Life’s journey is not always comfortable. Sometimes it’s challenging to learn about who we are, but it’s one of life’s highest goals.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote,
“to be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to turn you into someone else is one of life’s greatest accomplishments.”
I’m taking a short break on this blog from talking about dysfunctional religion and the damage it can do to children only for a moment. I just want to stop and celebrate my journey. Recently, I got an opening to write a guest post about children in dysfunctional religious homes for the Child-Friendly Faith Project website. This organization works to help children who have suffered religious maltreatment. I will continue to interview and research this subject and the results I see in my own religious circles. I am glad that I’m able to help others whatever way I can with my experience.
But enough about that. Back to my journey. I had to stop and understand for myself why I put up with so much religious dysfunction in my life for so long. Partly, I found that performance based religion provided me with security. I had been at this church since I was 19. I just did what the community expected of me and measured myself by their acceptance. Belonging gave me an identity but I found that this identity didn’t always measure up to what God wanted for me. When a person is measured by what the next guy does, it’s stifling not only to personal development but to God’s plan for their lives.
I found I needed a particular mindset to regain my identity. An open mind is one key factor. It will lead you to truths about you and it will lead you dig deeper in scripture. Willingness is another factor. You have to be willing to listen and learn even from people you may not agree with in all areas of life. They may have a particular truth in the one area you need.
People do uncommon things like mountain climbing, wilderness adventures, joining the peace corps, or taking gap years traveling around the world to find out more about who they are. In my opinion, those things can be helpful (except I don’t like the mountain climbing thing), but to me, the best way to find out who you are is to look at your actions in everyday life. Take a good look at what you love and what you don’t. Take a good look at what you do under pressure. BE YOURSELF in a world that wants you to dress a certain way, talk a certain way, and think like “they” think.
The other day, I picked up a US WEEKLY magazine and wanted to puke. They had a section called “STARS–THEY’RE JUST LIKE US!” If you’ve never seen this magazine, they show random movie stars and celebrities doing everyday things.
Really? I’m so bored!
Do I care that they eat ice cream cones and take their kids to the park? Why do we have to feel that celebrities mirror our actions or that we mirror them? Of course they’re just like us! We’re human beings, and so are they. I am glad that I’ve become aware of how much this world wants us to think and BE a “certain” way. To disagree on issues provides an opportunity to learn what others think. It’s dull for everyone to think the same about everything. There’s black people that love country music or rock music and there’s whites that love R&B and Hip-Hop and Rap. People don’t have to be zoned-out duplicates of one another.
I have really begun to embrace me and be happy with my curves, my voice, how I look, and who I am. I know it seems weird at 56 to say that but, if you know my story, most of my life was centered around conformity. I know that God loves me “as is” and he’s working on me to make me a better person. Would he make snowflakes completely different, fingerprints unique, or our hair and eyes in such an array of colors if he didn’t value individuality?
To help my recovery, I write down who I am and my core values. This list sometimes changes as I learn more about me:
I am a woman who loves God and His Word
I am a woman who loves to learn
I am a woman who hates injustices.
I am a woman that cares deeply about people.
I am a woman who can endure hardships.
I am a woman who analyzes her situations intelligently ( and sometimes I overthink, but I’m aware of when this is happening)
I am a woman who is learning to make her past work great things for her future.
I am a woman who works hard and has vision.
I am a woman who is worthy of love and acceptance for who I am.