All I’ve ever wanted was to fit in. Maybe you’ve wanted that too. When I was younger, I hated being different from all my friends and longed for normal — whatever that is. It seemed as if everyone else was adorned with glitter and had a glow. I wanted that too.
But this longing to be like everyone else didn’t end as I grew older. Instead it became all consuming way too fast. And those desires wear you down and leave you feeling like a worthless cast-away. I know these feelings well.
I climbed up on my brand new white formica topped vanity. The year was 1975 and we had just moved in to a house my parents had built.
I sat on top of my vanity staring into a beautiful gold rimmed mirror.
Tears began to form. I hated my hair. I hated being the kid with curly, frizzy, uncontrollable hair. These were the years of the Brady Bunch and all the girls were sporting the “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha” hair style — long and straight as a board.
Try as I may, my hair would not do that. I had laid on the floor and tried with an iron to press out the curls (dating myself here.) And on good days when the humidity wasn’t too high, I’d have fairly straight hair for a few minutes. But once my hair caught glimpse of the wind it was frizzier than before.
So all I knew to do was stare at myself and cry. I hated the hair. I hated being made fun of for the way I looked. I hated the names that so-called friends would hurl my way. Middle school is hard enough without having to be different.
The tears streamed down my face as all I ever wanted was to fit in — to be like everyone else.
Questions about not fitting in seem to be an ongoing conversation I’ve had with God over the years. Over and over as a matter of fact. I even wrote a short ebook about Giving Up Normal. (download it here) Go ahead, it’s free.
There has always been something that seems to hold me about three-steps outside of the crowd. Seriously, it’s always been something — looks, jobs, lifestyle, struggles, callings, and passions.
This is probably why God impressed upon my heart a verse about not conforming years ago. I’ve hung on to it since.
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.” Romans 12:1-2 MSG
I often think back to my vanity mirror crying spells these days. The more I stared at the reflection then, it’s as if I were staring backward into what could have been. That reflection kept me from my journey ahead.
I think of all the time I wasted wanting to look different — to be someone else and like everybody else. I never once was thankful for that fact that I had hair. Of course, I never dreamed I’d one day lose all my hair either.
But isn’t that the point — that we should be thankful for every little thing we have whether we think it is good enough to be thankful for or not.
Being thankful gives us a new perspective.
Thankfulness puts our eyes on the Gift-Giver and not on our selfish desires.
Oh if I could go back and talk to my younger self, I’d have a few things to say:
I know you hate your looks and this unruly head of hair you have because you just want to fit in. But there is so much more to appreciate than just being like everyone else. There are many who would give anything to have your hair because they don’t have any. Straight, curly, long or short wouldn’t matter to them. And while you ponder this for a minute, I need to tell you that later in life you will lose all your hair too. A crazy accident will take place and every hair on your head will fall out within 21 days. So while you are not pleased with your looks, you need to learn to be appreciative. You need to spend more time being thankful about what you do have than what you wished you had. You are beautiful. Don’t let the world tell you how you should look.
I’m not even sure if my younger self would have understood what I was trying to tell her because she was so wrapped up in trying to fit in. And I can honestly say, my older self still struggles with the same issues.
I don’t climb up on my vanity and cry any longer, but when I do catch glimpses of my now bald self as I pass a mirror a lump forms in my throat.
There’s no denying I’m different.
There’s no denying you are different too. I’m beginning to appreciate the differences in everyone. I wrote a book about it with my homeless friend, Graffiti — scribbles from different sides of the street, yet I now understand at a deeper level.
Life is colorful. Full of differences. I love that you are different from me and we can marvel over the way God works between us. It is a magnificent gift.
I love that our hair (or lack of), skin, and eyes are different.
I love that we live in different neighborhoods.
I love that our God-given gifts, talents, and passions are unique.
And I love that our struggles are different, but as we are vulnerable and share we learn from each other.
So let’s lay aside these emotions that are so great and cause us to question who we are, what has happened to us, and how this can be our lives. Those questions have never done anyone any good. As a matter of fact, those questions keep us from being the best you and I we can be.
Friend, let’s make a pact — let’s not look at our reflection in shame, quit crying that we’re different, and stop questioning our Maker. Yes, let’s proudly sport our wildly different selves and together be difference makers moving forward for the Kingdom.
Count your blessings that you are different — it makes you YOU!