HOW TO STOP BELIEVING THAT YOU DON’T BELONG
I was a social loser as a kid. No one knew it, but I was. On paper, technically I had lots of friends. I had a great group of teammates and church friends, and my brother was my best friend. No matter what I did though, I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere. In the pool I was fast. Too fast. It made me both the cool athlete and also the awkward youngster, having to train with kids ten years older than me. They were nice to me, but most of them had a crush on my brother, so I discounted their kindness.
In high school I was well liked, but it didn’t fill me. It was enough to be student body president and elected to any leadership or club position to which I applied. I floated around socially and fit well in every clique, but ended up feeling like I didn’t fit anywhere at all. I dated cute boys, but always questioned their motives. College was an extension of high school. To the onlooker, I had it all: a full-scholarship, collegiate athletics, a Greek life, boyfriends, great grades and multiple groups of friends. I even started a local non-profit charity for underprivileged children, led Bible studies, tutored on the side and managed two part-time jobs. None of it was enough. In my heart, I still felt like an outsider looking in, an imposter waiting to be discovered for not belonging. No matter what I did, I never felt like I was enough or what I did mattered.
The lie I had told myself is that everyone else had it all figured out, but me. I was an over-thinker, an over-doer and an over-achiever. I lived on turbo mode and it was exhausting. I thought it was my only choice. I didn’t think there could be any other way, because, honestly, without all of the accolades, what was there to love about this awkward loser anyway?
What I didn’t know then that I know now is that:
- No one really feels like they belong. All the more reason we need to invite others in and love more openly.
- Everyone thinks that they aren’t doing enough or are behind. All the more reason to give ourselves permission to be in the present and to remind ourselves that we are doing better than we think we are.
- No one is thinking about you as much as you think they are. All the more reason to stop trying so hard to impress others and use that energy to be yourself.
- Everyone wants more friends, real friends, the kind you can share secrets and life with. All the more reason to be the first to say hello and to remember that most people are waiting for an invitation. All the more reason to be the invitation maker, not just the invitation taker.
- No one is keeping you back from anything in life, the only person who can stand in your way is yourself. All the more reason to stop the pity parties, ditch the overthinking and start living the way you’ve always dreamed.
- Everyone yearns to know they matter and that they are loved. All the more reason to know that you do and that you are, and to be more than generous, to be reckless with your love, because other people need it way more than you think they do.
- No one is judging you nearly as much as you are judging yourself. All the more reason to start being kind to yourself and to give yourself permission to kick the comparison habit to the curb.
- Everyone has a story, and it is the struggle of the story that makes it stronger. All the more reason to stop playing victim card and to pop the balloons of your pity party so that you can embrace your weaknesses that are actually making you better.
The shame that plagued me the most was that I wasn’t supposed to be awkward. I knew I had friends, great friends. I was smart and school was easy for me. I found favor with people everywhere I went. I was naturally happy and extraverted. I was athletic and even though I never thought I was beautiful, I knew I was pretty enough to get by so to speak. I succeeded at everything I tried, and I believed in myself. Yet, I still couldn’t shake the feeling of not-enoughness that weighed on me.
All stories have a turning point. It’s the climax. A moment when you stand at a crossroads and make a decision to stay a victim or to step into the path of victory, it a slight shift that changes everything. And your story is no different.
My crossroads happened after I graduated college. Saying that I took a year off sounds too privileged, because I went to France to work and I was broke most of the time that I was there. I had signed a contract for full-time work, but found out, once I had moved across the Ocean, that only part-time help was needed. Not to worry though, I would still be paid the same. As a result I had a lot of time to think, journal and explore my real thoughts. I was given a break from the lifestyle of achievement and constant distraction, which had been the only way of living I had ever known. That year changed my life. I realized that I didn’t need continue telling myself the same story – the story of not being enough and of never doing enough. I could buy into a new story and I could jump into the adventure of seeing how that storyline played itself out. And by the grace of God I am glad that I did.
For me, being in France felt like pushing an alert button. The good kind, the kind you hit to stop something and to start something else. I smacked it with all of my strength. It was a signal of surrender. I was done with the race I was living and ready to live a different story. The people pleasing, the perfectionism, the increasing paychecks, the races, the parties, the successes were leaving me emptier and emptier each time. I had to find another way, and to do that, I had to stop doing what I was doing. I had to hit the alarm and start my race again.
Start over I did. I changed how I thought about life, and about myself, and, as a result, how I felt changed. I worked, I played, I laughed, I drank, I learned, I wrote, I became part of a community. I used my energy to connect with people instead of to compete with them. I lived on a budget, but never noticed the difference and always found creative ways to afford anything I wanted. I met people who opened my mind to laughter and life in a way I had not previously imagined possible. I slowed down and I learned to savor life. And, slowly, in the process of paying attention, I started paying attention to who I was and to who I wanted to grow into becoming.
This time around I decided that I wasn’t a loser. I was a child of God. In this scenario I chose to believe that my weaknesses weren’t shameful, but instead, they gave me strength. I didn’t need to prove myself anymore, because I knew that Christ made me enough. The peace that comes with not having to prove yourself is worth more than anything money can buy. Even though I had always known Jesus loved me, I had struggled to accept the full gift of peace He offers us. John 14:7 (NLT) says it better than I could ever: “I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. and the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”
Now, when I feel awkward, I know other people do too and I do something to love on them. It gets me out of my own insecurity, which is really just fear, and into a state of love. When I feel overwhelmed, I step into abundance and love, because I know that I am where I need to be. If God placed me here, then I belong. The moments I feel anxious or afraid, I remind myself that I don’t need to be and I mediate on what it means to have the gift of peace of mind and heart. What a gift, the gift of peace of mind and heart. It has been my answer. It has rescued me from my not-enoughness. It has, and continues, to give me daily courage to walk with confidence (otherwise known as peace) and courage (otherwise known as not living in fear or worry).
The world rages around us, telling us to buy into the hype of not-enoughness. It convinces us into perpetual states of stress and busyness. It lies to us to sell us quick fixes and empty promises, and we jump through hoop after hoop to quench our fears of not measuring up. Fear doesn’t fill our souls, it empties it. Nothing feels more lonely than an empty soul.
I have had enough emptiness. I have had enough fear. Now I choose peace.
- I choose to believe that walking in love is easier than walking in fear.
- I choose to believe that I am not captive to my old thoughts and that I can think differently now, and in the future.
- I choose to believe that I am growing every day.
- I choose to believe that life is good and that God is always with me.
- I choose to believe that God has me exactly where He wants me today and that I can entrust Him with my tomorrow.
- I choose to believe that a little bit of love can go a long way.
- I choose to believe that there is nothing that can separate me from the love of God.
- I choose to believe in the best in others.
- I choose to believe in abundance.
- I choose to believe that life is beautiful, not stressful or busy.
- I choose to believe that what I do matters, even when it doesn’t alway feel like it.
- I choose to believe I belong, even when I feel lonely or insecure.
- I choose to believe that I matter and that the love I put out into the world matters.
- I choose to believe that I can train my thoughts.
- I choose to believe in progress, not perfection.
- I choose to believe in having more fun.
- I choose to believe that my mess is my message and that my vulnerability will encourage others.
- I choose to believe in restoration, new beginnings and renewed faith.
Be encouraged as you wade through your own inner thoughts. You don’t have to keep thinking how you have always thought. You have a superpower within you. It is the power to think how you want. Training your thoughts takes time, so be nice to yourself. Getting used to the feeling of love feels weird, almost too good to be true; but it is true, so get used to it. Walking through life with a heart and mind of peace is truly a gift, and it is available to you.
The secret to stop believing that you don’t belong is to start telling yourself that you do. God has given you the superpower of freewill and the gift of being able to choose and train your thoughts. Jesus makes you perfect and powerful. You belong, my friend, you belong.
PS: If this topic of worth and self-confidence in Christ resonates with you and you want more encouragement, don’t look any further. I’ve got you covered. Here are direct links to some of my most popular podcast episodes I’ve done on the topic, all free for you, of course!