For the first years of my adult life, I was self-conscious, anxious, and selfish. I lacked confidence in my own decisions and opinions, I cared way too much about what other people thought of me and I thought mostly about how situations would affect me. Perhaps that’s how everyone feels as they grow up and find their footing in the real world.
I’m not a “young adult” anymore. I’m a REAL adult and this thought kind of terrifies me. My 28th birthday is rapidly approaching and the big 3-0 is looming in the not-too-distant future. Lately I’ve been reflecting on who I’ve become and how I’ve changed in the last 10 years. I feel stronger and more confident, comfortable with who I am. I know my personality and the strengths and flaws that come with it. I will continue to grow and develop into the woman God designed me to be.
My journey is far from over, but here are some lessons I’ve learned along the way:
Challenges and conflict have made me a stronger person.
I would love to live my life without a care in the world. No stress, no confrontation, no friction. That sounds nice, doesn’t it? Of course it is an unreasonable expectation – we all face hardship and struggles. I used to shy away from conflict, avoiding it at all costs. I was scared to receive criticism, even if it was tactful or constructive.
In the last five years, I’ve experienced the hardest times of my life. I have witnessed how scary and unpredictable life can be. But I have also seen God at work in my life and I trust Him now more than ever. When my brother was diagnosed with cancer, when my son was hospitalized with a near-fatal illness, when multiple family members experienced infertility or infant loss, the only solace I had was in prayer and Scripture. I have come to realize that life will never be easy or perfect, and trusting in God’s sovereignty and love is the only way I will get through difficulties.
I can’t make everyone happy.
Last year we went on a trip with my family, and one day I became so worried because an ice cream shop we had told them would be open was actually closed. (Yes, I do realize how silly this sounds in hindsight.) I felt so stressed until I realized that I was not actually responsible for everyone else’s happiness. Most likely my family wouldn’t care about ice cream. Even if they did, well, there was nothing I could do about it anyway. I temper this perspective with Romans 12:18: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” I’m not going around making people upset on purpose, but I understand that someone else’s reaction to my actions is not my responsibility.
My personality is an explanation but not an excuse.
Three years ago I took a Myers-Briggs personality test and found so much encouragement in my results. It was truly freeing to realize that there were other people who thought and felt the same way I did.
Learning about my personality type has helped me to understand myself, sure, but I have also had to address my flaws. I am a very introverted person and I process most of my experiences in my head, without sharing those thoughts with others. That made me very shy and quiet as a young person, and it has caused communication issues in my marriage. I have had to learn how to talk to my husband about things that are bothering me or causing me to be frustrated.
Comparing myself to others is a waste of energy.
I’ve spent countless hours comparing my life, my appearance, and my work to everyone else around me. Just yesterday I had to stop and tell myself that it doesn’t matter. There will always be people who are better or have more, but that’s not important. I need to be focused on serving God in my daily life, whether that’s through loving my husband and kids, serving my family and friends, or my professional work.
Comparing myself to others will not make me a better woman. I have to recognize that I am already valuable to Christ—nothing I could do would make me more precious to Him. I have found peace in that knowledge and when I find myself feeling insecure or inferior, I remind myself that I am “rooted and grounded in love.” (Ephesians 3:17)
Caring about people and issues is hard but important.
The older I get, the harder it is to read or hear about the atrocities occurring daily around the world. It hurts my heart to read about another kidnapping, another shooting, another genocide. That could be my child, my husband, my family. It’s too much to think about. But if I don’t care, who will?
I wish I could snap my fingers Mary Poppins-style and fix everything that’s wrong in the world. I can’t do that, but I can pray for people who are in a position to bring hope to those who are hurting, I can educate myself about issues, and I can be a voice for people who need justice. I can teach my kids to love God and respect others, and I can care for the people around me.
I am far from perfect, as anyone in my family could tell you, but I am grateful to be where I am today. While I still face anxiety, doubt, and fear, I am at peace with who I am and who I am becoming. Over the past 10 years I have learned so much about myself and about who God is. I’m still not super excited to be turning 30 soon, (let’s face it, is anyone excited to turn 30?) but I hope that in another 10 years’ time I will be an even stronger and better woman, full of love and grace, and serving God with everything I have.