In, To Be or Not To Be, I wrote about the confidence I walk with now. Yet, it was a constant battle to sincerely believe in myself; at times it felt like it was an endless and wearisome dirt road. Along the journey, self-doubt was my constant companion and self-worth relentlessly eluded me. My only advocate was God, Who constantly tried to breathe into me the value I held with Him. But it is not easy to hear God’s voice because it is not, in most cases, audible. Though He tried to build me up, other voices tried to tear me down and, early on, it was difficult to hold on to any kind of confidence. I was constantly searching for me and this led to a rocky path of chameleon-like behavior. I tried to blend in with different people groups by changing into who they thought I should be; all the while getting further and further away from figuring out who I actually was. In Chasing the Winds of Approval, I wrote about the need for gaining approval; in this writing, the bent is more toward figuring out who you are so that you don’t need that outside approval so desperately. Back in high school, I almost figured out who I was, but I was derailed and the recovery was not a quick one.
There is one thing I nearly succeeded at in high school and that was the Naval Junior Reserved Officers Training Corps (NJROTC). It was my first experience with what healthy discipline looked like. I excelled in that program and I actually found that I loved wearing a uniform. I responded well to being challenged and, for the first time, really enjoyed something I was doing. At the end of each year, there would be a much-anticipated NJROTC Awards Ceremony. I always looked forward to it and, in the first two years, I received a few awards but they were minimal. I liked getting the ribbons though and wore them very proudly on my uniform. This motivated me to want more and I quickly rose up the ranks and, in my third year, not only did I make the Color Guard, but I also became the Women’s Drill Team Leader. This is where I first discovered my gift of choreography, and we spun those fake rifles like nobody’s business! My life was so chaotic and this became the positive outlet I needed to believe there was something bigger outside of it.
With each of the first two award ceremonies I didn’t put much hope into getting a lot of awards. I usually sat back and watched others get ribbon after ribbon and hoped for at least one or two. But this year, my parents were attending and I was really hoping to get a few more to impress them. To my astonishment, I ended up being the MVP of the ceremony and received multiple ribbons and certificates for my accomplishments that year. I was the most surprised person in the room but man was I freaking ecstatic! I couldn’t wait to hear what my dad had to say about me! When the evening was over, we got into the car and started to drive home and I remember my mom smiling more than usual. I could tell she was proud of me and acknowledged my accomplishments. Dad was being really quiet and I was feeling anxious to hear what he had to say. Mom finally said, “Honey, aren’t you proud of her? You should say something.” His response was, “I would, but I don’t want it to go to her head.” I sat back, sunk into the back seat, and felt all the victory seep out of my soul. I had found who I thought I was and what I was really good at; but with one sentence, it was shattered for me. I dropped out early in my senior year and never completed the program.
The adult version of me wishes that I could whisper into the ear of 15-year-old me and say, “This is who you are. Keep going because there is more for you. Those awards represent only a taste of what you can accomplish in your life.” As it turned out, it would take a lifetime to figure out who I was. The lack of inner self-worth is directly related to the need for outside approval. You have to know who you are and what your value is so that others are unable to dictate that for you. I have found that, in most domestic violence cases, victims are so confused about themselves and, when they escape, they have no idea who they are apart from their abusers. Effie was very much this way (Silent Prison; Red Roses or Red Flags?: Healing is Essential). By the time she broke free, she literally had zero self-worth and even less knowledge of who she was. Her ex had programmed her to believe that she was nothing and held no value to anyone. Her insecurities were so deep that she could hardly make a decision about even the simplest of things.
One of my goals in my mentorship with Effie was to help her learn about herself and her personal likes and dislikes. For instance, if we were going to go to lunch, I would ask her where she would like to go. Every time she would say that she didn’t care and that anywhere was fine. Eventually, when we began the discussion about where to go, I would say, “Let’s get something to eat; but you choose where to go this time.” The deer in the headlights look in her eyes was immediate. Early on, she would give up and ask me to pick a place. But as she began to discover what she liked, she started to voice her opinion; still, most of the time she would end her sentence with, “but only if you want to go there.”
The more we hung out, the more I started to notice how she would adapt to whatever group we were in. If we were with a group of conservative persons, she would agree with all of the conservative views being spoken about and shake her head in disbelief over liberal viewpoints. However, if we were with persons with liberal beliefs, she would then talk about how atrocious and judgmental the conservative viewpoints were. If she was with someone who wasn’t a Christian, she would talk about how great sex was and how much she loved it. But if she was with Christians, she would talk about the importance of not having sex outside of marriage. Not only did she change her behavior for each group, but she changed her beliefs accordingly. Effie was so insecure, that she had a deep need to fit in with whomever she was with. The sad thing is, even though she was liked, none of those groups knew who she really was. How could they? Even she didn’t know and being a chameleon became her constant mode of operation. I witnessed her sabotage relationship after relationship until, eventually I was on the receiving end of that sabotage. I know that I am always pushing the counseling route in my writings, but it is so necessary. Effie would have benefited greatly from working through the reasons for her inability to just be herself. The last I heard, she hadn’t found a healthy relationship yet; but she also hadn’t found the healthy version of herself; and that is essential.
I do believe it is important to be sensitive to the people you are around and to be considerate of what may affect them negatively. For instance, if I am in a conversation with a stronger personality type, I can banter back and forth with no thought about how I am talking. However, if I am with a gentler personality, I will not change what I have to say, but I will change how I say it. I am still being me and that is the whole message I am hoping to convey. I recognize that the confidence I carry today is because I know who I am. I walk with my head up knowing that my heart is genuine. I may be a bull in a china shop sometimes, but as the days pass, I break less and less china.
No matter who you are with, be true to who you are, whether or not you are liked. Some will absolutely judge you, but be yourself anyway…and do it with confidence! For those who don’t like who you are, it doesn’t matter, they are not the kind of friends you want anyhow. For those who do like who you are, they do so knowing the real you. After all, it has to be exhausting to remember who to be each time you walk into a different room! I vote for losing all pretenses and obtaining the peace that we are all searching for!
Until next time, be the genuine you and stay safe!