When I was nineteen, my boyfriend invited me to a party. I didn’t know anyone, and I worried about what to wear. After all, this was California, and the protocol could be different from that of New Jersey. And I desperately wanted to be liked. He told me to wear whatever I felt comfortable in—which was shorts and probably a tee shirt.
Never trust a man to fill in the details, especially when it comes to clothes.
Every single girl there was wearing a cute sundress (along with a perfect tan), sported cute sandals and had glistening hair. And they were all drinking wine way before it was trendy. I wasn’t even old enough to drink! I wanted to leave as soon as I got there.
The day didn’t get any easier. It was an established group, and I wasn’t one of them—especially in my flip flops and cut off shorts. I tried to fit in, but I felt like I just didn’t belong. And I didn’t. Worse, I felt like they knew how uncomfortable I was and didn’t care to attempt to alleviate my discomfort by including me. It wasn’t so much that they excluded me. It was more that they ignored me. I wasn’t sure which was worse.
Part of me wanted to be embraced by them, and part of me hated them all. I carried that feeling of inadequacy with me for years.
We long for acceptance, especially as young women tying to find our way. I think it’s human nature to desire to be liked and wanted and validated and approved of. We want to fit in. We don’t really want to be different, but when we discover that we are, we erect walls of safety to protect ourselves from the ridicule and rejection we feel sure will follow. We suppress our uniqueness and try too hard to be like everyone else. The problem with that is that it’s often evident when we’re faking it. We can’t be what we can’t be.
Perhaps you’re struggling with the desire to fit in, but you feel like it’s just too hard to continue the charade. Or maybe you feel empty, now that you’ve been accepted into that group that you longed to be approved by. Do you try to hide your quirks or deny your uniqueness?
Did it ever occur to you that the very thing you’re trying to cover up may be the best part of you?
Every year on July 4, we celebrate our freedom from the British Empire. That day commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, when Congress declared that the thirteen colonies were now a “new nation,” independent of Britain—a cause for celebration, indeed.
What would happen if you declared independence from conforming to who you think you should be?
If you decided to become a “new nation,” and allowed yourself to “wear whatever you’re comfortable in,” how would that change your perspective? Imagine if what you were most comfortable in happened to be your own skin and personality, your unique talents, and even…your quirks.
What if you simply decided—this July 4—to break free from comparing yourself to everyone else?
Besides, how do you know those people aren’t doing the same thing? Maybe…just maybe…there is someone who wishes they were you!
It may not be easy at first—this freedom to be you—but if you call on the name of the Lord like the psalmist, He will not ignore your plea.
In my anguish, I cried to the Lord, and He answered by setting me free. Psalm 118:5
Try it. I dare you.
Not only to be different, but to embrace it. Don’t wait on the periphery for someone else to welcome you into the fold or to accept you. Accept yourself, because God accepts you exactly as you are. After all, He’s the one who designed you to be exactly you.
So embrace yourself, your different-ness, your uniqueness. I think you might like it. I even think you just might find that you like…you.
Now that is cause for celebration!
Blessings Along the Path,
Reprinted from Ruby for Women, July 2016