Ashley, age 31
Struggle: Trying to Fit the Mold
A Letter to my Little Sisters in Christ,
What I wish I could tell myself as a teenager, college student, and young adult…Yes, it has taken me that long to figure it out. As a 31-year-old woman, I look back on my time as a teenager, college student, and even a youth minister, and I see a problem that plagues young women across the board. We don’t know how valuable we are. We aren’t comfortable in our own skin. We’re trying so much to please others – family, friends, even God, that we don’t think about who we were designed to be. We don’t think about doing things that make us excited, or fuel us with joy and energy.
I spent so much of my teenage years trying to fit in with the crowd. I was on the fringes of the cool kids, and probably seemed like I was calm, cool, and collected, but at home, I was a weepy, insecure mess. I never wanted to disappoint my friends, my parents, my pastors, my coaches, etc. I was too busy thinking about their expectations, their desires, and their goals for me. I never really thought about what my goals were for myself.
I got to college, and I was so excited to have a fresh start, where I could be whoever I wanted to be. What happened is that I really just found out who everyone else wanted to be and decided I should be that too. I didn’t realize it at the time, but somewhere deep down; I was just going with the flow.
I went to a Christian university, where I was blessed with really great friends who shared my faith, and I didn’t really have any of the typical college temptations you hear about growing up. I never was tempted to party and get drunk, or sleep around. I just wanted to be a good Christian girl, work at a Christian summer camp, be in a sorority, and meet my husband by the time I graduated. That was the typical girl at my school, or at least who surrounded me.
I remember going through rush, and thinking how great it would be to have these forever friends that they talked up. We’d all be in each other’s weddings, and encourage each other in the Lord, and have kids that ended up being roommates at college, just like us. That’s what I thought I wanted. That’s who I thought I was.
The end of rush week came, and I was one of those few that got crosscut. Basically, one sorority knew I wanted another one, and the one I wanted didn’t give me a bid. So, all but three of my friends were in sororities and my freshman college dreams were crushed. I had placed all my worth and value in what a group of girls thought about me.
Even in grad school, I tried to fit in. Truth be told, I was in seminary, which is a hard place to fit in no matter who you are. It was during my time there, and even my time post school, where I began to realize I had no idea who I was, what made me tick, and what God had designed me for.
If I could tell my younger self anything, I would say “Take time to figure out who you are, what you love, and the kind of person you want to be, and spend your time doing the things that fit with who you are. Get comfortable in your own skin. It is so much better to be you – quirks and all, than to spend your days trying to fit a mold that no one ever asked you to.”
I will never forget the season of my life that I quit caring, and quit trying to impress for the purpose of acceptance. What happened is that I finally realized that being with the Lord in a close relationship was more important than doing work for him, or being what everyone else wanted me to be. Psalm 139 took on a whole new meaning. It’s not just a scripture that you paint on a canvas and hang in a baby’s nursery. It is the true, powerful, living WORD of God.
He spent time creating every part of who I am. He spent time designing you, your hairs on your head – frizzy, curly, straight…He did that with great intention. He crafted my heart to be a little tenderer than others, and he gave me a sense of humor that’s kind of awesome. (I crack myself up most days). The same God, who created the heavens, the earth, and all the things in it, took his time to make me. He didn’t make a mistake, or mess up. He didn’t forget anything. His plans for me haven’t been thwarted; despite the fact that I wasn’t in a sorority or that I am still single.
What I hope you take away from this is that He loves you, and you are a display of His creativity. So don’t try to change it, or reshape it. Get comfortable in your skin. Letting go and pressing in to know the Lord has been one of the most freeing things in my life. He just wants to meet with you, to know you, to be with you. Figure out the best way for you to draw near to him and do that! You will experience so much joy in walking the way He’s made you to walk.