Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.
Oh, the years I spent trying to be something I wasn’t. An everything-is- just-fine-nothing-ever bothers me kid. A hard-charging professional. A perfect on the outside Christian wife and mother. A “meek and mild” woman. An “I’m not supposed to lead because I’m a woman so I guess I’ll just toe the line” leader.
All of these roles and masks were part of my journey but the reality is that none of them lead me to life. In fact, in their own way, each one contributed toward a message that I have carried with me since I was little—who I am wasn’t okay.
I’m somehow too much—too loud, too strong, too spirited, too _____.
And just to really jack things up more, I’m also definitely not enough—spiritual enough, not quiet enough, not domestic enough, not skinny enough, not organized enough, not-whatever-enough.
I’m supposed to be like her or him—look how spiritual, wise, strong, ______ (you fill in the blank) they are.
If only I were more…
If only I were less….
Once I change this or that about myself, then I’ll be okay.
The end result—never being fully me. And never being comfortable in my own skin. I am more convinced than ever that learning to be comfortable in our own skin, with all of who we are, is the work of our lives. And it takes practice. Tons and tons of practice.
I am 47 years old, with five children, three who are now adults, and have done a ton of healing work over the years; yet, still I struggle with just being me. It’s better than ever, but the thoughts still fly in and try to rob me of life. They tell me things like:
“If they really knew you, they will leave you.”
“They wish you were more _____ or less _______”
“You should be….”
“Why can’t you be more like ______ ” (fill in the blank of people who we see and listen to and read and admire)
I am guessing I’m not alone in some of these crazy thoughts swirling around in our heads. They are part of being human. But the comparison game will steal our hope, our peace, our security, our strength, our dreams, our passions, and our hearts if we let it. It will keep us feeling insecure in our own skin. It will rob us of relationship. It will waste precious time and energy.
One of the most sacred and spiritual acts we can engage in is not going to church or leading a ministry or landing an amazing job or making cute babies. It is learning to find safety and security in who we really are. Not who someone else is. Not who we think we should be.
But in who we are. As God’s precious creations—fearfully and wonderfully made as the Scriptures say in Psalm 139.
Accepting ourselves, really accepting ourselves, takes practice.
One of the best decisions I ever made almost six years ago was starting my blog and practice being comfortable in my own skin in a more public space. As someone who is a consummate people-pleaser, blogging initially making it even worse because I knew that my honesty was going to make all kinds of people uncomfortable. It certainly made me uncomfortable, too. I had so much anxiety about not being good enough, funny enough, theological enough, wise enough, or concise enough. Whatever “enough” it was, I wasn’t.
But something began to shift in the past several years as I continued to find my voice and become more comfortable in my own skin out here. I began to realize that the world doesn’t need another _________ or __________ or __________ (Insert name of any bloggers or leaders or women or men you are jealous of, and my guess is they are wrestling with similar feelings and go a little psycho about the same insecurities). What’s missing is me. Because everyone else is taken.
I think God wants us to learn how to become comfortable in our own skin, to be who-we-are, and not try to become someone else. And it’s also why we need each other so desperately and one of the primary reasons I am so deeply dedicated to intentional incarnational community.
I need places to practice being myself. Places to practice showing up, telling my truth, trusting God, and letting go of the outcome. Places where I can say out loud how I feel like I’m too much or not enough. Places where I can practice feeling comfortable in my own skin and being myself. Places I can help other people practice accepting themselves, too.
Life in the trenches with people has helped me see how common these hard-to-just-be-us feelings are across socioeconomics, life experiences, and every other divide. Creating little pockets of love give us safe spaces to practice. Shelovelys, my heart for all of you and for me, is that we’d keep practicing being ourselves. That we keep being ourselves and call others to be themselves, too.
After all, everyone else is taken.
Image credit: Elliot Bennett