“Women almost universally feel that they are too much and not enough. At the same time.” –Captivating by John & Stasi Eldredge
I have memories from elementary school and junior high of receiving the message that I was too much. In elementary school the message came from adults. In elementary school I was taught to keep my mouth shut in class to not talk so much.
Calm down. You’re being too loud.
Be quiet. Don’t talk so much.
Why are you crying? You’re too emotional.
In junior high it came from other students. As the new kid I was regularly labeled stuck up.
Who do you think you are?
You aren’t better than anybody else.
By high school I had learned how to conform to blend in. I was a “good” kid, quiet and reserved, opinionated but respectful, passionate but peaceful.
By the time I was a young adult in conservative Christian circles, I knew how to tone down my views. I knew how to get my point across without too much passion less I appeared angry and argumentative.
Some will read this and see it as the signs of growth and maturity. To a certain degree, I agree with that notion. I also recognize how it helps with my need to be not perceived as too much. The result is by the time I was a grown woman with a family, I was used to shrinking myself to the point of being unrecognizable. Pushing towards my goals and dreams, even now, feels selfish, self serving and un-Christian.
I get it. Conformity is comfortable. It makes us feel normal, until… God starts to awaken a desire for more in you. I remember that moment for me. I still remember where I was standing in the little kitchen of the first home we ever owned. It was the same kitchen I prepared my little family’s meals. It was the same kitchen where we had sat, talked and laughed with friends and family for hours. It was in this kitchen that I cried because I wasn’t happy with how my life had turned out. My dream of having a life where I was the one home raising my kids was not what I had bargained for and I was bored, tired and frustrated. But…It was the life I chose. It was the life I thought I wanted, but I didn’t like the way I felt spiritually, physically or emotionally. I was restless and unfulfilled and I had a decision to make. Was I going to blame my husband for my life? Was I going to resent my kids? Or Let go of this fantasy and allow God to show me his way for me. I chose the latter.
That moment in my kitchen was not the last time I would experience “divine discontent”. It was one in a series of different moments at different times in my life. It’s one of the moments that has brought me to this place in my life journey and it is only in hindsight that I can clearly see how I started shrinking myself, my personality, my desires, my drive, very early on because of my own need to fit in.
… playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. – Our Deepest Fear by Marianne Williamson
That moment in my kitchen was me coming to the realization that I had boxed myself in because of what I thought was expected of me as a mom. I was (and still am) devoted to my family, but back then I was also quite insecure about who I was as a woman. That moment was simply the beginning of life journey of uncovering layers of my identity. In a different post I’ll share of another defining moment that happened in a business class I took through my church.
I know from talking to the wise women in my circle of friends that my experience is not unique. I asked them to share with me how and why they realized shrinking was no longer an option:
Vicki said, “When I realized that what I had to say had value, and my contribution to a conversation had value, along with having to let go of what others might think of me, then I began to speak up more.”
Melissa expressed that we have to realize that we might have the solution to a problem someone else is looking for, so we can’t be afraid to speak up.
Realize your uniqueness is a gift from God. Angela so wisely shared in the middle of trying to “tone down” her personality she heard the Holy Spirit whisper, ‘You are at your best when you are who I created you to be.’ “That changed my life and helped me to love and like me.”
Evelyn said, “When I realized that it was more of a challenge to change who I was to please people than it was to just be me, the more I became my authentic self. The more I realized how much I liked me…when I fell in love with the woman God created me to be, I realized that every aspect of who I am was enough.”
Toni explained that when you know your purpose and why you are here you’ll stop shrinking.
Tina shared how an incident in her life helped her realize, when we don’t allow other people’s low opinions of us and your ideas hold us back, it’s one of the best things we can do for ourselves.
The unifying theme that repeats itself in each of our stories is the fear of what other people will think makes us shrink back from why we’re really here – to glorify God and make Him known. We make him known through the uniqueness of our experiences, our personality, our strengths and our passions. Frustration or discontentment may be the catalyst that reveals a change needs to happen, but learning to embrace our God given identity with all our strengths and our limitations is what actually empowers us with the confidence to stop underestimating how God can use us.
What about you? You see the conformity in your life, but what do you do about it? What is it going to take for you to make the changes for your life so that you can live a life of no regrets?
Think back to a time in your life when you would (knowingly or unknowingly) shrink your personality, your desires or your drive, because you don’t want to be or appear “too much” (ie. too feminine, too loud, too smart, too needy).
JOURNAL USING THIS DEVOTIONAL PROMPT: What was your defining moment, when you had to decide shrinking was no longer an option? What were the circumstances?
You can also share your thoughts in the comments.
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