I wasn’t very popular in junior high or high school. I’ve always been an introvert, I just didn’t know my personality had a name until I was introduced to the Myers-Briggs Personality Typing as an adult! But as most Junior High kids, I wanted desperately to participate – but also to hide away – all at the same time. And so, I tried out for cheerleading … 6 years in a row. I only made the squad in 9th and 12th grades; if you do that math, that’s 2 out of 6 attempts. I wasn’t really any better or worse of a cheerleader than the other girls (except I couldn’t do the splits, no matter how much I stretched my muscles out), and until my Senior year, it was the student body who voted on its cheerleaders.
Try-outs were a horror now that I think back. There is NOTHING more vulnerable than standing in the middle of a vast gym floor, all alone, hands on hips and finding the voice to shout: “Ready? OK!” … and trying your best to make crisp arm motions while yelling fight-words and still trying to remember to smile. Not mention picking the right outfit and worrying that your Aqua-net hair do might not hold up under the pressure! And then to get the devastating news that you were not voted on the squad … x4.
One thing I enjoy about the age I am now, I am settling into my own skin; I’m doing what I know God wants me and my family to do without worrying about the opinions of others. I have learned what I can and can’t do … and when to participate and when to just embrace my home-body-ness, which these days tends to win out! I’ve come a long way … mostly by learning more about the God who made me and loves me and has a purpose for me just the way I am.
However, there are still moments when I am that vulnerable, awkward, eager-to-please, hoping-to-make-the-team girl in 7th grade … scared and excited, nervous and anticipatory, raw and vulnerable to the opinions and reactions of others. Right now I am pretty fragile emotionally anyway – my husband is STILL unemployed (I pray every day that it will be THE day we get that phone call with THE job offer); he is STILL recovering from an injury that will take up to 2 years to heal (we have his follow-up with the surgeon tomorrow and are praying for good news!). This year we went through some tough situations at our church and its school; then, we made the choice to home school. All the while, I’m desperately trying to hold on tight to God’s promises to provide for us (and have amazing stories to tell of how He has done just that!!) and trust that His timing is good (I often remind myself God is in the delay). I am believing He will never leave me alone and hoping that I will be a good testimony to those who are watching us handle our trials, especially our children.
But those moments come, when perhaps Satan is whispering in my ear, reminding me of the past rejection and those who have misunderstood or disregarded me.
Just the other night, I was making small talk with an acquaintance at a ballgame, and we were talking about MiMi … and she says, “Oh, they were talking about her in the nursery just the other day.” And my mind immediately goes into defense mode: this anonymous “they” group who has talked about me in the past and said some not so nice things … WHAT are they saying about me NOW!??! “They were just saying that MiMi should be easy to potty train since she is so verbal,” the person I am talking to continues, “you know, since she is, after all, almost 3.” Sigh, I think, there goes their vote for my “mother of the year” award. Ironically, as I walked by the concession stand, diaper in hand, to change MiMi, one of the ladies working decides it is a good time to give me some advice about potty training … I don’t guess I’m getting her vote either. Junior High all over again.
I realize a lot of this is ME being overly sensitive … but I can’t help but be defensive and hurt when I get into conversations like this. For example, recently a male relative asked me where I got my sweater … it is a short-sleeved, button less cardigan with fringe around the bottom, which I happen to LOVE and wear a lot. So, jokingly, I asked, “Why? Do you like it?” … and he says, “It is interesting.” Ok, there goes his vote for me being the fashion queen of the month. Yep, another strike against my ever failing record. And later he mentions my boots (they look like riding boots) and says, “I have never seen any boots like that around here.” Ok, make that 2 votes against my fashion sense; I won’t be on the best-dressed list for sure now.
Why do I care? Why can’t I just shake comments like that off. Well, I blame cheerleading …
No, really, I don’t. I blame the insecurity that Satan enjoys using against me. I blame my own negative self-talk that puts me back on that gym floor, seeing all the faces of those kids who are going to vote against me. I know that is silly … and I know I’m beyond that stage by now – and yet, it is in me. The defenses go up whenever I feel like someone is criticizing me.
This is when I have to employ what I know to be TRUE to combat those negative feelings and thoughts – to mature beyond the Junior High mindset. So, how can I do this?
1. RENEW your mind (Romans 12:2): dwell on the things that the Bible tells us about Christ instead of the negative patterns I tend to always go back to. Christ CHOSE US from the foundation of the earth (I Peter 1:20 – to be His and to be holy)!! He picked ME – in a sense, He voted for ME. I’m His child because He first loved me (I John 4:19). I didn’t have to put on a performance for Him and hope for His vote. He accepted me just as I am. No try-outs necessary.
2. REALIZE that people will talk … people will judge … people will make assumptions … people will make statements without regard to your feelings. People are people – and most of all, I need to realize I am a people too. While I have been so hurt by those who have misunderstood me or talked about me or made critical remarks to me, I too am guilty of the same. Sometimes I am as harsh in talking about my critics and their lousy way of handling things that I become the same type of person, assuming the worst and assigning ugly motives to them as well. Only God knows hearts – the good and the bad … I must guard my own heart with diligence (Proverbs 4:23) because that will determine the path (the “issues”) of my life.
3. REMEMBER that the past is behind me. My own sins are forgiven daily by my loving Savior (I John 1:9), and I need to forgive and forget the wrongs that happened to me as well (Philippians 3:13). Letting go and moving on are two things that tend to come very hard for me. It takes me a while. I like the wallow in my self-pity and blame others for my behavior. I tell my kids all the time that they are responsible for themselves and their own reactions, not for what others do; we can’t blame others for our bad behavior or our choices. While experiences do shape us, there is no doubt, it is what we do with those experiences that builds our character. It is up to us – with God’s grace – to stay firm in what we know to be true and believe God’s truth OR to dwell on the negative and believe the lies and doubts that whisper in our heads.
On my recent birthday someone jokingly asked me if I was my age in reverse which would have made me 18 years younger than I am. And I heartily said NO WAY!!! I have come too far – I don’t want to go through all these lessons learned to get to this place in my life again. And beyond that, I definitely never ever want to go back to Junior High!