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younger me, don’t live so afraid.

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Lately, I’ve had reason to look back into my middle and high school years and self. And those are the words that come to mind:

Girl, don’t be so afraid.

This past weekend we celebrated my only niece’s 13th birthday with a blessing brunch, we dubbed it. My encouragements (things I would’ve told my 13-year-old-self today) to her were:

  1. You don’t have to be everyone’s best friend, and not everyone will like or love you, and that’s okay.
  2. You will never regret choosing Jesus and His way of doing things, over the temptations, tendencies, and promotions of the world.

In all honesty, I walked through middle school and early high school years timidly, paralyzed with fear of making a mistake or being thought of as out of the culture-loop. I was insecure about my appearance because I was afraid of being confident and feeling beautiful exactly as I was, believing the lie that comparison was better. I was afraid of letting the weight of who I was – my hopes, dreams, quirks, passions, interests – bear on those around me, for fear that I’d be judged or put on the spot.

I didn’t idolize the ‘popular group,’ or even want to be one of them, but I did want to blend in, and be someone other people wanted to be around. 

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Combating Fear

No matter how good we may get at understanding our fears, unfortunately that doesn’t mean they’ll cease to show up in some way or another.

I have a fear of disappointing people – causing conflict, of letting someone down, offending someone. Some might call it people-pleasing, I tend to call it perfectionism. I have this idea in my mind that says, even if the choices I make are better ones for me (healthier, wiser, best, etc), I’m not doing all I can to love someone if they’re unhappy or offended or disappointed.

I’m been praying and seeking and asking for understanding. Asking God to give me eyes to see where my belief is distorted, what needs correcting. Still in the process, but I have discovered some tips to combating fear:

Counter a fear with a couple of positive things you know to be certain, and/or positive affirmations. This works to rewire the brain, creating new thought patterns that move you out of a fear-locked way of thinking. This one is particularly helpful and relevant to me. Take every thought captive, as the Bible says. I underestimate the power of my mind, the power of speaking truth to myself. So I then ask God to show me said truth, and help me implement it.

Surround yourself with people who truly love and know you. This time of my life is a super social one. Everyone wants time together, which makes perfect sense, we are relational people and face-to-face interaction is where we thrive. But with the number of major energy-necessary things currently on my plate, the best thing for me right now might be hermithood (to an extent). I may offend people by not being able to hang out a whole bunch or give lots of attention to every one who asks, but if it’s not the wisest thing for me, I can’t carry that weight. I don’t think God is asking me too. I can’t be someone else’s perfect. And I can’t please everyone. But I can do what I believe God has placed in my hands to do, and give time to the desires He has given me. I trust that He’ll direct me in what needs to be prioritized and what doesn’t.

Eliminate the should. Culture has conditioned the world to think that women and their emotions are wacko, and all over the place. But alas, so wrong. Emotions are indicators. They are strong and beautiful and speak loudly to what’s truly inside. It’s very powerful to be honest with your feelings rather than live in a shell of what you think you should feel. Honesty, especially with yourself, can allow for deeper intimacy in all your relationships.

Love yourself. Not in a pretentious, “I’m so awesome,” way. Loving yourself as you encounter fears or tensions has the power to transform them into things that are useful and support your growth. I have a tendency to say, “Doesn’t matter about me, I shouldn’t put myself above others.” That way of thinking isn’t sustainable though, I’m learning, for giving time and energy and goodness to that which deserves and needs it. For example, I cannot sacrifice loving John well or learning about him or prioritizing him for things that are out of my control, or not truly my responsibility. Loving him well, or simply giving my best energy to that which I know God has entrusted to me, is what brings me joy. And then I love life, and myself.

Living a great and full life starts with me, with you. It’s our choices.

I’m about to have a good, hard look at my days, and pray for wisdom in what to prioritize, and what to release.

And then, hello freedom. 

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