When You're Afraid to Be Who You Are | Sojourners

When You're Afraid to Be Who You Are

I am a bubbly extrovert who struggles with an enormous amount of anxiety when meeting new people.  

Sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it?

This weekend, I ventured down to Chicago to meet a group of women I’ve been in relationship with via Internet for more than a year. Let’s just break that down for a minute:

  1. a group of women
  2. a group of women I’m meeting for the first time… alone
  3. a group of women who have a preconceived notion of who I am based on good pictures and thought-out witty comments I post online.

Here’s the deal. I’m much more funny and impressive online than I am in real life. I am pretty funny (and if you disagree, you can keep that to yourself), I love wit, and enjoy posting witty comments. I have a lot of Facebook friends which makes me look like I have a ton of influence and klout. And don’t be fooled, only my good pictures go up online. No seriously, all morning pictures are banned, possibly burned, just in case.

Meeting me in person can be a bubble-bursting experience. “You’re shorter than I thought”, I often hear.  People quickly learn that my wit online isn’t filtered in person. My humor face to face is a series of “hit and miss” (with a lot of “miss”). I’m not the superstar people may imagine. I hate making decisions and don’t claim (or want) leadership of a peer group. I laugh loud, my voice is weird, and I fidget.

All of this to say, I’m a bit of a wreck after being in a group of women. I battle with feelings of inadequacy and insecurity of how I represent myself. I want so badly to be myself, to be accepted, included and embraced. Yet, though I am insecure about my quirks, I am not willing to change them for mass inclusion.

What I’ve come to realize is that almost every other woman in the room is feeling the same. That gives me courage to lose myself and find the nerve to go find out the beauty inside of them. Sometimes this ends with mutual acceptance, other times not. Those interested in only aligning themselves with the elite are quickly noted. The doubts and questions one can wrestle after leaving a room of women is disabling.

But this time I had a very different experience. Despite all my insecurities and fears, meeting the Redbud Writers Guild group was unique. They were strangely inclusive and warm. It was a bit shocking, actually. There I was surrounded by women with PhD’s, authors of numerous books, editors, hosts of radio talk shows, and even one who had worked on the Oprah Winfrey Show! I’m talkin’ talented, strong women who were living out their commitment to do this thing together. Forgive my cynicism, but when I’ve heard women’s group speak of such values before, it has often led to disappointment and heartbreak. I would be lying to say my guard wasn’t up a bit. Yet it wasn’t “talk”, it was tangible.

The  Redbuds have been able to genuinely pull of what most women’s groups struggle to do.

It was mind blowing that diverse women in one room could actually pull it off. I believe its because the core founders have worked very hard to guard their values to keep the culture they are wanting to create among women. They covenant together to make their fellowship together a safe place…. and they’re serious about it. They’ve taken the thought in the mind to words on a page that flow directly out of who they are in their core. In their hearts they already value women, their voice and efforts. Complimentary actions naturally follow effortlessly.

It’s possible, ladies. It is possible that a group of women of various ages, backgrounds, denominations, opinions and personalities can come into a room and blend. There can be inclusion, understanding, and true friendship cultivated.

The question is: are we willing to step out to create that culture around us?

If we are, it will take a laying down of our pride, a tearing down of the social food chain, and an open heart to see the beauty in those who are different and to whom we don’t naturally gravitate.

Connie Jakab is the author of the blog, Culture Rebel, which is also be her first book title released in 2012 with others such as Mommy Culture Rebel, Church Culture Rebel and Raising Culture Rebels to follow. Connie is passionate about rebelling against status quo living and encouraging others to branch out. The founder of WILD (women impacting lives daily) as well as Mpact, a dance company that produces shows based on social justice issues, Connie drives her passion outward into the arms of those wanting something more radical and meaningful in life. Connie is an active speaker and worship leader, and lives with her husband and two boys in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She can be found on Facebook and on twitter @ConnieJakab.

IMAGE: Diego Cervo/ shutterstock.

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