By SARAH DAVIS
photo credit: Steven Sites
I learned more about reptiles than I ever wanted to when my middle son decided to purchase a Bearded Dragon with the money he earned one summer. I found myself immersed in routines of turning on a heated lamp for daily basking and making weekly trips to aisle three of the local pet store to purchase crickets. The things you do for love, I thought to myself. And yes, I eventually warmed up, too, and found myself standing at the aquarium in my son’s room having a monologue with that little lizard. He would turn his head at the sound of my voice, his beady eyes holding intelligence and curiosity.
For the first few months after we brought him home, he would shed his skin on almost a weekly basis. The shedding, I later learned, was necessary for his rapid growth. And a recent conversation I overheard my husband discussing with a good friend has me thinking about all of this. “I’ve never felt more comfortable in my own skin,” he said confidently, with a light-heartedness I hadn’t heard from him before.
Sometimes shedding is necessary to grow into that place of being comfortable with who we are, of actually liking who we are as a person. I thought about all the times I’ve compared myself to someone else and came up short of enough in my measurement. The comparison of appearance, style, intelligence, creative ability, parenting–I could go on. Comparison is a quicksand that will swallow you whole and needs to shed off for us to grow.
I thought about the times I’ve silenced my own opinion out of fear of how it might be perceived. About the times I should have spoken up but didn’t, allowing someone else to make me feel inferior or believing that my own voice didn’t matter. I needed to shed giving other people that much power over my mind and my life.
I once heard a writing instructor say that, “Once you’ve made peace with your story, it no longer matters what others think.” When I think of “your story,” I think of it in a broader sense. I tend to get focused on specific moments in my life when sharing my stories, moments that are important but are only parts of the whole. Events on a timeline. They are small concerning God’s perspective of time and eternity. I think of “your story” as being all of who I am as a person with all of my character traits and quirks and uniqueness that makes me the only me on the planet.
The question is how do I get there? How do I get to that place of being comfortable in my own skin? And how do you?
I have worked in long term care for the last three years. There has been a wealth of wisdom gained from the elderly patients I’ve had the honor of knowing. One common observation is that they have finally reached the point in their lives of being true to who they really are. Without pretense. Without inhibition.
“You wear black too much,” Hilda told me once. And what could I even say? It makes me look thinner, I thought to myself. So I smiled sheepishly and told her she was right and attempted to add more color to my wardrobe. Sometimes their unfiltered and frank words will scrape you a bit, as the truth sometimes does. But most of the time, it is beautiful and something I long to reach sooner rather than later in my life.
Here’s what I am learning about the process of becoming comfortable in my own skin (a long, messy, still-in-the-works process):
The more secure I become in who God sees me as, and the more I learn to rest in His approval of me, the easier it becomes not to compare myself. To not give other people’s opinion more attention than it deserves. To not over analyze and reread a text that I sent or overthink the way I responded to someone I interacted with that day.
I know it seems like an elementary truth, but perhaps to grow and become more comfortable in our own skin, it’s the most important one that we have to revisit from time to time. A skewed perception of God’s unchanging love for you will have you running from yourself your whole life and conforming to who others think you should be.
Being firmly rooted in the security of knowing that I am loved is the safest thing I have ever known.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT I have found that emotional and spiritual growth is an ongoing process in which I have had to shed many layers of faulty thinking and misperceptions that are contrary to the truth of God’s word. In 1 Peter 2:9, it says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (NIV). What are some layers that God may be calling you to shed? Consider asking Him to direct more firmly toward a fresher, more comfortable skin that reflects more thoroughly who God crafted you to be.
PRAYER Father, thank You for choosing me. Thank You for renewing my heart and mind to the truth of what You say about me. Help me to go forward boldly in who You have called me to be, knowing that I am chosen and loved. I pray that my thoughts, decisions and interactions with others will flow from a place of being rooted in Your truth. May I more fully embrace who you created me to be. Amen.