“To the degree that you need people to affirm you, you will limit God’s ability to use you.” – Levi Lusko
This sentence makes me squirm. It makes me uncomfortable. I can’t get it out of my head.
I am a people pleaser by nature. I want everyone to be happy. I want everyone to get along. I want everyone to feel included. I never want to offend anyone, or worse, hurt or disappoint them. I put a considerable amount of effort and energy into avoiding this.
But to say that I’m a people pleaser is really just a nice way of saying something else entirely- the truth, which is that I want people to like me.
I mean, if I’m being honest, underneath all those layers of my personality lies the frighteningly weak foundation of a selfish motivation to be LIKED.
This is an incredibly difficult thing for me to admit because, well…what if people don’t like it?
Yes, I know, the irony of it all is difficult to miss.
I used to always say that while I loved my twenties, it was my thirties that I really looked forward to. It seemed that while you spend your twenties figuring out who you are and what you’re about, your thirties are about being and doing just that. It seemed to me that women in their thirties had a certain self-assured, self-possessed air about them. I looked forward to that.
For the record, I am now 33 years old and I can tell you that I feel self-assured and self-possessed roughly %17 of the time. I know, try not to be jealous.
While we can all agree that there is a precious freedom in knowing who you really are, it is also not for the faint of heart.
In choosing to peel back the layers and take an unfiltered look at who I actually am, I run the risk of discovering some pretty unsavory qualities. I may (hypothetically) find that I have spent a large portion of my life wanting and needing people to like me.
Aside from being super lame, the problem with being a people pleaser is that it is an exhausting, suffocating, surefire way to fail. Because here’s the thing with people: you can’t please them all.
I’ve got to run in my own lane.
I don’t presume to know the big picture of God’s “calling” on my life. I know that today He is calling me to know Him and to love him and to love the people I encounter along the way.
That’s it. That IS the big picture.
I keep trying to add to it and to complicate it but this is all He is asking from me. There’s something to that, though. Because when I’m focusing on knowing Him and loving Him it frees me from worrying so much about how the world perceives me- because it’s not about me at all.
Walking through life with Jesus can be pure and powerful and wild and free.
It allows me to just be me. Unedited. (Which is lucky, because clearly I have never been good at editing myself- in person or on the page.)
While I’ve been unsure what to do with it, the tiny, barely audible whisper of a desire in my heart to write has grown louder. I’ve been too scared to acknowledge it or say it out loud because that makes it real. Once it becomes real then I’m responsible for it. Once I’m responsible for it I may fail at it. Yet undeniably, while I am uncomfortable with the idea of failure, and even more uncomfortable perpetually exposing my heart to the world, it makes me come alive.
There is power in showing up and telling the real truth.
There is power in my story. There is power in your story. So often, the most startling and honest truths about myself, the things that I fear will drive people away are the very things that might draw them closer.
Writers talk a lot about their “voice”. Lately the church is filled with arguments about it’s “voice” and all the contradictions therein. In a world that is exceedingly filled with clatter, I feel God constantly reminding me to be true to my own voice.
But what if I don’t recognize it yet?
What if I’m still figuring it out?
What if I speak the wrong thing?
What if I speak the right thing and people don’t like it?
Sometimes I question my voice. For the most part it is self-deprecating and lighthearted and sarcastic. It is also honest and vulnerable. It is often unsure of itself. Timid.
But what if I were bold?
What would that look like, even?
What if I allowed God to use my biggest vulnerabilities as my biggest strengths?
What if I quit worrying what people think?
What if I quit limiting the possibilities for fear of failure?
What if I quit worrying about making the next right step and just started falling forward?
What if that’s where I found my voice?
To quote John Wayne, “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.”
I’m going to go ahead and assume he knew what he was talking about because look at him. He was the man.
I’m scared to death that I won’t ever be a writer. I’m also scared to death that I will. I’m scared to death that people won’t like my words and because they are often so personal, that means they won’t like me. I’m scared to death that I won’t have the gumption to say the things I feel. I am also scared to death that I will.
I’m tired of being scared to death.
I think I’d prefer to feel the fear for a moment, and then saddle up and ride in my own lane anyway.