But what if they don’t like me?
It’s funny how a move can change our (my) sense of self confidence so quickly. Since our move to the Chicago suburbs, I find that I doubt myself much more often than usual. Whereas I typically don’t hardly think at all about people’s opinions of me, I now find myself wondering if they think I’m too boring? too opinionated? too loud? too conservative? too liberal? I wonder whether I’m not pretty enough or smart enough or successful enough for people to like me. I’m more concerned about my wardrobe and how I wear my make-up – I’ve ‘done’ my hair (in something more than a ponytail) more often in the last few months than probably the entire previous year.
I guess this is a good example of how we are relational people. I don’t think for a second that it is my geography that has stirred my insecurities, but rather the lack of being in close physical proximity to my peeps- the ones who really know me.
But I’ve learned this lesson before…
If you know me, you know I grew up in a small town and did all of my 12 years of schooling in that same small town. We literally have a picture of our preschool class in which every single one of us graduated together twelve years later.
Going to the same school for all my life (until college) certainly had its perks. I was known by people and I knew people. I had friends and acquaintances for years. Most of all- I had confidence. Everyone knew who I was, so I had nothing to hide and nothing to prove. I was completely fearless in high school. When my mom or sisters questioned my outfit (“Are you sure you want to wear that?”), I just told them I didn’t care what anyone thinks. I wore zebra striped pants to school, didn’t shave my freshman year to prove a point, and spoke my opinions boldly in class.
Then I went to college and it felt a little- no a lot- different. No one knew me. I was at a large state school and suddenly my teachers didn’t know my parents and I wasn’t a school athlete anymore. What a strange feeling. I could no longer bank on the fact that people knew me; I had to start acting in ways that were consistent with what I would want them to know about me. It’s not that I tried to be someone else, it’s just that if you speak your opinions boldly when people know who you are and what your heart looks like, they may have a very different response to you than if you just show up ‘the new girl’ imposing her opinions about everything. So, in college, and in subsequent moves, I’ve learned to sort of tone myself down a little and show more and more of myself as people get to know me. I don’t see this as lying or hiding, but just normal human behavior as we start to build relationships and trust with people.
My last move (before this one) was five years ago, and I went through that process again. I had forgotten what it feels like to be insecure. I’d forgotten how it feels to wonder whether coworkers or church people will think I’m cool or not, or whether they’ll want to be my friend. This move, there’s an added dimension since I’m married- I’m wondering whether we’ll find ‘couple friends’ and if they will like Nick and not me, or me and not Nick. I like feeling confident, and my sense of confidence almost feels like a sense of ‘safety.’
When I trust the people around me to know who I am and not wrongfully judge me, I feel safe. I’m missing that sense of safety right now. I’m missing that confidence, and safety, and comfort that comes with being known.
I miss it, and yet I know I will grow from it. I know from experience it always takes time and I will get to that place again. As I get to know people, I have to trust their hearts, as I want them to learn to trust mine.