Isn’t that really the “thing?”
The thing that keeps you up at night wondering what others think of you?
The thing that launches your internal, relentless critic making you question your worth?
The thing that makes you wonder who you are and why you’re even here?
The thing that causes you to compare yourself to everyone else?
The thing that urges you to buy fashion magazines and the latest wrap-around dress, bronzing powder, $60 pair of Spanx, self-tanner, and new $700 Tory Burch fall boots (which – let’s be real – define perfection)?
The thing that makes you post flattering pics on Instagram and wait like a bandit for the comments and “likes” to roll in – or NOT?
Reminds me of Sally Field’s Oscars acceptance speech – “You like me! You really like me!”
Rather than being “the THING,” isn’t “YOU MATTER” actually the ultimate ANSWER that all us doubtful wanderers seek?
This message hit me like a cyclone today – and reinforced the topic of my last post that ALL OF US doubt our worth/talent from time to time.
I got a WordPress email this afternoon that I had a new blog follower. I clicked on the link and realized that my new follower is the creator of one of the world’s most famous – yes, you read that correctly – fashion and lifestyle blogs, Chiffon Souffle.
She has more than 70,000 followers and over 60,000 Twitter fans. She’s a contributor to Lucky Magazine, is actually followed by Nordstrom and works with top fashion designers.
My first thought was: Does she realize who I am? Or more appropriately, who I AM NOT?
I immediately hopped over to her website and found a surprise much greater than the fact that she (mistakenly?) followed my own site.
Her latest post – “Announcement: Why I’ve Been Absent From the Blog” – is a beautiful, honest, authentic admission of her own doubt.
I haven’t given up yet, even though I’ve felt like giving up many times… The only problem now is that I’m stuck. I’m not sure where. Creatively stuck, or just stuck.
Can anyone relate?
My dad CONSTANTLY tells me, you got to do something about this blog, you have to do something! Meaning I should be WAY farther than I am now. People have literally told me, ‘I bet you make over $10,000 a month off your blog,’ and all I do is laugh, because I don’t, but that seems to be what everyone thinks.
Can’t judge a book by its cover?
As I keep reading, she tugs more and more at my heartstrings…
The reason why I’m not where I’m supposed to be, I have to wonder if it’s because I’m not skinny enough like every other blogger, but I don’t want to be like everyone else. Maybe it’s because my writing sucks, but then why would I have viewers, why would people like and favorite things?
After describing how a management firm recently turned her down for having too small of a following – SERIOUSLY? – she said (and this is the part that EVERYONE on earth has felt first-hand)…
Do I keep going? Is this a sign from God that I’m never going to get anywhere? Is it me? Am I doing something wrong?
If you haven’t jumped into her shoes from your own experience before now, here’s the real clincher (capitalization all mine)…
ALL I WANT IS SOMEBODY / ANYBODY TO BELIEVE IN ME because everyone is here for a reason and to do what makes them happy.
TOLD YA. I double-dog DARE you not to relate.
After all this self-recrimination, you’d think she’d reached the end of her life, full of regrets. But did I mention that SHE’S TWENTY-FIVE? With THAT kind of an international following?
When I was 25, I’d just returned from an in-patient eating disorders facility in Arizona thinking I was successful for tackling my albatross of anorexia (entirely worth celebrating, by the way).
Isn’t success amazingly relative? And who ever found success by comparing themselves with another?
Do you know what I’d GIVE to have over 70,000 people who think I’m something great, that I have worth as a writer and am a significant encourager? My offering might even involve my own niece/nephew – JUST KIDDING, SARAH! (My favorite role I’ve ever had is AUNT 🙂 ). But, I’ll tell you the truth, I might actually give my right arm to know that my words influence more people than the population of several COUNTRIES.
This afternoon my fellow blogger tweeted this message…
I couldn’t agree more 🙂
Her brave, sincere words made this older lady (pushing 40 more and more each day) grateful for some lessons learned along the way.
Your worth has nothing to do with your social media following.
There’s not a one of us reading this that hasn’t fallen for this lie.
In fact, I think a large social media following is a breeding ground for false confidence.
What happens when you get no “likes” at all, or you post a heartfelt message and your only response is radio silence?
Relying on the approval of others is a BONA FIDE GUARANTEE of a crash-and-burn, up-in-flames personal implosion. Why on earth do you (and I) give ANYONE that power?
You are not a failure. And, by the way, don’t discount failure. The greatest among us are who they are BECAUSE of their failures (and subsequent rises), not IN SPITE of them.
I’m reading (the great) Dr. Brene Brown’s new book, “Rising Strong.” The book’s cover notes, “If we are brave enough often enough, we will fall. This is a book about what it takes to get back up.”
Here’s one of the many quotes I’ve highlighted in the book…
Rising strong after a fall is how we cultivate WHOLEHEARTEDNESS in our lives; it’s the process that teaches us the most about who we are.
Let me be clear: To the casual observer, the author of the aforementioned blog HAS NOT FAILED! This quote is for the rest of us (including all humans) who have – and do – and will continue – to fail on a grand scale.
So much of our twenties (and thirties, and perhaps even forties) is defined by learning from failure and learning to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. With knowing that life won’t unfold as planned (in most cases). And being OK with that. And letting failure build character. Nobody realizes that in their twenties. If you’re there, hold on. It gets so much better.
Which leads me to the next lesson…
You’re only human. It’s high time you cut yourself some serious SLACK!
You are not superhuman, as much as our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts beg to differ. Nobody lives in the perfect world that our posts seem to imply. How great would it be if social media posts showed the real self?
- “I’m fighting tooth-and-nail not to outright cry in this business meeting where I feel like a total imposter.”
- “Has there ever been a more incompetent friend than I? My best buddy received the results of an important medical test yesterday and I didn’t remember until she called ME.”
- I’m so lonely, it’s hard for me to even get out of bed on the weekends. Weekends are my hibernation time, when I don’t have to pretend that I have it all together.”
And that brings me to the inspiration for this post…
I am SO PROUD of my fellow blogger who had the courage to be HONEST and share her heart in a world of heart-hiding, fearful sojourners.
My message to her is: Keep going! You don’t even realize your strength! Or how very many aspire to actually BE you! (By all means, I encourage you to hop on over to her blog and share the same sentiments in her comments section!)
Secondly, don’t let the turkeys get you down.
So a management firm, or boyfriend, or family member, or employer, or [fill-in-the-blank] says you’re not enough? Acknowledge their unsolicited criticism and SHAKE THEIR DUST OFF YOUR FEET. Don’t you dare give them the power to rattle your core.
LESSON 4 (the biggest of all):
ANYTIME you seek your identity in externals, you will fall. Guaranteed.
Your only sure standing is not WHO you are, but WHOSE you are.
Your status as a Christian (if you are one) above and beyond outweighs your “identity” as a famous blogger, or world-renowned neurosurgeon, or beloved elementary school teacher, or even a cherished mom or friend.
Those descriptors are what you DO. They in no way define who you ARE.
Your standing as a child of God is infinitely more “real” than the projected persona you display on Instagram or WordPress. And unlike the fickle “following” we all covet, your security as a daughter or son of the King is independent of the opinion of others. And praise God for that!
To me, this defines HOPE and HALLELUJAH and PEACE.
And the freedom to cut the strings that tie us to others’ approval.
And you know what else it means at the core?
Y – O – U M – A – T – T – E – R.
Doesn’t that put the kibosh on all the questions I posed at the beginning of this post?
Doesn’t that trump absolutely everything else?
Suddenly, social media standings don’t matter so much.
P.S. – ONE FINAL LESSON:
Let me leave you with the story of a new friend I recently met.
I work at a university and as a part of our “Welcome Week” for the new fall semester, we hosted a barbecue, complete with Zydeco band. Free barbecue? I’m in!
After loading up my plate, I sought a quiet table off to the side where I could eat in peace and scoot home without having to interact with others. (Yes, I’m a proud introvert).
Most of the tables were taken except for one occupied by a black woman with cornrows and tattoos. (About as far from me as you can get).
Her backpack was on the table, and as I approached, she put it on the ground and gave me a warm welcome. We got to chatting and Charlotte began revealing her story to me.
She is a freshman majoring in criminal justice, although her heart is in social work. I asked her why she wasn’t seeking a social work degree and wasn’t close to prepared for her answer to my small-talk question.
She explained that her “heart” was to work with children and teenagers and encourage them that Jesus was the way – not the options they found on the street. I’ll be honest. I was a little surprised, but most impressed by her faith and demeanor.
She revealed that she lived in Houston’s fifth ward and daily counseled her teenage neighbors who came to her for advice. Again, I questioned her choice of major.
Unashamed, she said, “I’d love to become licensed as a social worker, but after two years at a community college studying in the field, I found out that I couldn’t do it.”
I asked her why and she told me that she was a recovered felon and had spent 18 months in prison. I didn’t ask the reason and she didn’t volunteer it.
But she did tell me that she led a weekly women’s bible study behind bars and that rehab didn’t begin with an “R,” but with a capital “C” – as in Christ.
Can’t judge a book by its cover?
She proceeded to talk, and I sat transfixed in awe of her words.
That woman has a better grasp of GRACE than any preacher I’ve come across.
I sat down hoping to avoid conversation.
I left marveled by the one I was blessed to experience.
And amazed by how God works.
Toward the end of our conversation, she said, “You know a lot of people walked by before you came up, but not a one of them sat down. I have to believe that God knew you were coming and held that place for you.”
Amazed by her strength, I told her there were more ways than one to skin a cat – and just because she might not be able to make a salary from social work, she had a powerful ministry waiting to happen.
She said, “Do you really think? Because I feel like God’s been telling me that exact thing.”
Can you imagine the impact she would have as a volunteer counselor/encourager in a women’s jail?
ABOUT A HUNDRED TIMES MORE THAN I EVER COULD.
Just before I got up to leave, she gave me a blessing much greater than the one I left with her.
She said, “You can’t know what a gift you’ve been to me. Here I was praying for God to encourage me to follow where I feel He’s leading, and you sit down. You just can’t know how I needed your encouragement today – just exactly at the moment you appeared.”
We laughed at the visible goosebumps on both of our arms.
We parted ways and I began the trek to my car in a distant parking lot.
If I’d tried, I couldn’t have wiped the smile from my face.
In that moment, I wouldn’t have traded a million social media “likes” for the ONE connection that truly mattered.
At the end of the day, a horde of unknown followers pales in comparison to a single, heartfelt alliance.
Charlotte taught me that.
And that you never know how God will use “incompetent, unsuccessful, un-followed” you.
Cheers to Charlotte for her BEAUTIFUL transparency.
And kudos to my fellow blogger for her courage to lower the veil of “perfection.”
Who knew authenticity could be so “likable?”