The words you call yourself when you do something stupid. The tapes you replay of mistakes you made – years ago, long after everyone else has forgotten. The traits you try to hide. The quirks you feel that mark you out.
I laughed too loud. I had nothing to say. I’m boring, I’m weird, I’m different.
What would your friends say if you spoke these words out loud? Your family? Your work colleagues?
Would they recognise the person you describe?
Would they be surprised? Even shocked?
I asked some friends how they would describe themselves: and how friends would describe them. Here’s what they said:
What I think of myself: Awkward, uncool, damaged, coping, a fat failure, complicated, a control freak, annoying, weak, needy, boring.
What my friends say: Confident, happy, kind, strong, thoughtful, chatty, a succeeder, always smiling, caring and encouraging.
It doesn’t take a genius to see that the two don’t match up. So which is the truth?
Our first thought might be that we know ourselves better than anyone else. Perhaps we’re just good at wearing masks, at pretending and putting up a front.
But I’m not so sure. Who’s to say that you see yourself clearly? And that the beauty that others see in you isn’t just as real – if not more – than the criticism you tell yourself?
It’s easy to dismiss words of encouragement; but it’s not right. For years I thought I seemed like someone who had life together. But when it all fell apart; the one who was most surprised was me. Other people knew me and loved me better than I knew myself. And I learnt to trust their words more than my own. God places us in community so we can be known: and these words, from those who know us best, are a precious gift. Don’t give them back.