Lately, I’ve been saying this mantra to myself, “If it affects my cappuccino in the morning, then it’s not worth my time.”
It sounds like a self-absorbed statement but it’s in reference to those things that try to provoke you at the expense of your health and well-being. Those stupid things that try to rob you of your peace and joy. Those words and the interactions from those you can’t please but yet create a pool of anxious thoughts in your head. Yeah, THOSE things.
My time in the morning where I make me coffee and breakfast is a very sacred and cherished time for me. I give myself about thirty minutes each morning to French press my coffee into my favorite mug that’s adorned with gold hand lettering spelling out “My name is awesome”. I cook me up a couple of runny, skillet-fried eggs and pan-roasted veggies. I sit down and enjoy the only planned moment of quiet I will have for the day. I relish in my warm mug reviving me from the inside out. I write my intentions in my journal, I Pinterest quotes, I listen to worship music or an ambient mix of piano and nature sounds on Pandora, I pray, and I take in the morning newness before heading out for the day.
What I DON’T like doing is spending my every waking moment covered in anxiety and letting those thoughts lead me throughout the day. I did that for almost a year. I’m tired of doing it to myself.
I’ve been asked many times what the root cause of my anxiety was. Was it some sort of sin I let seep into my life? Was it my internal chemicals going out of whack? Was it something I scared myself into? Was it circumstantial? Was it environmental? Or was it just my body and my mind needing a break?
Well, I have a flaw in me that I’m currently in a season battling with. I want complete freedom and total healing from it because I let it control my life until I was very out of control. Are you ready for this fatal flaw of me? Well, I’m a people-pleaser. A very bad, terribly frightened, anxious in my core, seeker of approval, faking it until I’m making it-kinda people-pleaser. I used to spend my whole entire day, from dawn until dusk, obsessing every interaction I had with people from the past until the current moment. Thoughts and scenarios raced through my mind all day, every day.
Was I too fat for them?
Did I not say the right thing that one time?
Should I have texted them back faster?
Should I have said something about that?
Did I disappoint them?
Do I not make them smile enough?
Do they think I used the wrong words?
Did I look weird when I introduced myself?
Was I too shy?
Was I not loud enough?
Was I too loud that it sounded aggressive?
Did that make them mad?
Are they mad at me?
What are they mad at me for?
Am I that fat?
Am I not attractive enough?
Am I dirty?
Do they see my home life in me?
Do they see that I fail in the Christian walk of faith?
Should I be more honest?
Would they be disappointed in me if I were?
Do they expect more from me?
Do they approve of me?
What else can I do for them to like me?
What did I do wrong?
Do they like me?
Am I good enough?
Can I ever be good enough?
And more. Much more. Much, much more crowded my mind every day. On repeat. Every day of my young life, I saw myself as a disappointment. A failure. A failure to everyone I interacted with. I was vulnerable. And let me tell you something-when you are that vulnerable and that weak and not involved in strong community, you are bait. You are bait for the tactics of the one enemy who wants you ruined and gone and walking in filth for the rest of your life.
And I was bait and let myself live like that. When I was describing my situation to a mama mentor of mine, she told me, “The enemy knows how to ruin your potential by attacking your most vulnerable areas.” And that was me. My identity. My appearance. My quirks. My voice. Me. Marissa.
Over the course of my twenty-four years of life, I’ve been called many names. I’ve been heard in gossip and I’ve been insulted and I’ve been made of fun of. I remember being very young and trying to make friends with the popular girls in my second grade class and being told, “You’re too hairy. You’re a gorilla.” Because my arms were tan and skinny and my Latin features showed that by covering my baby arms with hair. When I was in high school, I heard I was too dumb and that’s why I couldn’t get involved in school clubs. When I was eighteen and in college, it was more volatile name-calling and where I first found out what the social media world of Twitter was because insults about me were being favorited and retweeted. And this past year, it has happened within the dynamics of family life.
I’ve spent my entire twenty-third year of life analyzing myself to the deepest part of me wondering why? Why was I constantly being made out to be such a terrible, worthless person? Why do people feel so attacked and threatened by me? People that don’t know me and people that do? Spewing out assumptions about me without my knowledge? Gossiping and talking and trying to get the majority to believe that I am this monster? I’ve spent my entire twenty-third year of life holding onto words and insults of so many people and I believed them. I believed them all.
I’m not sitting here and painting myself as a victim. I don’t like doing that. I’m aware that I made mistakes and I have reached out to those I know that I hurt and I have apologized. But I also made a terrible habit of bending over backwards to please and please and please everyone because I was so desperate to fix opinions about me. I wanted to convince the people who were unkind to me that I was worthy of their good words. And I lost myself because of it. I lost my joy and my peace and my identity and my quirks and my gifts and my voice. What else could I do for people to like me again?
After a similar situation in recent days, I realized something-I’m not meant to live life accommodated for those who don’t like me. I’m not going to take the opinions and the insults anymore and try to fit them on my name tag. I’m not going to sit here and sacrifice my peace and forsake my God-given identity to empower abusive words over my life. I realize that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea and I can’t fit into every group or social club there it but THAT’S OKAY. I’ve exhausted myself trying to be someone that I’m not and I’m done playing the part that is not me.
I’ve told my story to a few others and I’m responded with “Oh! I would have fought them! I would have cussed them out and told them to back up! I would have told them to cash me ousside how bow dah!” And as much as that reaction is normal, it’s not ME. That is not the gospel I want to preach here. There’s a characteristic of the Proverbs 31 woman that says,
“She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her lips.” Proverbs 31:26
It also says that we must love our enemies and return good for evil (Luke 6:35-36). THAT is the gospel kindness. That is the message I want to preach here and through to all of you. But, how do we act out the gospel of kindness? How could our offenders and our persecutors and our enemies even be worthy to receive kindness when they try to tear our names down?
I’ve come to realize something about unkind people and it ties into the famous adage here-hurt people HURT people. People who are bullies need to be seen as very severely hurting people. Those who have hurt me are people I see as lost individuals. I don’t say that to justify their malicious motives. But my first reaction to the insults and the slander and the gossip is not to fight back. My reaction to words that wound me are to walk away and go into prayer for that person who spoke the offense. Sounds silly, right? Too Jesus-y? Uncomfortable? I know it’s not the solution for everyone here. But responding back with the same maliciousness is NEVER the right way to respond. We are called to turn the other cheek no matter how hard it is sometimes. We are called to love our neighbor and our enemies and pray for those who persecute us! (Matthew 5:43-45) I get how hard this is! I’ve been there! I’ve had to swallow my words and turn away while I heard people calling me the most vulgar of names. But if we are called to embody the heart of God for this world, we need to be extensions of the fruits of His spirit as well. One of His fruits is kindness!
So how does this reference to my cappuccinos in the morning? My mama mentor of mine told me that lions don’t lose their sleep over the opinions of sheep. In other words, don’t take to heart the words of foolishness and malice and make them YOU. Don’t forsake your God-given identity for the pursuit of trying to be liked by everyone. Living a life like that will only rob you of so much peace in yourself, you’ll start to lose your sleep. If you waver in your self-esteem and your identity too much, I encourage you with this-get involved in strong community. Get involved with a group that are pure in heart, speak words of life and wisdom over you, invest in fellowship with you, and encourage you in who you are! Even if it takes you a season of life to walk through, you take hold of who you are in Christ and protect it and honor it and believe it and speak into it with life and live it fully and abundantly all that He has for you!
Being a girl, I get how hard it is for us since we are more prone to the harmful effects that gossip and insults and opinions of others have on us. We are seekers of approval and emotional beings that crave validation. We are people-pleasers to the max and a lot of us ladies have no stinkin’ clue who we are. Can I tell you something? If you don’t know who you are yet, I just wanted to let you know that you are a princess that is called to some mighty things in this life. Regardless of your weight, your style, your eyebrow shape, your ability to do makeup or athletics, whether you’re into art or into science, whether you’re in motherhood, single or married, whether you can afford Chanel or not, if you’re a virgin or not, if you can’t fit into a group, WHATEVER it is-sweet girl, you were created for some pretty influential things in this life. Don’t ever lose hope of that, no matter how the world wants us to look and feel like. You keep that crown propped high on your beautiful head and tune into the Jesus in you.
I kinda went all over the place with this but I wanted to touch into every facet of this that I could. If you’ve read this far, thank you! Feel free to leave a comment, reach out, say hi anytime!
Now princess, go make some noise with your roar!