I learned something new about myself this weekend. Well, let me re-state that. I finally got brave enough to admit out loud something I’ve known about myself for a long, long time.
I have a deeply-rooted fear of rejection.
I was at the Noonday Collection conference, Shine, when one of my fellow ambassadors took the stage and shared her own fears of rejection. Her story, like mine, began with a seemingly innocent childhood experience. One that she only recently began to unpack, discovering for the first time the profound effect it has had on her life.
As she talked, a vivid memory from my childhood popped into my head. Something I’ve thought about many times over the years but have repeatedly brushed under the rug as a random memory that plays no role in my story.
Because it seems silly.
But as I listened to her speak, I realized that I view this memory from the perspective of an adult now. I don’t view it from the perspective of the little girl it happened to. And to her? It was tragic.
I was in elementary school, and I was involved in a fundraiser that required I go door-to-door.
I was horrified at the thought of knocking on the doors of these neighbors I didn’t know and asking them to buy whatever I was selling. But I mustered up the courage, my mom following behind to keep her eye on me, but to allow me the space to do this on my own.
As I made my way down one side of the street, I approached a big two-story house that rounded the bend. I walked up the steps and rang the door bell. A man answered the door, stepped out onto the porch, and instantly launched into me, yelling and chastising me because I had “woken the baby.”
I had no idea.
I hadn’t noticed the sign that said “Baby Sleeping,” which was taped to the door above my line of sight.
(Needless to say, he didn’t buy anything. And needless to say, I buy something from every kid who has the courage to knock on my door, regardless of who’s sleeping.)
Honestly, I don’t remember what happened after that. I only recall a giant pit in my stomach and a wave of shame that swarmed over me. The rest of the memory is missing.
This incident has popped into my head time and time again over the years for what I’ve previously chalked up to “no apparent reason.” After listening to this ambassador share her story, though, my perspective has changed. I’m embracing the fact that this incident plays a huge role in my story.
It’s not my whole story.
And there are other things that happened along the way to further solidify this fear, I’m sure.
But no wonder I’m so afraid to stick my neck out and ask people for things I want or need.
I’m afraid they’ll yell at me.
I’m afraid they’ll say no.
Layered on top of this fear is an insane struggle with perfectionism, which is funny to me given the fact that when I blog, I strive to do it with authenticity and transparency. Here on the blog, though, I can control what my readers do and don’t see. In other places of my life, I can’t.
So in those places where I’m the most insecure, I strive to be perfect.
And when I’m in the thick of the uphill battle, I get angry and frustrated and tired.
While becoming the wife of a pastor and birthing three children has definitely tamed me in this regard, perfectionism is still a struggle in some of the nooks and crannies. But until I considered the possibility that I have a fear of rejection, I hadn’t really considered the fact that my perfectionism was tied to that fear. Instead, I had pointed to being “Type A,” having high standards of excellence out of a desire to steward the gifts I’ve been given, and enjoying the peace and calm I experience when everything is “just so.”
I do think these things play a role, but they’re only chapters in a much longer book. I believe Chapter One is fear of rejection, and perfectionism is just the rest of the story.
It’s time to change the narrative.
Over the weekend, I published this post about the struggle I’m having trying to manage the tension between my messy children and my desire to have a clean house. And I’m trying to define what “clean” means as I strive to create a house that’s a home, not a sterile structure where it appears no one lives. I’m lost in the struggle, and I’m tired of being frustrated and angry, so I signaled a cry for help.
I got some great responses. And I’m going to implement some ideas that were shared to help us all do better around the house.
But after being gone all weekend, I walked in the door Sunday morning to find the opposite of what I expected. Instead of a ransacked trash pit, I found:
A clean house.
Empty laundry bags.
And the TV we purchased for our home office, installed on the wall.
According to our oldest, “Daddy was up really late trying to pick up the house” on Saturday night. (I wonder if he read my post.) This, while he had Sunday church services hanging over his head and a sermon to prepare for.
He is really just the best.
But only a few hours later, I was tucking our kids in bed only to find two out of three bedrooms in horrid condition and their laundry remaining to be put away.
This, on a school night at the beginning of a very busy week. It’s the kind of thing that makes my scalp start to itch and my body twitch just a little.
So all the filling up that occurred over the weekend, and all the rest, and all the joy I’d experienced with regard to the condition of the first floor of my house came rushing out of me like the air in a rapidly deflating balloon.
I didn’t quite lose it on the outside.
But I was boiling on the inside.
And the evening ended on a low note.
Then I crawled into bed and picked up a book I started reading about a week ago. I’d chosen it because I’m longing for this house we live in to reflect more of who we are and less of what we have, and I thought it might help. The first words I read were these:
You don’t have to get perfect to have a pretty house. Most of us simply need to learn to see the beauty in the imperfect. Because life is gloriously messy. We can find rest in our less than perfect circumstances when we figure out that no amount of striving can create the perfect life we think we are looking for. True rest comes when we realize that we can’t get it from trying extra hard. We find rest when we give up.
(The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have To Be Perfect To Be Beautiful, Myguillyn Smith, pg. 51.)
She went on to talk about a “well-made, super-comfy sofa” she purchased nine years ago that she recently discovered was tattered and torn. She shared about the edges that were dangerously thin and the fabric that was stained and fading.
It made her sad.
But then she saw the good side to having a worn, stained sofa. Because a worn, stained sofa represents all of the community and fellowship that has occurred on its cushions. And a worn, stained sofa provides a safe place for a family and its guests to be less than perfect too. Because who cares about melty chocolate chip cookies or greasy popcorn hands on a worn, stained sofa?
Isn’t it just like God to speak squarely into my heart through the pages of a book in such perfect timing?
I went to bed with a heavy heart. Because I was sad about the fact that, in so many ways, I continually miss the beauty in my family’s imperfection. But the next morning, I woke with a fresh perspective.
Those hand towels that are folded on my coffee table but not yet put away?
Thankful for the man who stayed up after me to fold them and take a few minutes off today’s load.
The mess upstairs in the rooms of two of my children?
Thankful that I have children to be messy and that they live life with such wild abandon.
The sticky kitchen floor I discovered when I stumbled out of bed in my bare feet to make breakfast?
Thankful that my kids and my husband shared some meals together just the four of them while I was away.
And the stacks and stacks of Christmas cards I’ve yet to put away because I need to make some updates to our address list?
Thankful we have so many friends from so many spaces and seasons in our lives who want to wish us well at Christmas.
The list could go on and on. In fact, we played this little game over dinner a few nights ago, and the kids had a blast “spinning” our imperfection into something really, really beautiful. To change the narrative, I have to let go of the fear of rejection that plagues so many areas of my life and choose to see the beauty in the imperfection instead.
It is a choice.
One I’ll have to make time and time again if I really want to change my story.
But I’m ready.
So I am going to choose.
Do you want to join me? If so, in reply to this post, share one area of imperfection in your life that you will choose to see as beautiful today.