Thursday, March 27, 2014

Learning to Make a Fool of Myself

For as long as I can remember, I have sought a life of invisibility, of striving to simply blend into the woodwork.

Twenty years ago this upcoming May, I honestly thought I could finally achieve that goal.  It was graduation day, and I just knew that in college, I could be anybody--could be nobody.

No longer would everyone pigeonhole me as the smart one, as the unpopular one, as the nonathletic one.  I was just another blank face in a field of thousands; if I kept my head down, nobody would notice me.  And if nobody noticed me, nobody could criticize, gossip about, or think negative thoughts about me.

I tried living this life of caution, always concerned about drawing attention to myself.  The problem is a simple one: I worry too much about what others think of me; I worry I won't meet their approval, no matter who "they" are.

I have walked across school campuses, across city skylines, across entire countries, all the while trying to be invisible so no one would disapprove of anything about me. 

It's un-Biblical, I know.  God's approval is all I should need.  And yet, I can't tell you how many times I have intentionally not done something I wanted to do or not worn something I wanted to wear because of the "what if's." 

If someone thinks this dress would look better on someone else...

If someone cringes when I don't quite hit the high E flat in that song...

If someone thinks my face isn't beautiful were they to see me out in public without makeup...

If someone laughs at the sight of me belting out a song at a red light...

If someone judges me a poor dancer or a slow runner or a bad cook or a shabby seamstress or a lousy farmer or imperfect in any of a zillion ways...

There have been days when these "what if's" have imprisoned me.

Those prison bars closed in even more when I had children.  Now, I had three little ones to draw attention to this wanna-be wallflower.  Every temper tantrum, every loud cry, every outside voice inside--they all shouted to the masses of my shortcomings, inviting the judgmental glances.

Maybe it was realizing how much fun it was to dance with my children or to sing with them at the red lights; how freeing it was to not have to spend 20 minutes painting my face just for a quick trip to the store for a single gallon of milk; or how satisfying it was to sing from my heart to my Lord in worship.   But somewhere along the way, I started taking one step at a time towards freedom...towards living.

Today was one such example of living versus seeking others' approval.

Last week, I crocheted my children hats for the Dr. Seuss party at our local library, but instead of stopping there, I crocheted myself one, too.

It didn't matter that we were the only people with winter hats on this time of year in Louisiana.  It didn't even matter that I might look silly, which I'm sure I did.  What mattered was how excited my children were that mommy had a hat, too--a "Cat in the Hat" hat--and how fun it felt to join in their play, even in public.

The party was something we did together, not something I merely took them to. 

When I am dead and gone, my children will not remember how many people approved of me as someone smart, intelligent, pretty, or stylish.  They will only remember me—my actions, my words (hopefully some of them!), and my interactions with them.  They will remember what I taught them through what I do, through how I live.

If I am honest, I will admit there are still days when I struggle with what others think of me.  I know I will always be a "recovering approval-seeker."  And yet, in my heart, I know that's ok, too.

What matters is that I recognize the lie of needing others' approval and make a daily effort to reject it as such.

(If you're a crocheter, the adorable hat pattern is free from Micah Makes.)

Images: Playing stack the Yertle the Turtle buckets along with Green Eggs and Ham tic tac toe, and matching the rhyming words on Hop on Pop eggs.

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