My idea of who I should be is at war with who I am. I want to be perfect in every situation. I just do. I want to know what to do. I want to know how to do it right. And I want to do it. All. By. My. Big. Self. Not only do I want to do everything perfectly, I want to look perfect while I do it. I want to act perfect and sing perfect and have perfect teeth. I want to parent perfectly, to wife perfectly, and to have a clean house. All the time.
My solution to the disconnect between my perfect, imaginary self and my real-life self is to force life to look the way I want. Somehow. Anyhow. And so I work and I labor and I do the right thing. I stay strong when I feel weak and I fake happy when I want to cry because my ideal image has everything to do with put together and nothing to do with falling apart.
Because I care so much what you think, my hiding has everything to do with you. I desperately want to manage your opinion of me. Nearly everything I do is to convince you I am good. If I sense any hint of disbelief on your part that I am good, if it seems your opinion is other than what I wish it to be, it becomes my job to change your mind.
If you wonder what gives you the authority to define me, I will say it is because you exist. I must have worth, and it is up to you to give it to me. It doesn’t matter who you are; I want you to like me and I will hide my real self–with all of my real problems and issues and fears–so you can see what I consider to be my best.
When you mix this disorder of mine with the fact that I am a believer in Jesus, things can get very confusing. We tend to call the unbelievers lost. But this Jesus believer is in hiding. Is my experience of life any better than theirs? Freedom and victory are tossed-around concepts that I say I believe. And in front of you I know how to renounce the fear. But when I’m alone, I drink it down in gulps and gasps, like a hopeless addict returning to her vice.
If my story were a planet, then your rejection of me would be my nuclear holocaust. This fear of rejection drives me hard, eating away at my courage. And so I am cautious in my love. I am timid in my faith. My life tells a small story. I long to be seen, but I feel safe when I’m invisible.
So I stay a good girl.
And I hide.
I hide behind my smile and my laid-back personality. I hide behind fine and good. I hide behind strong and responsible. I hide behind busy and comfortable and working hard toward your expectations. And if I do not meet your expectations, I hide behind indifferent. And though the purpose of my mask is to fool you, don’t be fooled.
The energy it takes for me to live for you is killing me–to see me through your eyes, to search for myself in your face, to be sure you are pleased as it regards me. I want you to always regard me.
Please, by all means, regard me. I beg you to see me, to notice my goodness, to ignore my failure, to be inspired by my beauty, to be captivated by my essence. I want my loveliness to overwhelm you such that you cannot catch your breath.
// Grace for the Good Girl by Emily P. Freeman
I read these words & wept. I have never found such perfect words to describe the way I move every single day of my life, even my own words. I felt it pressing into my heart how much these words described me & how devastated I was that these were the words to describe me, not God’s Word. I couldn’t picture my identity being found in the Book dripping with Truth. Instead, I identify with these words more. And that stings. More than I thought it would. At first, it felt good to finally have the words to describe the feeling. And then the hurt set in.
Unfortunately, I know I’m among many to feel this way. To identify with this way of life. This hiding and good girl type of life. And maybe you do feel this way, and maybe you didn’t understand why reading this made you cry or stung or hurt your heart in the deepest parts, but that’s my theory: it’s because we find our identity in those words and people’s stamps of approval, not God. Not the One who created you to be the person you’re destined to be. Ouch.
Perfect love drives out fear.
And I still feel this way. I know all of these things about what an incredible God we serve, and I preach it constantly, but I still struggle with this feeling. This feeling of not being worthy enough. I strive for that stamp of approval & when I get it, I wonder what more I can do. What else can I do to please you? Please, tell me, and I will do it. How exhausting is that? How horrible is it to live a life of pleasing person to person and draining yourself and yearning to meet your Maker but never actually living a life striving to please Him? Something that I’m passionate about & believe with every ounce of my being is that 99.9999999% of His children are worthy of love from the God of the universe. However, many times, I place myself in that 0.0000001% of people who are not worthy, when actually that number should read 100%. I don’t know why I do it. I can wake up and look in the mirror and say, “Jenna, you are worthy of love.” Or I can be down on myself during the day and stop to remind myself, “Jenna, you are worthy of love.” Or I can say a prayer when I lie down at night and I can tell myself, no matter how many times I screwed up that day, “Jenna, you are worthy of love.” And I still don’t believe it.
Sometimes I like to distract myself & tell myself I don’t feel this way, but when I evaluate my heart on a daily basis, I know this is what I feel deep down. That’s why I still make the same mistakes or form habits or make bad decisions. Because, deep down, I think I’m not worthy enough. Many times, the thoughts are, “So much of this love could go towards someone else, so don’t waste it on me. I will only disappoint.” These words sting to write. I never thought I could write something this honest & heartbreaking, but here it is.
This way of thinking is awful & debilitating & draining, but it’s a constant cycle. Like a hamster wheel you’re not sure how to get off of. That’s how I feel.
But usually I’m able to quiet that voice with coffee dates and to-do lists and constantly go go going and other people’s voices. That is the only nice thing.
And I’m sitting here trying to think of how to wrap this post up because I know that none of these things are good. I get that, and I think because I’m still in it, I don’t know how to think outside of it. That is the honest truth.
But for now, I will continue to take this one breath at a time because that’s all I know how to do. I’ve spent some time talking to some dear friends about this, and I think I’m not the only one to ever feel this way. And for some reason, it is extremely comforting to know that you can be lost with other people. It is horrible to be lost, but that means that you have the ability to be found, and that is good news. That is His promise.
“For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” // Luke 15:24
So let’s figure this out. Together. You and me. We’re going to figure out why we’re the people pleasers. The striving to be difference makers. The pain of falling short. We’re going to figure out why we try so badly to place our identity in earthly things & still wonder why we hurt so much. We’re going to figure out why why why we always do what people want us to do & still wonder why we’re unhappy. We’re going to begin to place our hope (every single bit of it) in Christ. We’re going to find ourselves in Christ. You can’t do this halfheartedly. We have to go all in. If you want to know what a life with Christ is like, you have to start living it. There is no planning or prep work. There is no to-do list. There is no rear-view-mirror glancing. There is no cleaning ourselves up. None of that. He loves us dirty & heartbroken & disheveled. You can’t dip your toes in the water & “try out” trusting Jesus. Maybe we don’t word it like that, but admittedly, that is exactly what we do. We expect & test & lean into promises we have created ourselves. We’ve done it all wrong. It’s time to take our eyes off of the idols. There is only fixing our eyes on the One who created us to be. So let’s do it. Let’s figure this out together.