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Over the last few years I’ve grown tremendously in my personal confidence.  If you knew me before I was always considered the “nice” person.  Don’t get me wrong being nice or kind can be a good thing, but not when you are a nice doormat.  Lately I’ve been revisiting why I worry so much about what people think of me.  Why do we do this?  At the grocery store, Target, the gym and in writing I wonder what the audience around me is thinking.

Am I too much, or not enough?  Do people think I look or sound stupid?  Does anyone else really think this way? Why do I still act like I believe my worth and work depends on other’s thoughts of me?

Criticism is defined in the dictionary as disapproval, spoken or written opinions that point out one or more faults of somebody or something.  That’s it! I feel like I’m being criticized and don’t want to be rejected or “disapproved” of.  This “Criticism Complex” probably began when I was younger and was consistently made fun of for my weight. (Many of you probably have your own childhood stories to insert here). Now, it is called bullying and I would say I was a victim back then.  Kids can come up with some cruel accusations and they hurl them without a thought of the damage they could or are causing.  In my flesh I still think, if only those boys in elementary school knew the pain they inflicted on my innocent heart.

From that point on I was very insecure about my appearance and had extremely low self-esteem. My goal from then on was to “fit in”, whether I was aware of it or not, that was the source my thoughts and actions revolved around.  I thought “Well, obviously, who I am isn’t good enough so I must have to try even harder to be someone ‘acceptable’”.  You can see where these false ideology seeds get planted.  Then, over the years they grow into a tree of uncertainty if watered well by self-doubt and fear.

Trees of fear can also grow an abundance of fruit: anxiety, insecurity, perfectionism and worry were a few of mine.  Not to mention low self-confidence, shame, guilt and self-condemnation. From my trees I harvested an abundance of this fowl fruit, bushels of it I’m sure!  I have been pruned down considerable the past few years.  Actually I was cut off near the root, like an unproductive grapevine completely pruned.  After two years of nourishment the vines grow back healthier and with a more abundant yield of grapes than before.

I still struggle at times.  Even as I am writing this I wonder what people will think of the truth I am speaking.  Will my vulnerability be seen as too much, stupid, helpful or just a lot of words on a page……?

At the risk of sounding selfish and insensitive I don’t think I should care.  I’ve been trying to practice going against the grain of who I used to be.  Stop falling back into my old default mode.  Get out of the box I put myself in, a box that may fit another person but not me.  No longer living by my own self made and inflicted rules.  Do we just want to stay the same because we know the outcome and it seems safer?  Even if we are miserable I guess we know what we’re going to get.

I used to run from myself, as far as I could.  The majority of what I did, said and
thought went against who I really was.  Actually I was so far removed I didn’t even know who I really was.   The band-aid approach seemed easier than answering the question, do I think I’m enough?  So, I “cleaned” up the outside trying to make my appearance look extremely put together. I wanted my book cover to stop traffic, to show I was a worthwhile read (or person).  If anyone could have taken an internal picture it would have exposed me in all my chaos, insecurity and pain.

I’ve come to the conclusion I don’t want to live like I believe I am a failure anymore.  People ask me what I do (because jobs are a good measure of our worth and quick snapshot of who we really are – sorry I’m being sarcastic, this is an other topic for discussion) and I tell them I am a stay at home wife trying to figure it out.  As I’ve gotten over the sticker shock expressions and the “oh, really” responses now, I try observing what others say and don’t let it rattle me.

I’m happy living in my new-found ways even if they seem different, and think this is where I am supposed to be right now in my journey.  Do I dare say out loud and believe that I think I’m good at these new endeavors?  I want to be strong and confident in myself, but why do I still alter my behavior at times in response to or assumption of others?  Do I really believe I have something to offer this world?  What gifts have I been given that can help others?  And am I even okay with them?

A woman I used to meet with often in college once told me, “Jerilyn, I used to worry all the time about what others thought of me when I entered the lunchroom during my
college years. It all changed one day when I realized that they’re not thinking about me at all, they are thinking about themselves!”

I don’t want to be the only one that gets in the way of the great plans and purposes for my life.  That’s what it comes down to, fear or faith.