My biggest fear since I started college has been disappointing both myself and others. However, over the past couple of weeks, I have endured a rough situation that has helped me overcome that fear. As a kid, I was a rare breed: I loved second-hand dolls and stuffed animals better than the newest Polly Pockets or Beanie Babies––but why? A bear with a missing eye, torn nose, and patched limbs meant someone loved it enough to see past its missing parts or deformities. Throughout my life, I’ve felt like one of these bears: someone loves me, and the minute they discover my flaws, they stop loving me. In contrast, I love others the same way I loved my secondhand stuffed animals––I care for them, flaws and all.
Lately, I have realized that those who truly love you will stick by your side. The greatest friends aren’t afraid to tell you what you need to hear, but they also won’t abandon you after they discover your shortcomings. For instance, I’ve met some people who have no issues with me––until they find out I struggle with anxiety. After that, all hope is lost. All they see me as is an anxious person that they can’t trust with significant responsibilities because I might become too overwhelmed. However, that’s generally not true, which leads me to another observation. People who truly love you know who you really are. They know what makes you happy, upset, sad, and angry. As a result, they also know how to encourage and comfort you through sticky situations with a mix of tough love and tender care.
These observations helped me become less anxious about falling short in certain areas, but how did I finally overcome my fear of never being good enough for both myself and others?
Here’s how. On Friday, I had a conversation with my RD that gave me a new perspective. After telling her about all the things people said about me, she asked me, “Well, that’s what others think about you––but did you ask God if those things were true?” After pondering her question for a while, I realized they weren’t––but I believed the things these people told me because I trusted them. Even so, I couldn’t reconcile how someone I trust could tell me things I knew God didn’t agree with. That’s when I realized that even people whom we trust will misunderstand us or try to change us.
As a result of this conversation, I’ve developed a new outlook in regards to my fear: people can take me or leave me, but not change me. I no longer care about disappointing other people because I know I always try my best at what I do, and despite this, I will still make mistakes. For instance, due to my ADHD, I often have memory lapses or mix up information. My friends and family who truly support me know this fact and will try to accommodate my learning disability. Those who don’t, on the other hand, will become frustrated and blame me for intentionally screwing things up.
I’ve realized that God knows my heart. He knows I would never intentionally complete tasks with subpar effort, and he knows that I try my best to overcome both my ADHD and anxiety. He also knows I’ve come such a long way in both areas, and I’m still learning about myself. In addition, God created me as a softspoken, empathic person so I could reach others as a future counselor and worship pastor, but also as just a close friend. I refuse to let people tell me that I become too emotional about things or that I need to become more extroverted. People can take me as I am, or they can find someone “better.”
Everyone has a subjective opinion, and I’m tired of believing lies about myself. I’m not afraid to call out my close friends if they start saying lies about me that don’t correlate with what I know God says about me. On a similar note, I’m also not afraid to confess my mistakes and try to make things right if I truly did mess something up. I strive for humility, but I also won’t let people step on me due to their subjective opinions.
That’s how I got over my fear of pleasing others, but what about my fear of disappointing myself? Over the last year, I’ve struggled with the need to have everything in control. I hardly ever have panic attacks anymore, but when I do, it’s usually when I feel like things have spiraled out of control––and then I cry because it seems like everything I worked for has shattered into pieces. After some careful reflection, I realized that, even though I trust God, I don’t fully trust him.
I remember working with one particular child as a swim lessons instructor this past semester. I asked this girl to jump into my arms from the side of the pool, and she said no. Eventually, I inched closer until I was almost right next to the wall, and then she jumped to me. I feel like I’m that little girl in relation to God. I know he’ll catch me, but I’m afraid of falling.
However, I now know I need to continue trusting him to have my back. Over the last two weeks as my life has become somewhat chaotic with switching departments at camp, I discovered that God brings good out of tough situations if we just trust him. Things have only improved since the switch, and I feel so much better after realizing that I needed to let God truly take his place as Lord of my life. When things start to fall out of place again, I understand that I can’t meticulously monitor my life. Instead, I must live life day-by-day and take joy in the present instead of reliving my past mistakes or worrying excessively about my future.
With this in mind, I thought of Proverbs 3:5-6.
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (NIV)
Even with this new insight, I know I might still have hard days, but my true friends and God show me grace. We cannot do everything we try to because we are not God. He is the one in control, and we accomplish things through his grace.
God can make masterpieces out of our messes. People can either accept me or reject me, but I will stand firm in the identity God has given me.