Recently my family and I were joking around about family superlatives and what we would each hypothetically be assigned. My sister Morgan was deemed “the sassiest” which makes complete sense if you know her at all and my brother Connor was deemed “quietest” because he seemed to go mute whenever we asked him about his day, even though he’s apparently the class clown at school. My sister Courtney is quite possibly an actual Saint on earth and therefore was named “nicest” all around. And without hesitation my whole family agreed I was “most high maintenance.” Was I surprised? No, absolutely not. Especially growing up, it was my way or the highway.
There is no better example of this characteristic than my childhood birthdays. God forbid ONE thing did not go how it was intended. (Combine high maintenance, control freak and perfectionist and you have a super fun outcome.) I loved throwing elaborate and/or specifically themed parties. In first grade I handwrote invitations for a spy-themed party that you had to hold up in front of the mirror to read through the reflection. (“Extra” is my middle name.)
As I got older, birthdays were no longer measured in the details of a party I could throw. In college my birthdays evolved to need outside validation. It was all about how many people wrote on my Facebook wall to wish me happy birthday, who would post an Instagram dedicated to my existence and of course, who didn’t do any of this and clearly could not care less about me. This may sound slightly over the top and ridiculous, because it is. But I really craved validation and love so much that this stuff mattered. A lot. Birthdays almost became stressful because I feared a friend forgetting or not deeming me worth a slot in their Instagram feed. It’s so crazy looking back, but in the age of social media women well into their twenties or thirties are checking how many likes they got on a photo and usually in some way allowing it to affect their self esteem, consciously or not.
It’s easy to want to tell women like myself who are so caught up in all this, to just knock it off and focus on something that actually matters. Even writing this now, I laugh to think I could measure the caliber of my friendships based on if they Instagrammed a picture of us hugging once a year. But the problem was more deeply rooted than that. It was never about a picture being posted; it was about not feeling secure enough in who I was or what I was worth and then overcompensating for it. Ultimately it was rooted in fear.
Over the last couple years I have begun to face all the things I was afraid of. I was afraid God could never love me after all the mistakes I had intentionally made to rebel against him. I was afraid to trust God with my life or my worth. I feared his disapproval, and in looking for it from other people, became even more afraid they wouldn’t approve either. I was terrified of what felt like a secret I harbored – that I was not enough and way too much all at once. How could anyone love all of that mess?
But as I started actually facing God, I did not find the disappointment, exasperation or anger that I was expecting. I only found a loving Father who had been waiting for his beloved daughter to turn around and come home. And when I finally got there, he didn’t just let me continue living in the filth of my fear and desperation or the rags of my self-doubt. He transformed my life. It wasn’t one big moment or magical movie montage. It was slowly, day by day, showing me who he is and therefore who I am.
He is the ultimate King and Ruler. He calls me his daughter and therefore I am royalty as well. He is strong and creative and kind and he made me in his image. I get to be all those things too. And as I began discovering who I am and how God sees me, it started shifting my perspective on how I interacted with the people around me. Instead of trying to earn approval or begging for affection from my friends and family, I was able to pour out love to them. I was secure enough in who I was that I didn’t need them to validate it at every turn. And it was amazing how that transformed my relationships. When you aren’t constantly relying on those around you to tell you how much you’re worth, it allows space for genuine companionship and growth.
I recently had my 22nd birthday. For the first time that I can remember, I didn’t wait nervously to see who acknowledged it. I don’t think anyone posted an Instagram and I genuinely don’t care. I didn’t really check my Facebook that day at all. As silly as it sounds, it felt like sweet freedom. I went to church with my sister that morning, as it was a Sunday, and sitting there with her, listening to the sermon, I just felt overwhelmed with gratitude. Birthdays are great – especially when you have a mom who makes the world’s best peach cobbler for dessert – but I felt myself praising God for the 364 days that led up to September 3rd.
The past year has been crazy, joyful, hard, unexpected, filled with growth and full of changes I never saw coming. I left the job I had thought I would stay at maybe forever. I had to wait two months until my next job, which was a season filled with learning about patience and trusting God. I worked my dream job for a luxury fashion company and subsequently learned I do not want to work for a luxury fashion company. I finished up college finally! I decided to follow the Lord’s (rather unexpected) call to move clear across the country from New York City to southern California and landed a job in candy marketing and a Santa Monica apartment by the beach. So much happened that year and every single thing led me to that moment, to that seat at church in Colorado with my sister – whether or not I thought it was important or good at the time. God is the most creative storyteller.
My birthday was great and I loved spending it with family and friends. But it didn’t matter who texted me before I even woke up or didn’t text me until a day later or didn’t say anything at all. I don’t need a special confirmation on a specific day to know I am loved and worthy. My worth has been confirmed all 364 days prior, sometimes by friends or family, but always by Jesus.