A few years ago, I had just given birth to my third child, a baby girl. Around late December or early January, I vividly remember sitting in a recliner, rocking back and forth, nursing her while bawling my eyes out as I wrote my New Year’s resolutions:
- Lose the baby weight.
- Stop talking so much.
- Read more.
- Get organized.
- Be a better mom.
- Try to make some friends.
- Try to keep those friends. Don’t screw it up like you normally do.
- People obviously don’t like you, so change.
Something came over me. There I was, holding this precious girl who was going to be watching everything I was doing. She was going to speak about herself the same way I spoke about myself. She was going to look at herself the way I looked at myself. If I didn’t like my thighs, she was probably going to believe something was wrong with hers too, and if I talked about my weight constantly, it was likely going to become a fixation for her as well. So I knew right then: it had to stop. Self-criticism had run through the women in my family for generations, and it would continue to do so until somebody had the nerve to knock it down. That somebody was going to be me.
So I ripped up my list, and I made an un-resolution right there on that chair. I wasn’t going to change myself. I wasn’t going to count my calories for a week and then sneak a few slices of pizza during family movie night, talk about how guilty I felt for indulging on those magnificent carbohydrates, and give up. I wasn’t going to walk around tearing myself down. I already knew my faults. I mean, trust me, I’m aware of everything wrong with me. I didn’t really need them spelled out.
This was going to be the year I accepted myself.
I was going to do it for me. I was going to do it for the three kids in my house who watched my every move, and I was going to use this confidence to glorify God because my insecurity sure wasn’t a testament to his goodness. I was going to raise my hands in the air and say, “Here I am, God. Use me.”
For a year, I dug deep. I figured out my personality. I went to therapy. I tried to understand what my patterns were and unlock all of my strengths. I took control of the things I could change and released the things I couldn’t. I tried to be a little more self-aware and a little less self-conscious. I found freedom and gave myself permission to just be.
It was like cuddling up on the warmest couch I’d ever known.
And in the process, something miraculous happened: my relationships blossomed. I loved my husband a little more. The energy in the house was a little lighter. There were more smiles, there was more dancing. We took more pictures and arranged more playdates. I started inviting people into my world exactly as it was, which was new for me.
I have to assume this awakening was because I finally wasn’t trying so hard. I had welcomed myself. I had honored who God made me to be, and this gave me the energy I needed to breathe more life into the people around me. I relaxed, which meant I was easy to relax around. I was honest for maybe the first time in my entire life. Everything was more fun. My feelings weren’t being hurt on a regular basis. I could brush off minor setbacks. I could stop being passive-aggressive and acting like some wounded animal. I didn’t see things as a personal attack against me. If you did not like me or wave me over to sit in your circle, it was okay because I believed someone eventually would. I stopped needing so much from other people. I stopped relying on their affirmations, their approval, and their invitations and started giving those things to others instead. If you haven’t yet discovered this yourself, let me tell you: giving is pretty great.
I don’t know if this makes sense, but it’s as if I liked myself enough to get over myself, and when I got over myself, it allowed me to focus on everyone around me, which is the single largest key to connection.
Insecurity makes you walk into a room and suddenly become acutely aware of everything wrong with you. Insecurity is a nit-picker of who we are, what we look like, and what we have.
Confidence, on the other hand, makes you walk into a room and become acutely aware of what everyone else is doing right. You say things like “You look so beautiful” and “Your shoes are amazing” and “You raise some interesting points, that is so clever” and “I could talk to you for hours.”
You listen to every word others have to say because you aren’t all up in your own head thinking about yourself or trying to craft a response. It’s about them. Not you.
That’s the key to friendship: to make people feel liked. To make it about them, and to care about their feelings and their needs.
In confidence, you become your truest self, and this is essential to every good friendship. As you find your most authentic self, you’ll find your most authentic relationships. No, not everyone will like you, but the ones who do will love you fiercely. No, not everyone will accept you, but the ones who do will embrace you with open arms. No, not everyone will invite you, but the ones who do will want you in a way that makes you feel seen and known and valued. No, not everyone will want you, but the ones who do will hold on to you loyally, and you won’t have to paint your kitchen cabinets every time they come over. You can just shove the laundry off the couch and make a seat for them.
You are loved.
Get out there. Stand tall, and act like it.
If you are looking for a community of women to get real about the ins and the outs, the ups and the downs, and all the in-betweens of friendship, visit Sister, I Am With You and pick up Amy & Jess’ new book, I’ll Be There (But I’ll Be in Sweatpants).
Adapted from I’ll Be There (But I’ll Be Wearing Sweatpants) by Jess Johnston and Amy Weatherly. Copyright ©2022 by Jess Johnston and Amy Weatherly. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. www.thomasnelson.com.
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