I had a conversation with some friends one night this week. We were talking about feeling self-conscious – first about our bodies and then just in general. And one friend talked about how she knew someone with a special talent for decorating, and whenever she was around that person, she wanted to be a good decorator too, though it really wasn’t that much of a passion for her in reality. And in that moment, I had an epiphany.
Maybe part of the competitive feelings I get in the pit of my stomach stem from a desire for the other person to like me. I want the person to value me, so I want to be good at the things they value, the way they define that value. Here’s an example.
Me: I heard you like dogs. I like dogs, too. I volunteer at the SPCA once a week.
A person I want to like me: Oh, that’s nice. I volunteer at least three times a week.
My Internal Thoughts: “Am I doing enough? I thought I was passionate, that we would be able to connect with loving dogs, but I’m not doing as much as they are. I need to share more things that I’ve done in hopes to meet their expectations.”
Me: Oh yes, I do all these other things as well.
The other person: And I do all of these things.
Maybe at this point, they are relating to me, maybe they are competing, but my own internal struggle is going into overdrive. I don’t feel like I’m doing enough. And then, I’m not enough. And I spiral.
I probably go into a conversation like this with low confidence. I so desperately want the other person to like me, to accept me, to give me value, that I’m willing to try to live by their rules, their expectations, their standards. In fact, I’ve been waiting for the book other people seem to have that tells them what is expected in every situation and how to meet those expectations, how to make this life seem as easy as others seem to be living it.
Wherever these elusive rules are, they weren’t given to me. Instead, the creator of the universe gave me a few standards to live by. Love God. Love Others.
And I feel like Love God comes before Love Others. Cause if you are loving God with all your might, soul, strength, and mind, there’s nothing left but the love God puts back into you to share with others.
So all the rest of it is icing. And I realized that my definition of things is okay. How I define passion is okay. Where my standards are right now, my priorities. They are okay. Sure, I could do with some fine tuning, but not through comparing myself to someone else and trying to live by their standards so that one day they might think I’m worthy enough. Instead, I fine tune in my time with God, in His word, in praying with Him, in Holy discussion with other people chasing after Him too. He’s been good about making it as plain as day when it needs to be.
And another quick note, I mentioned above that we talked about being self-conscious about our bodies, especially in the summer time when everyone is wearing next to nothing because it’s just so hot. I talked about my struggle with this last November, but I realize something new about my body this week. I truly believe we should all take care of our bodies, but the health of our bodies is not depicted by the shape of it. There are unhealthy thin people and healthy thick people. Of course, there are also unhealthy thick people and healthy thin people, too.
Our bodies tell a story. My body tells a story of carrying three babies, even though they didn’t make it to the due date. I have the stretch marks that prove they existed. And while I would love to get rid of the lumps and flabs around my body, it tells a story of struggle through depression (of days I didn’t get out of bed or I didn’t care what I ate). And today, despite the story I’ve been living, I’m still standing. My body is still strong enough to walk three miles. It’s still flexible enough to bend and breathe in yoga. And I am working on loving this body for what it is and where it’s brought me. I think that’s just as important as the exercise and eating right. It’s a triangle of balance, not a see-saw.
I’m not completely there with all of these thoughts. I still have days, weeks, months, and years where I struggle with how I look or with how much other people think I’m worth. But this is a learning journey, and I’m going to continue to take it step by step.