The other night a friend of mine, a college professor who teaches real writers how to write better, pointed something out to me. I told her that I wish I would have been able to write when some traumatic events from my past were happening. I indicated that maybe I could write about them now. She said, “Now you are thinking like a Writer.” I am not sure that she was referring to writing about trivial past events such as the one I am about to share with you, but nevertheless, here it goes…
I was about 10 years old and was beginning to take a “Tap/Jazz” class. I had never taken any class like this before and was very excited to choose a couple leotards to wear to said class. One was pretty cute, robin egg blue with light pink tights. The other, and I have no idea what I was thinking or why my mother allowed this (though I suspect I wasn’t an easy person to say “no” to back then, any more than I am now), but I chose a canary yellow leotard AND canary yellow tights to go with it. 10-year-old girls often go through a slightly pudgy, shapeless stage and I was right on target for that. So there’s a lovely image. Tap shoes really topped off the outfit.
So I enter the dance studio and quickly feel awkward, untalented, and very, very bright. There are two other girls who seemed to be best friends nearby. I don’t know what they were really thinking of me, but I sure felt like a 3rd wheel trying to become part of that team. I tried my best to be friendly and make conversation. I truly can’t even remember if they were nice to me, but I knew one thing, I desperately wanted to be their friend. And here is where the memory sticks.
After many failed attempts to get them to include me, to like me and acknowledge me, I finally came up with a solution that was iron-clad: I would buy them some gum. Yep. That should do the trick. When all else fails, just buy them some gum and that will break down all barriers and create life-long relationships. I am not sure if I ever actually did it. Probably not, because I had to get money from my mom and have her take me to the store and she, being not a lunatic, might have steered me away from such humiliation. My time in that class was short-lived. I never won their affection and am sorely deficient at tap dancing to this day.
I still remember this because I still occasionally feel myself trying to impress someone or win someone’s approval. I used to work at a job where there were a couple girls who I really wished would let me “in”–who would like and include me. I snicker because I said to myself, “maybe I should buy them some gum.” Because that’s how I felt–like a shapeless 10-yr-old in a neon yellow leotard.
When I think this way, I know my identity is at risk. It means I am not finding my identity in what God, my creator who loves me and includes me and accepts me for who I am right at this moment, thinks of me. I am depending on what other people think (or what I think they think) of me to feel secure.
Author and Speaker Tony Campolo says, “Whatever the most important person in your life thinks of you is what you’ll think of yourself.” If God is not that person, I am in big trouble. I love the slogan “What you think of me is none of my business.” It sounds rude at first, but is actually a giant relief. It means we can relax and stop trying to impress people around us. That we can do the right thing without worrying if others will agree with us. We can be “ok” even when others around us don’t think we are.