Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you someone else is the greatest accomplishment.”
Trying to make others be what we want them to be or succumbing to their pressure to make us be what they want us to be is a major reason relationships fail. People must be free to be themselves, or they will always be frustrated, unfulfilled, and unable to relax and enjoy their life. They rarely know why they feel the way they do, so they blame their unhappiness on the people with whom they are in relationship.
Because I was abused sexually by my father, I always felt that something was wrong with me. That negative feeling drove me to try to be like other people I admired or thought I “should” be like. If anyone even suggested that I do something differently than the way I was doing it, I immediately felt pressure to change. Even if they were not trying to pressure me, the very idea that they didn’t approve of what I was doing was enough to throw me into a panic.
Years later, after I was married and had children, I had a good friend who visited my house often. At times, she sat and talked with me while I did my ironing (yes, people once ironed all their clothes). One day she asked, “Why do you start with the collar of a shirt when you iron? I always start with the body.”
My friend was simply making a comment, but from then on, when she was at my house and I was ironing, I started with the body of the shirt. I did what I thought would gain her approval instead of ironing the way that was comfortable for me. The funny thing is, she probably didn’t even notice how I was ironing the shirt after her initial comment, so all my effort was wasted.
For a long time, I tried to be like so many people that I lost myself. Because I had rejected myself and viewed myself as flawed and useless, the idea that I could follow my own heart and trust God to guide me never occurred to me. I tried to be like my husband, who is the exact opposite of me. I tried to be like my pastor’s wife, who was also the opposite of me. And I tried to be like a friend who had talents I didn’t have. She had a garden and grew tomatoes and a few other vegetables, so I tried to have a garden. Of course, I failed at gardening. I failed in all of my pursuits to be like other people because God will never help anyone be someone else. He didn’t create us to be copies of another person, but to be our own authentic and unique selves.
During those years, I blamed everyone else for my unhappiness and thought that if they would just change, I would be happy. Thankfully, God showed me the real problem—self-rejection, self-blame, guilt, and comparison. Only after I learned that I could accept and love myself because God accepts and loves me was I able to begin being the unique person He created me to be without comparing myself to others.
I can remember a time when I would walk into a room filled with people and immediately feel pressure from the fear of rejection. I would locate the person in the room who seemed to be getting the most attention and imitate them or get close to them so I could be accepted. Living like an impostor is exhausting, and I am so glad to be able to walk into any room now and feel no need to impress anyone. I thoroughly enjoy the freedom to be myself. We are never truly free until we no longer feel the need to impress other people and can be comfortable just being ourselves.
Just think about this for a while. You never get away from yourself for one second of your life. Anywhere you go, there you are! If you don’t like yourself, you are destined for a life of misery. All you have to do is think about how miserable it is to spend a few hours with someone you really don’t enjoy, and you will begin to understand how being with yourself all the time affects you if you don’t enjoy yourself.
If you don’t like yourself, it affects every area of your life and every decision that you make. If you don’t like yourself and love yourself as God loves you, you are only one step away from freedom—a step of faith. It is a step you can take right now by simply believing that God’s Word is true and that it is true for you. What you believe is your reality. Whatever you think you are is what you will become. For example, if I believe I am unlovable, I will behave in a way that makes me unlovable. However, if I believe I am lovable, I will behave in ways that draw people to me, and God will give me favor with them. Take some time and really examine how you feel and what you believe about yourself. You can never get where you want to be if you don’t recognize where you are.
Hear more from Joyce Meyer this Tuesday and Thursday on LIFE TODAY. Excerpted from Authentically, Uniquely You by Joyce Meyer. Copyright ©2021 by Joyce Meyer. Published by FaithWords, a division of Hachette Book Group. Used by permission.