We have a basketball hoop in our driveway, and my siblings make great use of it.
I remember one time in particular. My brother was just messing around by himself, and he missed the shot horribly (don’t think I’m being mean by saying that…just keep reading).
He looked up at me and said, “Oh my gosh! That was almost as bad as one of your shots, Sam!” Then he smiled as if to make me feel better.
WOW. Thanks, Nick. Love you too?
That may have been semi-mean, but I couldn’t help but laugh. Mostly because it’s true.
My siblings and I are all polar opposites. Personality-wise, talent-wise, everything. And I mean, we’re siblings, so we’ve got to make fun of each other, but it’s all good-natured. And when it comes down to it, we really do love each other. (Or at least I love them, hopefully they’d agree?;)
When I’m around them, I don’t really care that I’m awful at sports. I’ll still play soccer with my sister, and when I get frustrated and go on to pick up the ball and run it into the net, she still loves me.
With some people, I don’t feel like I have to pretend. I can show up and say hi and then say nothing, and the silence will be that wonderful silence that can only be enjoyed by those who know and love you most.
Around those people, it’s easy to be me.
But I’ve been learning: It’s so much harder to be real—authentic—when you don’t fit in.
For me, school is one of the places I feel pressured to be someone I’m not.
Going back after summer break, I’m reminded of this all over again. I had thought that I had grown so much, that I had learned to love being unique, to be myself. But I have found that I still have quite a ways to go.
When I’m around a group of people that are all pretty similar, I find myself trying to be like them. I try to take on their sense of humor, even when I have no idea why they think it’s so funny. I try to hide certain things about myself that I assume they won’t want to hear. The list goes on.
It’s lonely—being around a big group of people and not being understood. And if you’re stuck in that position, I get it. I can completely relate.
But as hard as it may be to feel that way, I know that authenticity beats approval on any day. I’ve lived for the latter and learned what a mistake it was.
I strived to fit in and ended up miserable, because the person I became was so far from who I was before.
By trying to fit in, I had lost my humor. My happiness. My humility.
Once I finally made the journey back to being “Sam Swanson”—not the “approved of” version in her shoes—all this pressure came off my shoulders. I could be me again. I didn’t have to try so hard anymore.
But after summer break, I found out how easy it is to go back to trying so hard once again. And sure, it’s easy to go back to pretending, but I don’t want to do that. Not at all.
Because when it comes down to it, I’d so much rather be me—the me that God approves of, rather than the “me” that better fits in the crowd.
Galatians 1:10 says, “Am I now trying to win the approval human beings or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
I’ve fed myself the lie of “if only this person will like me, then I will be happy.” But I always came out feeling unfulfilled. Fake—for trying to change myself—and completely unfulfilled.
So instead, I’m going to believe that God knew what He was doing when He put me at the school that I’m in. I’m going to believe that He didn’t mess up when He, the potter, used His hands to mold me into the young woman I’ve become.
There may be days when I feel alone. But instead of losing my authenticity or feeling sorry for myself, I’m going to strive for God’s approval, not man’s. I may not be fulfilled by the number of friends I have, but reading His Word sure does fill me up pretty fast.
It’s okay to not fit in wherever we go. Let’s just remember that no matter how much we think we know what we need, God knows better. And when we feel alone, He promises to take away the longing we feel.
So let’s go to Him. Let’s shock the world with our authenticity, and see how many others follow along.