I’ve come to admit it. I’m insecure. Not just unsure, not just immature, but totally insecure. Terrified of my own shadow. When I walk into a room full of people, I’m scouting the nearest empty corner. Every morning when I go into my office, my first instinct is to head straight through my office door to safety, then wonder who’s around the corner talking about me. If you ask anyone who knows me, they’d have no idea.
Everyone has his or her drug of choice to hedge our shortcomings in life. And like all addictions, we tend to hide their extremities. Mine is overachievement.
Back in high school, I absolutely dreaded the morning and after school walk to the parking lot, never knowing whom I’d run into. I became involved in student council so that I could “work” through lunch and wouldn’t have to mingle with the general population. In college, I faithfully avoided sorority meetings and exchanges to the point that I had to quit because I couldn’t afford the fines.
I couldn’t go out with friends because of theatre practice, or music lessons. I couldn’t hang out because I had to drive to another city for my extended education. I couldn’t be a member of anything, youth group or otherwise, unless I was labeled a leader. I finished my degree at 19 and landed my first professional job by avoiding my life, burying my lack of self-confidence in accolades, and—ultimately—setting myself up for failure. I did not know how to just be myself, because my self-image was scarier than anything.
At 21, I was being paid to travel the world, dating the “perfect guy” (long-distance, of course), played the piano at church, and on all the surface levels was right on track. Reality was much more depressing. Every night that I was in town, I returned to my apartment, and never turning a light on, collapsed on the couch. I had been through four cars in two years, had ruined my credit before I had a chance to build it, and managed to destroy every close friendship I’d ever kindled. I was battling bulimia, and losing bad. I hid forks up my sleeves at restaurants so I could gag in the bathroom, then lied about my bloodshot, teary eyes. After a roommate caught me vomiting, I simply moved to a nicer one-bedroom apartment.
This is generally where the testimony turns happy. Where a ray of light shines down to the bottom of the pit, and with slow claps, group hugs and tearful hallelujahs, we find redemption. Doesn’t always happen that way. I wish it did.
The truth is, when we cry out to God, as I have over and over again, it’s not a magic fix that makes everything okay in the twinkling of an eye. It requires that we want to change. It requires faithfulness and dedication to facing truth. It requires that when we get enough strength to get back onto our feet that we daily and hourly choose to fall back on our knees and into His arms.
This is a problem for someone whose only identity is in his or her ability to make things happen. It’s so hard for me to admit weakness because my rote strength is in my apparent lack of weakness. I’m realizing little by little that I can’t do this life thing alone. I’ve got to fail so that I can rely on God and the others that He’s placed around me.
I hate cliché’s, I guess that’s also part of my separatist nature, but I’ve learned that I cannot survive unless I decrease as I let God increase. And that doesn’t mean doing the obvious things. As an overachiever, finding God translates to running to a religion, signing up for every activity possible, and praying the loudest most well thought out prayer, only to never be seen in church again at the first screw up. Uh uh. No more. I want this thing to be real.
I married a wonderful guy who, thankfully, sees right through me. God put a mirror right in front of me in the form of a man and the lighting is not flattering. I can’t get away with hiding behind my achievements, my looks or my intellect—this guy sees me wash my underwear. Together, we’re working through this life. I can’t run away, the options aren’t pretty.
Still, I cling to “someday.” I honestly believe that if I achieve my dreams, magically, happiness and acceptance will appear. All this time I’ve put my personal identity on hold in the pursuit of identifying myself in the praise of others. I desperately want to walk out on that proverbial stage to the applause of 10,000 people, and with tearful eyes, accept my award for being me. What I’m learning is that I’d much rather hear “Well done thy good and faithful servant” because that will have had nothing to do with my accomplishments, or my hard work, but solely with the contents of my heart. And that is the ultimate security.
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