“I’m not gonna care if I sing off key/I find myself in my melodies/I sing for love, I sing for me/I shout it out like a bird set free,” -Sia, Bird Set Free
“I’m stupid,” the six year old in front of me says, tongue-in-cheek. I’m not her mother and I’m not her aunt, but I know a lie when I hear one. These lies start young, seep in wherever they can, whenever they can. And they’re out to take your joy, your life, and your purpose.
The lie is one that I know so well, I stop immediately, get on eye level and ask, “Hey, would you say that about someone else?”
“No,” she says carefully.
“Then why would you say that about yourself?”
“I don’t know.”
“Here’s what we’re going to do. I want you to name three things that you like about yourself.”
She thinks for a second, “I’m smart, nice, and pretty…”
“Beautiful,” I prompt.
She smiles and agrees, “Beautiful.”
The picture above? It’s mine. My name is pressed into everything about it. But it wasn’t perfect, so I destroyed it. I do that sometimes. I think we all do sometimes. I don’t know about you, but some days I just can’t take another reminder hanging on my wall that represents everything I’m not. The truth? I don’t like limitations. I don’t like being told I can’t do something or a dream isn’t realistic. It’s in the moments and spaces where I collide with limitations that I get defensive and upset.
Truth be told, my heart has been so steeped in the lie that nothing I do will ever be enough that it’s become the perspective I operate out of. You would know if you stepped too close to it–this heart murmur of mine–because it’s in the moments I overreact, start to cry, or get really quiet because you just stepped on faith wound central. In those moments, I just want you to leave. Say hello to the ghosts on the way out, but get out. Don’t get too close.
I don’t even like sharing this picture. I never want to look at it again, to be honest with you. Yes, it’s mine. No, I’m not an artist BY ANY MEANS. It was supposed to be a dandelion and it was supposed to be pretty. I was okay with the result, happy with the work–until it got down to the little details I didn’t know how to paint. It wasn’t enough that I’d never been taught or had any practice–because she could have done it without practice. They could have done it. It’s like a broken record that plays over and over until there’s nothing left of me.
“She could have done better,” it’s a whisper on a mission, the lie that curls around me until it’s all I see. It’s the lie that causes me to put the brush down, put away the paint, rip apart the canvas, drop everything and grab the keys, do what I do best–run. I’m always running because if I sit down with the lie that tells me I’m not enough–what I do isn’t enough–I might actually find out it was truth the whole time. I might actually find out that I really am not special or worthy or beautiful. If I face the lie, fight the lie, I might lose.
I think about grades. I think about social status. I think about relationship status. I think about appearance. I think about talent. I think about intuition. I think about wages. I think about purpose. I think about pictures on social media. But mostly, I think about how I’ll never compare–never compete. It all wells up until I don’t know what else to do but get angry that I’m not special like her, that I’m special like me and somehow it’s not enough.
The thing about lies is that they’re fueled by fear. As long as fear is involved, the lies win. We never fight for what truth says about us when fear keeps us believing that the lies define us. Too curvy. Too skinny. Too dark. Too light. Too curly-headed. Too thin-haired. Too much. Too little. Too unintelligent. Too intelligent. Too loud. Too quiet. Too unlovable. But really what we’re scared of is that we’re too broken to ever be of any value. Really…what we’re scared of is someone else’s purpose actually does matter more.
But the other thing about lies is that all they’re out to do is steal. They don’t just leave casualties–they’re out to annihilate everything about you that’s meant to do good in this world. When I look back on all that the lies have stolen from me, the cost is steep. I’ve been spending all my time sitting on the sidelines, making excuses, because I believed I wasn’t good enough to get in the game. This whole time my job really was to show people who Amanda Russell is by developing my own strengths and playing them to the best of my ability: my writing abilities, my humor, my social skills, my love for adventure, my love for life, my love for people.
By focusing on my lack of artistic skills, I’m going nowhere.
We need to learn how to speak kindly to ourselves. In my heart of hearts, I know that healing is a Jesus-thing and nothing less. Only He can fill you up again. We need to learn to see ourselves as He sees us: worthy, loved, beautiful, purposed. You weren’t placed on a shelf. You were placed in a story. You have a say and you have a story and if you were to go or decide to sit on the sideline, the world would never recover from the loss. You might be sitting there and thinking that’s a pretty radical statement, but I’m standing by it. If there was no you, the whole world would miss out on the things only you can create. We need you to be you.
So here’s what I’m thinking, babe. How about I root for you and you root for me? How about we build each other up? How about we help each other face the lies? How about we point out the things that make each other unique? How about we make conversations empowering and supportive? Because this lie is powerful and it’s out for blood. It’s out to take away everything good and beautiful about you. It might take going back to the very root of the comparison lie and digging it up. It might take killing it with hard and specific conversations about where you’re at on the self-worth scale.
But you know what?
It definitely takes us looking out for the lies in other people. It takes us getting down on eye level and saying specifically, “Why would you say that about yourself?” If we do this for six year olds, we need to do this for ourselves and for each other. We have to stop the competition. The guy you’re both going for isn’t worth it. The promotion you’re both shooting for isn’t worth it. The beauty contest isn’t a thing. Nothing that requires stepping over other people or stepping all over yourself is worth it.
At the end of the day, be the best you can be and drop the rest at the door. Let it go.
So here’s what we’re going to do. I want you to repost this and name 3 beautiful things about yourself that you like. I’ll go first:
1.) I like that I’m kind.
2.) I like that I’m real with people.
3.) I like that I’m funny.