The two girls – one short, one tall – walked down the dusty path that led to the dormitory. The height difference between them was almost comical. They had known each other for a couple of years, but had just recently grown close. It was near dusk and their shadows rose to meet them in the fading light. The shorter girl giggled at the sight of their mismatched shadows.
“Maybe we should stop walking together”, she teased. “You’re like a giant next to me!”
She had a mischievous nature, and she often made silly jokes like that. But, her friend wasn’t joking.
“Well, if that’s what you want”, she huffed as she walked away. They didn’t speak for two weeks and after that, the mischievous girl learned to curtail her mischief. She hid her silly nature and jokes behind a mask, for what use were jokes if they cost her the company of her friends?
I was driving to work one morning in January when a single phrase popped into my head. You know how you think about something, and brood on it and examine it from every angle until you get an epiphany? Well, this was nothing like that. This thought came almost from nowhere and I’m convinced it came from God, because there was absolutely no way I could have come up with it on my own.
“Lord, help me to express my true self without fear of failure, rejection or censure.”
‘Wow’, I thought to myself. That one sentence expressed everything I’ve ever thought about self-expression and freedom of self. There are so many things in life that can rob us of the freedom to express who we really are – that joke that falls flat and makes you decide not to crack jokes in certain company; the rejection from a loved one that makes you decide never to trust anyone again; that betrayal that turns the world upside down and makes us withdraw into a shell…and so on, and so on. Some people have personalities that allow them to brush these things off and move on, however some don’t. I happen to fall into the latter category – my reserved and quiet personality provides ample breeding ground for doubts to creep in, for hurts to linger and for withdrawal to set in. However, after a while I realized that I was letting others rob me of my joy; I was giving other people the power to change me – and not in a positive way.
The day that prayer came to me, I felt liberated. I knew then that God had seen the direction I was heading and He had stepped in to put a stop to it. I pray that prayer almost every day and I remind myself that God made me just the way I am for a reason. I am cheating Him and cheating the world if I decide to turn myself into someone else just because of what others would say, or how they feel about me.
I was reading a blog last week, written by my friend Kiki Lawrence and she was talking about self-inspiration. She quoted Robert Kegan – an expert in adult development – who identified three steps on the journey to self-inspiration:
- the evolving self: this happens when someone decides to fulfill their full potential by being willing to shed elements of their old self and induct new and better elements into their inner core.
- congruent self: begins with the unwavering drive to be true to oneself. It results in a deep self-awareness and an unbroken flow from being and thinking, to feeling and expressing. In other words: I say what I think, what I think is how I feel, and how I feel is who I am.
- courageous self: is the resolve to act consistently with our congruent self, even in situations that harbor significant risk.
As I read, I felt my eyes growing wider because I could recognize all three processes in my current evolution to a better me. I felt vindicated because again, I could recognize that God had directed me to that page, to encourage me – to propel me forward.
See, the world is waiting expectantly for your manifestation...yes, YOU! The world waits for me, for us to express who we really are and be a blessing! So what, if your jokes sometimes bomb; so what, if that boyfriend-you-thought-would-become-a-husband ditched you after eight years; so what, if your ideas have been rejected so many times, you don’t bother to count anymore; so what?
Don’t push yourself into a corner and present just a shell in an effort to please or be palatable to everyone else.
Don’t allow the fear of failure, rejection or censure/judgment to drain all the spice out of your life! Crack those jokes, go out with your friends, keep brainstorming and offering your ideas because that’s who you are. Let God Himself use what He wants and change what He doesn’t like.
Everyone doesn’t like peppery food, but I don’t see cayenne pepper or chili pepper losing their ‘pepperiness’ just to appeal to everyone!
The truth is that no one can be universally liked or admired – see Jesus, perfect but reviled by some and crucified.
Accept that and free yourself. Let the real you stand up and make a difference.
“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” Maya Angelou - Letter to My Daughter