I’ve always struggled with fitting in & feeling self-conscious when trying to make new friends. And bless! Who knew this would still be an issue even as an adult. This struggle really piqued in my life just a few years ago. I was coming out of a year where I felt like I had lost a really close friendship which left me feeling incredibly alone & hungry to feel accepted. With all those thoughts & feelings swirling around in my heart & mind, I signed up to help as a camp chaperone for my church’s youth group. I thought maybe it would be the perfect time to get to know other folks my age that were also passionate about Christ, but I walked out of that week incredibly disappointed & feeling even worse about myself.
Don’t get me wrong, God had already done SOO much work on my heart that week & I did make new friendships, but at the end of the week I was still white-knuckling the self-conscious view of myself. When I got home from serving at camp I was angry & hurt. I left the week feeling even more like I didn’t fit in, like I had been left out. With all those pent-up emotions I decided to work them out while I worked in my neglected garden (one of my most favorite “personal-therapy” spots), & that’s where God began wrestling that negative view of myself from my hands.
As I was bent double under my blueberry bushes, quickly picking week-overripened berries & thinking, I saw the defining moment in my life that set up the negative image I had of myself. I saw little 7th-grade Emily wearing the “cool-kid” clothes I had pressured my mom to get me from the local fashion overstock/discount store. I saw 7th-grade Emily walk past the lunch table where her usual friends sat, take a deep breath for confidence as she walked up to the table full of the popular crowd. She walked up, smiled, & sat down. The first day she did it, the table filled up & one of the usual cool kids walked up, realized his seat was taken, looked me in the face & asked “why are you sitting here?”. My confidence began to melt away, my shoulders slumped a little. I looked at him & said, “I just wanted to hang out.” Then everyone shifted to make space for him & no one else said a word to me that day at lunch. Little 7th-grade Emily didn’t learn, though…she came back everyday for a week. No one said a word to me the entire time. No one said anything mean but they also didn’t make me feel welcome. But little Emily learned the lesson by the end of the week. The following Monday she was found wearing her normal, non-name brand clothes, with her non-name-brand friends during lunch, feeling like a dope-wad that would never be able to fit in.
That memory, that image, is the image I’ve subconsciously had of myself ever since. The odd girl out. The girl left behind. The girl who decided to put up walls because that was easier than being made to feel left out by others.
That day, in my backyard garden, God called that Emily out.
While that memory took a whole paragraph to describe, it flashed through my mind in under a second.
I stopped what I was doing & just stared at my bushes as I heard God whisper in my heart & mind:
“You’re not that girl anymore. You’re no longer left out. I’ve made you Mine & I’ve made you for a purpose.”
In that instant the anger, hurt, & frustration I’d felt from the whole week, all the feelings of worthlessness, self-dislike, hurt over lost friendships began to melt away. Now, don’t get me wrong- I’m not saying it all disappeared permanently, but it was the moment I finally began to let go of the image of myself. It was the start of me letting my walls down. It was the beginning of me loosening my grip on my anger, on the expectations I had that others should automatically befriend me. It was the moment I began to look at myself through Christ’s eyes, with His purpose over my life.
Maybe I wasn’t made to fit in just right, but to be a little different. I decided to accept myself the way He made me & for what purpose He made me. I decided to stop trying to force friendships just because I felt like they’d make me feel accepted & instead started befriending & pouring into others who felt a little left out, a little forgotten, a little unaccepted. In that whisper, He showed me it was okay if others don’t accept me for who I am because He already has.
And to be clear, I write none of this seeking pity. I write it for freedom. I write it for mine & for yours. I write it so you know it is worth it to leave the old views of yourself behind. The girl left behind is no longer me, but rather the hurt-filled memory & the false image…the girl left behind is little 7th-grade Emily, because Christ has made me new.
I am no longer that girl.
Whatever version of yourself you see, the one that brings you down & distracts you from God’s purpose in your life, the one that acts (or is afraid to act) out of past hurts, the one that lives in shame & brokenness…that version doesn’t have to be you, either. There is so much freedom & healing in Christ, it’s just a matter of being willing & then letting Him work.
Be willing to face the hurts & haunts.
Be willing to wrestle through forgiveness- of yourself and others.
Be willing to let go of your expectations.
Be willing to surrender your vision for life in exchange for a vision that is greater, through Christ.
Be willing to stop working yourself to death to be accepted in the world when you’re already accepted by the One who created the world!
It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.
Be blessed, friends.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come! Everything is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.”– 2nd Corinthians 5:17 & 18, CSB
“Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I stand up; you understand my thoughts from far away. You observe my travels and my rest; you are aware of all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, you know all about it, Lord. You have encircled me; you have placed your hand on me.”– Psalm 139:1-5, CSB
“For it was you who created my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise you because I have been remarkably and wondrously made. Your works are wondrous, and I know this very well. My bones were not hidden from you when I was made in secret, when I was formed in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in your book and planned before a single one of them began. God, how precious your thoughts are to me; how vast their sum is! If I counted them, they would outnumber the grains of sand; when I wake up, I am still with you.”– Psalm 139: 13-18, CSB
“Peter began to speak: ‘Now I truly understand that God doesn’t show favoritism, but in every nation the person who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. He sent the message to the Israelites, proclaiming the good news of peace through Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all.'”– Acts 10:34-36, CSB
“I pray that he may grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with power in your inner being through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”– Ephesians 3:16-19, CSB
**Another great resource to help with struggles with self-image is the book, “The Search for Significance” by Robert McGee.