“I thought you didn’t like me.”
With these words my stress levels started to rise. The words “see, you’ll never change” circulating around my head. I’m racking my memory… What did I say, what didn’t I say? What did I do, what didn’t I do?
But I do like them.
I thought I was changing. I thought I was nicer. Haven’t I been smiling more?
Unintentional first impressions have not always been my strong point in the past. I can have a tendency to be task orientated in social settings, which can give all kinds of impressions that I don’t actually intend, especially around people I don’t know well. This was the perfect situation to cause me to crumble and throw up my hands….. “I quit”. I’m not sure what I would be quitting exactly, but you probably know the feeling.
It was at this point that I had two choices:
1. The “I’m wrong” scenario: performance, self-condemnation, control
Will I enter into performance to control my environment, while condemning myself for not “having it all together”? If I put on a show at least I can give people the right impression. Since apparently I can’t actually change this, I have to stay guarded or I will make a mistake again. The trouble is, when I don’t believe that I have the power to change, I won’t, and sooner or later an issue will surface again and the faster I will need to run on the hamster wheel of performance.
2. The “It’s wrong” scenario: acknowledgment, self-acceptance, ownership
I can acknowledge that I still have some work to do on myself. I can find out what happened and see what I can learn about myself from it. We can change when we know how we got to where we are. I can still love and accept myself despite a mistake I have made, without minimizing that mistake. I have the power to fix a problem if I cause one and continue along on my journey of transformation. I’m not a problem, I have a problem, that I have the power to fix.
Authentic transformation is an inside job and sometimes it just takes time. As much as I wish I could change some things about myself overnight, I find that there is a continual partnership between myself and the Holy Spirit. He’s helping with the inside and I’m changing what I can practically, without performing. All of us have some spots where we’re naturally weaker, but if we can acknowledge those areas we can develop tools to help us in practical ways. For example, sometimes I get too focused and can forget to physically or verbally acknowledge someone. It’s not that I don’t like them, I just was too focused on something else. That’s something I could easily change once I know that about myself. Because my heart wants to acknowledge people so they know I care for them, it means I practically have to be purposeful with speech and body language so that my heart and actions connect in how people experience me.
Have you ever seen a storefront with a sign reading: “Open While Under Construction” …scaffolding on the outside… boards around the windows. Businesses can either close down when renovating or remain open, despite the imperfect conditions on the interior. What a metaphor for our lives. I’m choosing to stay “open while under construction”. You can still come in while I’m improving. Just please watch your step. Don’t trip over the stuff laying around or the random cord that’s out of place. I’m not going to close off my heart or my life to people out of fear that they might see something they don’t like. I just have to be authentic. I don’t have to padlock the doors just because I’m working on some things.
We’re all just human and when we have grace for ourselves it gives us a whole lot more grace for others.