Every day we walk around wearing imaginary chalkboards on which we’ve scribbled our authentic disclaimers – our feelings, ideas, and personality traits.
And our biggest fears? Those are penned at the bottom in shaky letters.
We wear these imaginary signs around our necks hoping people notice, praying others see and comment and ask. About us.
Whatever they describe, these chalkboard signs become our identity yolk– if welcomed, they propel us toward someone. If met with ambiguity, we may hold them out closer See? See my sign? Do you care? Do I matter? Or unmet expectations may push us to fold and turn away.
So much of what I’m learning, of what I’m noticing as people share their stories, is the paralyzing impact of how fear keeps us from moving forward. Fear of rejection. Fear of being accepted. Fear of being loved unconditionally.
I didn’t think she/he/they liked me, so I _________(fill in the blank)- held back, didn’t reach out, felt small, lashed out, felt misunderstood.
I’m not proud to say, but I was around someone who evoked that chalkboard-wearing emotion within me. When they didn’t engage interest in my family’s life or ask one question, panic struck. I must not matter, I decided. I/We/My kids/My current learnings must not be interesting enough for them.
It was during worship the next morning that I shared my honest insecurities. Because He can handle them. And, let’s face it, He already knows. While hovering voices sang, my bum stayed firmly planted.
Inner questions came as lightning, electrifying and real.
When my chalkboard isn’t acknowledged, why do I feel uneasy and tempted to pout? God, will you help remind me that I am valuable whether or not I’m enjoyed, smiled at, or offered curious questions? Would You please offer perspective on how to remain steadfast REGARDLESS if I’m pursued or ignored?
The truth boils down to believing my worth comes from Him, not others.
And when I believe I matter by the only One whose opinion really matters, fear loses power.
Easier said than done, right?
What follows is how I choose to respond.
Right there with music surrounding, I had my own worship experience with the Creator. He brought to mind a movie reel of past situations when I’d chosen to find my virtue in another’s response. In the first frame, I sat with a friend, exchanging questions and insight and vulnerable words back and forth in a safe, fun atmosphere. And I was fully me and fully known. My sign mattered.
The next frame I waved my chalkboard in front of someone, pointing to all the descriptions and heart-layers they must know? I practically begged for their attention. Did you read this? Do you know what’s going on in my life? Does it matter to you?
In another frame I danced and jumped, the chalkboard bouncing around my neck for approval. Sadly, the last two acts only left me exhausted and shut down.
No. Drawing attention to my sign isn’t the answer.
Instead, and this is where I LOVE how God peppers Himself in small doses, He brought this visual to mind as the final frame.
Instead of assuming my personal worth – both positive and negative – is based on other’s responses to my sign, I suddenly turned my chalkboard around and in bold, confident caps wrote:
YOU MATTER. And I held up my new sign up to every pair of eyes I encountered.
This image, it was one of those holy moments when I knew the Lord creatively broke through to remind me of His truth. Authentic joy comes when I choose to remind people that they matter.
Affirming that people matter doesn’t mean I have to be best friends with them. It doesn’t mean I gush people-pleasing sentiments their way. It doesn’t mean I don’t ever hurt or desire more from a relationship.
No, you know what changing my sign does? It turns me outward.
Instead of being frozen by someone not validating me, I can choose to validate them. Instead of playing that awkward first move dance, trying to “read” their body language, or their mind for that matter, instead of waiting to be seen, I can jump in and proudly hold up my sign and assure, YOU MATTER.
Can you imagine?
Can you imagine the acceptance and love and freedom? Oh.my.freakin.word!
Since that worship experience, I’ve been trying out this theory and time after time, I’m finding it to be true.
When we see, like really, truly see people and let them know we’re on their team before they even know our name, it changes everything.
I’m convinced if we become a culture that stops living in fear of what we perceive others think of us, and instead, spend more energy shifting our focus outward, this YOU MATTER philosophy has the potential to be life-changing.
And it starts today.
Whatever is written on our imaginary chalkboard, whatever part of us is waiting to be seen, care to turn our signs around? I invite you to join me as I pick up a clean white piece of chalk, and starting at the top, in confident strokes, write:
Believing we are valuable and enough regardless if others have yet to do the same.