Impressions can be a powerful thing.
As a gawky seventh grader, I anticipated my first school dance with much trepidation. It was Valentine’s Day. Each homeroom class chose a boy and girl to represent them as the class Prince and Princess. Home-made paper ballots circulated amongst heady eleven and twelve year olds hoping to be chosen. At the dance, Moore Middle School’s King and Queen would be crowned.
The thought of having to wait for some boy (any boy!) to ask me to the dance left my stomach in knots for days. I wondered exactly what happened at a school dance. And the dancing—I didn’t want anyone to see my attempts at that.
Three weeks before Valentine’s Day, the voting began. All around me, names were written in secret and passed to the front of each row. I looked around nervously as I jotted down my own name and hoped no one saw. Mrs. Frick stood at the front of the room tallying results as they arrived to her. Appearing surprised, she glanced around the room, straightened her face and revealed nothing. By the next morning, the votes had been sent to the front office while classrooms full of would-be princesses anxiously awaited the results.
When my name was called out over the school intercom I sat stunned. It had to be a miscalculation. I was not the princess type. I was overweight. I wore glasses. And, I had a really bad perm. I mean really bad. All I knew about boys was that my brothers got on my nerves. I still don’t know if my being chosen was a joke. But I was.
Not being a girly-girl, I didn’t really give much thought to my new status. I was pleased that I’d been chosen. I mean, a class prince had been chosen as well, so I didn’t have to worry about being asked to the dance anymore. But beyond that, I didn’t fret or prepare for my new role in any way. I went on about my life until the big day when I began hearing everyone talk about what they were going to wear. I got off the school bus, went straight to my closet and only then did I realize that I didn’t have anything to properly represent Mrs. Frick’s class as their Princess for the Valentine’s Day Dance.
Looking into my closet, my heart sank. There were no dresses stacked side by side from which to choose. I didn’t even own what could be considered a blouse. I was scrambling to find something to wear. I wanted to make a good impression. I wanted to fit in with the other princesses.
As the time for the dance drew nearer, I began to panic. I thought of borrowing something from my best friend down the street, but she was too tiny. I thought of borrowing something from my mother, but she was a grown woman. Then, I had an idea. I discovered that my favorite sweater kind of matched an old skirt in my closet. I could take the sweater, tuck it in like a blouse, and no one would know. No really. They wouldn’t. The perfect solution.
I look back now and wonder what in the world my mother was doing letting me out of the house like that. Maybe she thought I was trying to be fashionable. (It was the eighties.) I wasn’t succeeding. My black mary janes looked oddly out of place on a girl my age. The panty hose I borrowed from my mother were strangely tight in some areas and loose in others. My skirt was a wrap around which I belted and used to hold in my faux-blouse, a grey and black Vail sweater (a hand-me-down from my mother as I recall). I got to that dance, geeked up to the highest level: Glasses, bad perm, dorky outfit, and low self-esteem. It’s as if I was begging for it.
Completely unaware of my appearance, I walked into the gym and was immediately taken in by the winsome atmosphere that had been created. Red and white streamers hung from every surface. Enormous hearts covered what used to be basketball goals. Glitter was sprinkled all over the floor. And on stage was a giant red and white balloon arc where the newly crowned King and Queen would soon dance.
I wanted to be on that stage.
As I studied every detail of the thrones on stage, and eighth grader in a lavender gown with dyed-to-match kitten heels slid furtively to my side.
“Nice dress,” she said smiling slightly as her lip curled.
“Thanks. It’s really just a sweater and skirt,” I said revealing my secret. After all, she might need to use it some day.
“No! Really?” she said laughing. “Where’d you find that? Grandma’s closet?” she turned and smiled to her friends as they stood by and snickered.
All around me I suddenly noticed all the other princesses with new dresses and perfectly matched shoes. Their makeup was precise and their hair made up in beautiful curls and up-dos. I looked down at my sweater and skirt, deeply ashamed. Crossing my arms over my sweater, I prayed I would melt into the wall.
While my friends stayed busy with their “dates” trying to make it through their first real dance, my “date” avoided me until the class couple’s dance. Even as he placed his hands on my waist, I felt him leaning away.
Still, with all of those things stacked against me, there was a small piece of me that thought I might get picked to be Queen. Truly. I still believed it was possible. After all, my classmates saw something in me. If everyone else saw me and could tell what a nice person I was, they would pick me. They would. Because if I had nothing else going for me, I was surely the nicest girl in my class. Everyone wants good things to happen to nice people. Right?
I don’t think I have to tell you how that night ended. I don’t remember the pair that was chosen as King and Queen. But I can recall with striking accuracy the pain in my stomach and ache in my heart as I realized that I didn’t measure up. The catch in my throat at the thought of everyone looking over the line of Princes and Princesses and settling their eyes upon me: the biggest misfit in school. Not only did I not fit in, I felt certain that I never would.
Often, motherhood can feel the same way. As mothers, we do everything we can to be successful in our roles. Even if we secretly wonder at times, that being picked for them may have been a miscalculation on someone else’s part. The feeling of being less than other mothers, of watching others settle their eyes upon our inequities can be overwhelming.
Like the beautifully decorated gymnasium, we want our lives to appear as if they are perfect: everything in place. Not only do we want to be good mothers, we want everyone who looks at us to know that we are doing a good job, our children are doing well, and everyone is happy. But, life doesn’t always cooperate. We aren’t always successful. We aren’t always doing well. And children aren’t always happy.
It stresses us out when people notice the sweater because we are trying our very best to make everything work regardless of how it may seem on the outside. We’re using the best we can find in that closet, even if all we have to offer are last minute efforts. All the while hoping that someone doesn’t point out our faux paux for the entire world to acknowledge.
Why can’t they just see the parts of us that we want them to? You know . . . the best parts?
We weren’t meant to struggle with insecurity, Mamas. Though likely, we do.
As Christians, we assume that if we are doing our Christian-best, we will be completely secure in ourselves and our God. We fear admitting our faults lest we be reprimanded by another who claims to have it all together—and therefore—be better at Christianity than we are.
But make no mistake, sister. Insecurity has many forms, and it affects all of us. I’m convinced that it is the go-to weapon that the Enemy uses on women the most because, well, it’s just too easy.
Maybe yours shows up in the image you project, or the false humility you can’t stop congratulating yourself for. Maybe it shows up in the amount of “yeses” you offer, or the workload you tend to carry like a trophy. Maybe it shows up in the pride you feel or your congratulatory attitude at fitting in at all the right places.
However it manifests in your life, I’d bet it’s there.
So what do we do about it?
Insecurity is like a lie we believe about ourselves and accept as truth. In order to move past it, we have to confront the lie. Sometimes the lie feels good, like when our pride makes us believe that we are better than another. But, often, it’s a pain filled lie that has the ability to beat us down with a mere glance in our direction, like the rejection of someone we loved.
The first step in getting past it, is realizing it. It’s putting a face to the name of the pain in our lives. And once we identify our bully, he’s much easier to deal with.
Insecurity isn’t something to hide behind or shove in a drawer hoping no one finds it. Sure, the enemy has cleaned out that drawer and made it ooh so appealing. But, don’t fall for it. Unchecked, it can cause serious damage in our lives. In Beth Moore’s book “So Long, Insecurity,” she points out eight roots of insecurity:
- Instability in the home
- A significant loss
- Dramatic change
- Personal limitations
- Personal disposition
- Cultural overload
While its reach is wide, and can cover any aspect of our lives, it isn’t something we are sentenced to for life. It’s not something to hide behind or be ashamed of. In fact, having the courage to face your insecurities head on can help you overcome them, and free yourself from their hold.
Jeremiah 33:6 says:
“I will heal my people and I will let them enjoy abundant peace and security,” says the Lord.
Don’t let it hold you back, sister. Don’t hide the sweater. Do the work to recognize it in your life so that you can root it out, and become free from it. A great resource for this process is Beth Moore’s book “So Long, Insecurity”. I’m giving one away on Moms Together today!