Be Yourself, Everyone Else Is Taken

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A_Kathy-750A few years ago I came across an Oscar Wilde quote that has remained with me. He says, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

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

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Kathy Escobar
Kathy Escobar co-pastors The Refuge, an eclectic faith community in North Denver dedicated to those on the margins of life and faith. She blogs regularly about life and faith at kathyescobar.com and is the author of Down We Go--Living out the Wild Ways of Jesus in Action. She lives in Arvada, Colorado with her husband, Jose, and five kids. Her most recent book Faith Shift can be found on Amazon.com
Kathy Escobar

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  • I don’t think we can ever hear this message enough – that we are enough. It can be a hard thing to learn, or maybe to accept, but as you said, there is safety and security in knowing our true authentic selves. The one only we can be. Thank you Kathy. I always enjoy your posts.

  • Kerry Connelly

    Thank you for this, Kathy! This is a topic that’s been on my heart for some time. I’m 44, and have been mourning my 30’s for some time. It’s only recently that I’ve realized the joy of being in my 40’s is that I’ve started to embrace the things I’m good at without apologizing for them, and to accept the things I stink at without apologizing for them. Truth in my creativity has begun to trump people pleasing. And this willingness to be honest — finally — has created more space in my heart, in my relationships, in my love of God. Thank you so much for this message….we need the confirmation consistently if it’s to really sink in. Please…keep going!

  • Julie-Anne Mauno

    Kathy, wow! Tears of gratitude for your words and message today. I burned out trying to be all kinds of things I thought I should be. I looked for value in doing, having lots of babies, whatever I thought would make me more worthy of God’s love and other’s approval. Until one day I was making soup and God whispered to me: “you are already enough!” It was the beginning of this crazy journey of learning to be myself, freedom from doing and expectations, and courage to share my gifts with the world. I have a blog that is set up but collects dust because I am still afraid to be myself and share my story. I’m so, so thankful for your words and how God is using places like SheLoves to nudge me to write again, to have the courage to be myself and use my gifts. Most of all, the message of SheLoves-to be a woman who loves-has redirected my pain and healing in a beautiful direction. Thank you so much!

  • Wow, what a great post. This resonated with me deep. I’ve been really struggling with “Who I am” vs. the expectations of what people want me to be. Now if I could just find those “places” and be brave enough to do just that.

  • This resonated with me. I do compare myself to other, seemingly more successful people. I need to own my place and be proud of my contributions. Thank you for this reminder.

  • cjdeboer

    Great post, Kathy. Thank you! I think one of our biggest challenges as women is to just be ourselves–the bar is set so high for us by society. But love and authenticity are the key to releasing that pressure and allowing ourselves to just BE.

  • abby

    I have never heard that quote before, but it will echo in the halls of my mind forever. I love it!

  • Bev Murrill

    Fantastic post! And don’t we all know that this is the only way to being satisfied… I love the quote and I love the willingness you always express when you show us some of your heart and more of yourself. Love it!

  • pastordt

    PERFECTION!!! I LOVE THIS. Thanks so much, Kathy. This is such important truth, really central to living the gospel life, the life of wholeness for which we were designed. Thank you for your usual lovely clarity and emphasis. Way too many years with the ‘too much-not enough’ syndrome under this belt, too, my friend. But I see you for who you are . . . and I’m beginning to see myself that way, too. Thanks for this encouragement.

  • Pingback: rest, sheloves, blogs, faith shifts & summer. | kathy escobar.()

  • Danielle Shaub

    “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. ” This is exactly what I needed to hear today! Thank you!

  • little pockets of love—we all need those!
    It’s true, God doesn’t want to us to become someone else, but so often we strive to be like “that” person, because we’re attracted to their gifts, their writing, their way of doing things, etc. Wonderful words for today.

  • sandyhay

    You got this younger than I did Kathy. We’re in those trenches with you. Keep going !!!

  • Holly

    Oh how I pray that SheLoves will always be one of those places where we can “practice being [our]selves.”
    A “pocket of love”.
    Somewhere safe where even just showing up is the bravest thing we ever do.
    Thank you, Kathy, for showing us the way to becoming our fearful and wonderful selves.

  • Katie Richardson

    Oh, Kathy. How I love your words, honesty, and the encouragement to be myself. This last year has been journey of practicing, in a new and deeper way, of doing just that – being myself. The more I learn to make space for myself, the more I realize that I want to be that space for others to practice being themselves too. I’m so thankful for SheLoves and the other safe pockets I’ve found for being me.

  • Jaimee Ramage

    I just stumbled upon this blog today and this is exactly what I have been contemplating this week! It’s so great to come across someone who has put into beautiful words just exactly what I have been churning over x

  • Stacy

    Oh yes, this. 🙂 Learning to be comfortable in my skin has meant a deep discovery in the bowels of *who* is even in said skin. Changes that hurt, indeed. But looking back on this last huge chunk of time, it is clear that there has been no how to book, or workshop. It is the time spent in community, around other people with their own trying to be comfortable in their skin, that *is* the classroom. Grateful for fellow learners, too. Thanks for being such a great wounded healer. (Still hoping for a magic balm instead, but have stopped holding my breath.) #ifonly

  • Kande Koogle

    Kathy, thank you. As one who is VERY often perceived as too much by voices from the outside of me and not enough from the voices inside of me, this resonates. I’ll borrow a bit of your courage today and be a little bit more “me.” (By the way, I am hoping you know your neighbor, Jay Pathak at Mile High Vineyard. He is all kinds of wonderful!)

  • Jule B

    timely topic! I grew up learning to people please everyone else to, literally, survive. I had to be a chameleon and change colors and roles with each person just to ensure I would be safe… today, God has healed me deep in my soul to where I am loving myself and who I am becoming authentically and genuinely. I can only be me b/c everyone else IS taken … but I am a terrible copy definitely … it just wasn’t how I was wired so I am going against my God-ordained creation and destiny … oh to have learned this earlier in my life …. lol

  • Carolynne Melnyk

    Kathy, wow this spoke to me. For a few years now I have been practising being me. It was always easier when I lived overseas but now that I am back in my homeland…not so easy. Then I started to blog and having to find my voice once again. This has given me encouragement. Thank you!

  • This is simply beautiful. And so encouraging. I especially loved this paragraph:
    “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.”
    So true. Thank you!