and bad. I’ve grown more with each year that passes, and now I’m understanding how important it is to be authentic, compassionate and empathetic…and so much more. Of course I’m still learning, but I don’t recognize the girl I was when I was 16, or the woman I was at 22.

The turning point was being in a relationship that was incredibly unhealthy – I knew that if I stayed, then the cycle of pain, forgiveness, and exhaustion would continue. At one point, overwhelmed and tired of it all, I put my foot down and moved on. It felt like I could breathe again and the possibilities felt endless. I told myself that if I could get through what I just did, then things would only go up from there, to new heights. 

My main piece of advice is: try your best not to camp out in shame of your past selves. The person you were in the past is the reason why you’re where you are now, and the person you’re becoming is only going to take you further. If this is something you struggle with, then I recommend getting a self-care or self-love journal. The experience is awkward at first, but you’ll be amazed by the impact of this kind of self-reflecting.


Thank you Christal, for sharing your story! Readers can connect with the author via Instagram (@youglowghoul).

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