It’s officially the halfway point of my trip to San Diego. I expected to be challenged in a few areas, like flying solo for the first time, going to a brand new place, and sharing my faith with complete strangers. But I wasn’t expecting to be challenged in my own faith, at least not this much.
I’ve been learning a lot about myself this week. I’ve learned where I’m comfortable and where I’m fearful, my strengths and my weaknesses, my struggles and my victories. I’ve also learned that there is a difference between self-confidence and self-love.
Self-confidence is never something I really struggled with. I never really cared about what other people said about me (probably because I was just oblivious to anything they did say), and I always knew I wasn’t the prettiest or most popular girl in the room.
For me, not liking something about my looks was easy to fix. Didn’t like the one time I was called four eyes? Get contacts. Hair not looking like I cared? Buy a straightener. Teeth not straight? Braces. Acne? Makeup.
That’s why this post isn’t about accepting the way I look. It’s about accepting the thing I can’t change: my personality.
I’ve always been the quiet one. The goody-two-shoes. The rule follower. I didn’t even know what alcohol smelled like on someone until my second year of college. It’s never been attractive to me to be disrespectful, or negative, or just outright bad. (I’d like to point out here that I definitely have done bad things, of course; it’s just not the norm for me.) I’m also very introverted. Blame it on being an only child if you want, but I tend to sit back and wait to be invited rather than jumping into the action. I also hate being the center of attention.
And I wouldn’t change that about myself. I like that I don’t have to wonder if I’ll get caught doing something wrong. I like that I’m the good kid, the listener, the supporter. That’s self-confidence.
But this week I’ve learned that I struggle with self-love. I don’t love that I naturally feel like people don’t like me. I don’t love that I feel like I have to be invited into the group. I don’t love that I can’t just strike up a conversation with a stranger, or even someone I’ve known my whole life. I don’t love that I’m always afraid that people will think I’m snooty or not friendly just because I don’t talk a lot.
I was talking with my leader about this the other day. I said I need to work on being more outgoing, and work on putting myself out there, and work on being more vocally involved in conversations. She stopped me quickly and said, “You don’t need to ‘work on’ anything. Those are your gifts.”
The more I’ve prayed about it, the more I’ve realized that she’s right. It’s a gift to be the one listening instead of speaking. It’s a gift to be naturally drawn toward sitting back and observing. It’s a gift to only see the good in people. It’s a gift to not be thirsting for attention like so many people in the world right now.
Accepting these things and not wanting to change or “work on” them is self-love. It’s hard. I haven’t mastered it yet, and I probably won’t for a while. But it’s enough to know that God created me just the way I am and he loves me. So I should be able to love me too.
I wrote this post almost a year ago, and it’s a bit heartbreaking. As I read the words I wrote about self-love, I see that I still struggle with it. San Diego was one of the best experiences of my life, but if this was my takeaway from the week, why did I not learn anything from it?
Coincidentally, I’ve just gotten off the phone with my mom about this very topic. Since San Diego, I’ve had an especially hard time with making and keeping friends, feeling like I’m a part of the group, and constantly wondering if people are misinterpreting my actions. I’ve not learned to love the introverted qualities of my personality, as I had hoped; I might even say I’ve begun to despise them even more.
I don’t know why I never pressed “publish” that day I wrote this. It’s good stuff. But maybe this is what I needed. I didn’t know a year ago that I would need to find and reread this post today, after getting off the phone with my mom wondering why things never change for me. Rereading this has given me just the little bit of courage that, perhaps, I’ve needed all along.