Over the last couple years the Lord has been taking me on a journey of finding my identity. It’s not just about getting a boost of self-esteem, but getting God-esteem: how he feels about me and what my identity is in him. When I know that the Creator of the universe actually likes me, I start acting differently. I start doing things confidently, knowing that the Lord loves me as I am, and I don’t have to live up to any expectations to please him.
I recently read a book on creative writing that brought this back to mind. While discussing the importance of not copying others and being yourself as a writer, Heather Sellers writes:
In order to deal with the fear of the unknown that accompanies us every time we take on a new activity, we often suit up. We muscle up a new self: Serious Writer Man. It’s really fake. […]
[Our mistake is] voice slippage: adopting a false or lofty attitude that seems really smart and right and yours. But it’s not. It’s so easy to lose your voice when you want to write a book very badly. You want to impress the world.
Suddenly I realized… that’s what I do with girls.
It’s funny how girls to a single guy are a microcosm for bigger life issues. The pressure of relationships is an intense crucible that brings to surface all those things that we are struggling with in general. “Voice slippage” is no different.
I’m completely comfortable around girls normally, but as soon as I like one I get all nervous and awkward and I worry about “handling it right”. But like writing a book, there is no one right way. The only “right” way is to simply be me. There are of course good relational things to do, but if I try to ask a girl out using someone else’s method, it’ll feel fake. Like David trying to wear Saul’s armor, it won’t fit right. She’ll know it’s a front. “It’s so easy to lose who you are when you want to ask a girl out. You want to impress the girl….”
What will capture the heart of the right girl is me doing what I do best: being me.
That’s scary. It’s terrifying, because it’s me putting myself out there, and what if she doesn’t like me? What if she decides that me isn’t the type of guy she wants? Well, unfortunately… that’s life. People have different likes and what attracts them, just like I’m attracting to one girl over another. The point is, the only thing that will feel legitimate and right is when I’m just me.
See how this is a microcosm?
I’m in a group of people. We’ll all talking and laughing and having fun. I think of something to say—and instantly that thought goes through a series of filters. Will they like it? Will they laugh? Will someone think I’m dumb for having this opinion? Maybe I better not say it. Yeah, I better just sit here quietly and wait till I have a real doozy to contribute.
Walking confidently in my identity starts with getting over the fear that me isn’t good enough. When I’m writing a book, I constantly compare it to all the other books I’ve read. I like a girl and I suddenly compare myself and what I’m doing to all the other people around me. I’m afraid to be me, because I’m not sure if me is good enough.
But God sees me as good enough. He’s not comparing me to everyone else’s efforts. Even my weak attempts at trying to really, for the first time, express me and my heart brings overflowing joy to his heart. He made me specifically as I am, and he’s eagerly waiting for that true son of God to be revealed. He’s drawing me out, calling me out like a good father, putting me in situations that require a response.
He wants me to be confident in me, who he made me specifically to be, because the world is desperate for realness. The world doesn’t need another Billy Graham, not another Moses, or Steven Spielberg or Tolkien or C.S. Lewis or Steve Jobs.
The world needs me.
Not in a pump-myself-up-and-declare-I’m-needed kind of way, but in a way that I am the only person on earth or in history like me, and the world needs me to be real. The people around me are missing something if I don’t show the real me.
Now, there certainly is a filter through which my actions should go. Because I am a sinful man, the reaction of me may not line up with the Bible and how God desires me to live. My actions and words and thoughts always need to go through the filter God has given me in the Word and the Holy Spirit. But God never tells me to not be me. He just calls my sinful desires to the right direction.
In retail, the customers think they know what they want. They think they want something like the last product, but faster and shinier and cheaper. But good creators know not to bow to that demand. They strike out and do something unique to themselves, and suddenly consumers are in a frenzy trying to get it. That’s why Apple is so successful. Steve Jobs was confident enough to be himself, and bold enough to demand no one make him change. And the world realized that was what they really wanted all along.
When you write a book, don’t put on Serious Writer Man. When you ask a girl out, don’t put on Cool Jock Guy. When you interact with people, don’t put on Funny Joke Guy.
Be you. It’s scary and may hurt sometimes, but Jesus didn’t make you to be someone else.
… ‘Course then, after twenty-six years of filtering me away, I have to ask the Lord: who is the real me? Who am I really underneath all these layers and filters?