I never fit in. Not as a child. Not in school. Not now. I don’t think I’m super awkward or geeky (although some may argue that)…I’ve just never fit into anyone’s box.
For years that made me crazy. I tried fitting into ready-made boxes that I thought everyone else fit into…you know, the popular box, the intellectual box, the achiever box, the flirty-cutsie box, the political box, the sensitive and emotional box, the homemaker box, the focused professional box…nothing fit (actually, I could write an entire post on each of those boxes and why I don’t fit).
In my quest to fit into others’ boxes, I realize now I was trying to fit into what I thought were their perfections. For years, I tried to be perfect. I don’t know who I was fooling in trying to fit all these crazy molds. I morphed from unsuccessful perfection to unsuccessful perfection for different audiences. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t faking perfection…I was honestly trying to be perfect…for everyone…including myself (because then I’d fit perfectly in a box).
What the heck?! Talk about stressful! Behind closed doors I would break down under the pressure of perfection, and usually those who loved me most suffered from those breakdowns. (God bless my husband for loving me in spite of that.) I’d explode in anger, or hide in my bed in a sort of mini-depression and cry, or simply sleep for hours.
People, perfection is unhealthy!
Then it hit me. Hard. In an I-think-I-might-puke sort of way. I realized that if my life isn’t a testimony of God’s grace, then I was dissing all He made me to be. NEWS FLASH: perfection doesn’t show God’s love, it’s His love of imperfection that shows God’s true colors. I was being everything God didn’t want me to be.
Why doesn’t anyone teach us that when we’re young? In school we try to get As and be first in everything. We strive for perfection instead of understanding what we have to give to the world, and to other people.
Thirty-three years later, I’m finally starting to get it. It’s been a journey of self-discovery that’s helping me define who I am. Who I am to myself. Who I am to my husband. Who I am to my family. Who I am to my friends. Most importantly, who I am to God.
Revealing my whole self and my whole story refreshed and freed me. It also taught me to appreciate un-boxable traits and hate labels. As soon as I feel someone trying to put me in a box, I kick my way out. As soon as I see others getting boxed in, I want to help them escape. Boxes are confining and force us to fit into someone else’s definition of perfection or label of imperfection.
I’m human, imperfect and unique. And I’m finally OK with that. Even better, I’ve learned valuable lessons along the way:
First: Everything in my past is part of who I am today. Good and bad. I had a hard time with this one. I always wanted to hide things I thought were stupid, embarrassing or too personal. The thing is, the stupid, embarrassing and “too personal” things make me more me than the great things that have landed in my lap. In those moments, I’ve learned about my values, my vulnerabilities and the contents of my heart. Even better, it’s helped me connect to others in deeper and more meaningful ways.
Second: Life is too short to be different things to different people. I had to make a conscious decision to be all of who I am in every moment of life. My Facebook and Twitter friends are great examples: best friends, acquaintances, former co-workers, PR/communications professionals, old friends, authors, techies and Jesus followers. At one time, I didn’t really want any of my boxes to mingle. Talk about not living fully, not being fulfilled…and not living in the fullness I was created to live in! Who cares if I offend my PR/Communications peeps when I talk about God? Who cares if someone decides they don’t want to hear what I have to say if I go on a rampage describing all of the food I’m making? Who cares?! Others don’t need me to be a certain way. God needs me to be the way he made me…it’s better for everyone. And I know there is a purpose.
Third (and most important): Love. Period. Boxes and labels bring judgment (to me and to others). I’ve taught myself to be compulsive about finding something I appreciate about as many people as I can. Sure, people irritate me (in some cases, they infuriate me). But if I can find something, anything, to value in them, then I understand more of them…that one thing helps me see how human they are and helps me love them. If I judge them instead of love them, then I’ve labeled them and put them in a box. I’ve learned a lot about appreciating very diverse perspectives by doing this. God made each of us unlike any other. Embrace it and love it. Judgment is selfish. Love is selfless.
This crazy journey of self-discovery and taking myself (and others) out of boxes wasn’t about self-confidence or about feeding my pride. It’s helped me be OK with my imperfect self and open my eyes to God’s direction for my life.
I don’t have all of this figured out yet, not sure I ever will. But, what I do know is that I’m no longer jumping from box to box. I picture myself walking all over them – smashing the boxes and kicking them out of the way – and it’s sort of fun.