Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Coolest Thing Since Shredded Cheese

Do you remember how you felt when you where a kid and something embarrassing happened to you in public? Like when your mom would drop you off at school and shout, "I love you, Patootie!" from the car window. It seemed like everyone must be watching you. Everyone must have heard her say that! But, in reality, it was simply our childlike egocentric nature. Not that ever kid thinks that they're the coolest thing since shredded cheese (I insist on buying pre-shredded cheese), but let's face it. We were kind of the center of our own universes. Who was the main character in your imaginary adventures as a child? Ya, I was always the princess, too. It's something many people grow out of, though it seems to give one strong last struggle in adolescence before finally being replaced by a growing sense of self-confidence.
I was one of those kids who quickly learned that it was best to not care what others thought of me. I attended very competitive private schools from junior high to sophomore year and I honestly struggled. I maintained my honor roll status, but I constantly felt overwhelmed by the pace of the classes and the piles of homework. The last thing I needed to worry about was what the other kids thought of me. I just didn't have the time.
It would sometimes get under my skin, though. I was different. I was the "good girl," obviously not using anything and I didn't swear. I never paid much attention to what I wore since uniforms were mandatory. My skirts weren't hemmed to the popular so-short-it-got-you-a-detention length. I tended to protect and defend the kids who were bullied or teased. Not to mention that I was a Christian. That was like "social suicide."
My mom would often remind me that I wasn't at school to make friends. And I didn't necessarily want to be close to my classmates. There was a lot of manipulation and experimenting going on that I was far from comfortable with. In the end, I was the one people would talk to when they where marginalized or excluded. I was comfortable in this position. It made me Switzerland. No one wants to pick on the nice kid and no one really wants to include the nice kid in questionable activities. Win win.
When I was about to enter my junior year of high school, I did not reapply to the college-prep, all girls crazy place I had been attending. A friend from middle school had told me of this great school she was at and that I should apply. So I did. And it was like happily ever until-the-end-of-high-school. And I promised myself to focus my attention on what God wanted me to do and how He wanted me to live. Not on the expectations of my peers.
High school's over and the days of worrying about what others think about me are way behind me. Sometimes it's an issue because I'm not a political thinker. My parents are both involved in politics, so I leave that to them :) I'm a very private person and I tend to keep my thoughts and opinions to myself. I try to treat everyone with the respect they deserve as children of God. Most importantly, I try not to take myself too seriously. Now, if I trip down stairs or wear my shirt inside out, I laugh. Ya, it could be embarrassing, but I choose to not let it be. I still tend to be a rescuer and that's ok with me. But I don't worry about how other's interpret it any more. I know who God has called me to reach out to and who am I to not do so?
This, I've realized, is the first worry I let go of. Living this way is like a breath of fresh air. And I think it's important to realize, people are not focused on what you're doing because they're busy considering what they are doing themselves! People may not have an opinion about how you act or dress or whatever until they find you have developed an opinion of them. It's ironic, right?
I'm not trying to encourage an attitude of self-righteousness or anything here. And there are times when a loved one's opinion will affect how I act and encourage me to be a better version of me. Example: I'm shy right off the bat. It might not seem like it on here with me sharing my honest feelings and all, but I really am. I'm guarded and more of an observer than anything. Remember those vibes I talked about way back when? No? That's ok. Let me explain.
I've always scored highest in the area of discernment on those fun spiritual gift tests you take at Christian schools :) I sometimes get a very strong first impression of a person. And it's usually right. But, I've learned to not jump to conclusions. So, I typically keep people at arms length when first getting to know them. This and my shyness end up coming across as…I don't know. Different people perceive it differently…obviously. But J, who knows me best, brought it to my attention ages ago that it can seem mean and rude. It's not intentional, but his honesty has helped me. When he expressed what he thought, it was meant to benefit and not to harm. I'm so glad to have someone in my life who is willing to call me out on things I may be unaware of. 
In summary of this rambling metaphor, I guess I just want to encourage you: don't worry about what other people are thinking. Those closest to you support you and will offer their honest opinions, I'm sure- if you seek them out. If there is something you can improve on, then your friends and family are your best resources. I truly believe that you can't go wrong with politeness and kindness. You can't please everyone. It's healthiest to focus on pleasing the Lord.
Yes, this might sound like self-help mojo nonsense, but I really believe it. So what, who cares? Life's too short to put much of your attention on what the nosey Joneses are saying.

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