A few days ago, a new friend and I were chatting about everything under the sun. When we started to talk about our passions and favorite hobbies, we quickly found a mutual love for running, and she asked if I had ever run a marathon before.
“Oh, um…yeah. But only once. And I’m really not fast or that good, or like…a real marathoner. I’m definitely not qualify-for-Boston material. And I haven’t run one since, and sometimes I doubt if I’ll ever be able to finish another, so um, yep…I’ve run a marathon. But just that one time.”
Guys. Seriously?! I am rolling my eyes at myself just typing and reliving this self-shaming moment. Running a marathon – or reaching any major goal that matters to you – is a big deal. And I had done it. So why was I still full of shame and insecurity about one of my proudest moments? Why did I feel that I still was not good enough?
Maybe you’ve had a moment like this in your own life. Maybe your boss complimented you on a presentation that you worked so hard on and you sheepishly reply, “Oh, thanks, but I’ll do x, y, and z better next time, I’m sorry.” Your husband told you that the homemade pizza was delicious and you roll your eyes and say “You’re just saying that to be nice…it was nothing fancy.” A friend mentioned how beautiful you look in your dress and you say, “Really? Ugh. I feel so fat in this old thing”.
It seems that we women, in some twisted way, have been trained by our culture to downplay our strengths. It has taught us that no matter what we strive for, or what we accomplish…we will never be enough. Someone shows us love or celebrates our wins – and we immediately turn it down, armed and ready to combat their compliment with a list of our imperfections. Our culture wants us to be small and quiet and to be fixated on our weaknesses – which will only lead to self-hatred.
But I know that God wants us to own the strengths that He’s given us. He wants us to be grateful for the way He’s made us, instead of telling Him and ourselves that we are still not enough. And I have to think that He wants us to know these things for a reason…because maybe if we can learn to love and celebrate ourselves, we’ll be better equipped to love and celebrate others.
I wish I could go back in time and change my answer to my new friend’s question. I wish I could’ve not cast shame on myself so that she knew it was ok for her to celebrate who she is, too. I wish I could’ve said,
“Yes! I have run a marathon! It was a really challenging goal, and I doubted myself in the beginning, but I chased after it relentlessly. It felt so amazing to finally cross that finish line knowing everything that it took to get there. What about you? What crazy dreams have you made happen?”
The world needs more conversations like that. It needs less tearing ourselves down and more building each other up. It needs women like you to bravely walk into their strengths with faith and trust in the God who gave them their dreams. The world needs women like you to love themselves, so that we can then bravely love and call out the good in each other.
The next time that someone asks about your marathon, or compliments your work, or loves your dinner, or reminds you of your beauty…don’t let shame take center stage. Don’t let your heart hide in the dark.
When your light shines, people see God. When your light shines, people see love.