And My Pedestal Came Tumbling Down
Growing up, I was very aware of the fact that I was different. I was always one of maybe three black kids in the entire class and struggled with my identity because all my friends looked different than I did. My family attended a “black” church in a “black” area of town, but I wasn’t black enough for the church girls. So I was stuck in the middle: too black, yet not black enough all at the same time. This began my cycle of continually feeling misplaced, misunderstood, and feeling like I could never completely fit in.
As I got older, I hung out with many different groups of people, but each group only got a small percentage of me, never all of me. While this meant that I was well liked, it also led me into fear of opening up to others. I became worried that they would judge me instead of accepting me; the rejection I faced as a child continued to haunt me through adolescence. I was convinced that if I remained the nice, quiet girl then I wouldn’t lose my community.
But this meant that no one ever knew me fully.
Cue the hard-core people pleasing. I wanted to please everyone in order to remain liked because I loved being liked. During my teen years I had a reputation of being a teacher’s pet or a goodie-two-shoes and somehow I began to put my identity in those labels. I took on that identity as my own which only fueled my people pleasing even more.
By the time I graduated college, I was a people pleaser who was living on a grand, gold pedestal that others had placed me on. Being a goodie-two-shoes allowed me to dwell in this “seemingly perfect moral standard” as seen by others.
I didn't know how to live life off of the pedestal. By this time, my people-pleasing led to full-blown perfectionism. I couldn’t make any mistakes because I needed to maintain the image that everyone had of me; I was the perfect church girl who never did anything wrong, and I was wasn’t going to let them down.
Perfectionism + people-pleasing + insecurity = hot mess
For years I maintained this facade, perfectly perched atop the golden pedestal until it crumbled beneath me and I came tumbling down in spectacular fashion. People’s expectations were giving me anxiety. My calendar was full because I couldn’t say “no”. I was drowning in the ocean of people pleasing. I wasn’t living my own life. I didn’t know what I wanted because I was so used to wanting what others told me I should want. Then one day it all came to a head in the form of a panic attack in the middle of the church hallway.
Crash. I had been removed from my pedestal. Now it was time to be put back together again.
I was surrounded by a community of amazing friends who were able to help me set boundaries in my life. Around that time I met Douglas, my incredible, God-fearing boyfriend, who rushed in and overwhelmed me with help, patience, and great methods to work on my thought processes, my anxiety, and my identity. The Lord was especially gracious in my prayer life during that time, revealing things to me that I had never known about myself. It has been a long, long journey and, though I still have a long way to go, I can’t believe how much the Lord has healed me in only a few short years.
I am thankful for this process because it has equipped me for what God has called me to do: teach. I’ve been learning my identity while also attending seminary. My worldview is no longer centered around the thoughts of man but around the One who created us all. Now I feel confident to go and teach anyone, even those I’m sure will judge me. I am confident in who I am in Christ. I’m confident in His Word. I am confident in His sacrifice for me. And because I know that God is pleased with me, I am truly free to be me.