Fear of social rejection: Why being yourself is so important
This is my second blog on fear, and in this one I’m going to focus on the fear of what others think of you. Self-doubt is one of the most destructive feelings in the world. It’s a nagging thought that eats away at your mind and influences your actions and emotions and relationships and everything else about your life. It’s like a virus in your body that starts out really small, and then slowly grows until it overtakes you and you can’t view yourself in a positive light anymore. All of this self-doubt is fueled by how others view you. But why does it matter? Who cares if people like you?
It’s really hard to believe that 99.9% of the time. We all want love and acceptance deep down. But you can’t let what other people think, or fear of what they might think, control you and change who you are.
It is my opinion that the large majority of the population, particularly among teenagers, lives behind carefully-constructed facades. No one admits to having faults, and everyone puts up walls to hide them. Everyone says what you want to hear, and smiles when they’re drowning. They are never true to themselves, and never real.
I hate that.
One of my favorite things about myself is that I am dedicated to being real, 100% of the time. If I’m not fine and someone asks me how I am, I have no problem saying “I feel like crap.” I say things I know people don’t want to hear. I say things I know make people hate or dislike me. I do things that I know I won’t be universally loved for. But I know that those things are what make me me, so it’s okay.
Am I saying I am perfect at all of this? Do I think I have it all figured out? The complete opposite. Self-esteem is one of the hardest things for me, particularly right now. It’s so hard to find who you are and be yourself when there are all of these voices around you telling you who you are or who you should be or even telling you who you want to be. Teachers, parents, acquaintances, best friends...how can you be true to yourself when you start to believe what they tell you? You truly want to make them all happy, and not necessarily for the wrong reasons, but this is a form of fear: if you don’t do or become what they want, will they hate or disapprove of you?
Here’s the thing. A lot of people try to conform, especially in high school. All of the girls want to be that mini-skirted, lip-gloss-wearing prep strutting the hallways. The boys want to be that buff star basketball player. But you can’t dress up to cover up who you are. You can’t go to a bunch of parties and act like you’re into it if you’re not. You can’t date someone because they’re the “cool one” in the eyes of your peers or the “right choice” in the eyes of your relatives. This is all run by the fear of what people think.
If I could change one thing about the world (besides the whole sin thing), I would help everyone find themselves, be happy with themselves, and be who they are despite what others say.
I realize it’s much easier said than done. When you’re the one not invited to the party or you’re the one kicked to the curb because you’re too emotional or not cool enough, it sucks. But in the end, how do you want to end up: accepted but truly lost, or self-aware and maybe just not quite as popular?
There’s just no reason for facades. There’s no reason for these walls that everybody puts up to try to protect their fragile little emotions, and try to block out the fear of what would happen if people saw who they really were inside. Wouldn’t that fear just vanish if you just demolished that wall and showed yourself? It’s like building a boat because you’re afraid the water is too cold; you’re going to go out to the middle of the lake to dive in instead. You’re getting really, really tired of buying all of the wood and trying to figure out how to attach the motor and you don’t really know how the nail gun works...how about you just jump in the water and get it over with? Facing the thing you’re afraid of takes away the fear itself. Hiding who you are is just delaying the inevitable, because come on, you’re not going to be able to fake it forever, and if you do...well, I feel sorry for you.
The sad thing is that eventually people convince themselves that their fake self is their real self, and never deal with their issues. Then they have a mid-life crisis and realize they don’t know who they are because they morphed themselves into who everyone else wanted them to be for fear of rejection.
I’m really weird. I know it. Don’t worry, I’m sure you are too. In fact, everyone is. And if everyone realized that, no one would be. There can’t be such a thing as conforming when no one is the same. You can’t be your older brother, no matter how much your dad wants you to be, because there’s only one him and only one you. You can’t be exactly like your best friend, even though sometimes you’re jealous and desperately want to be, because there’s only one you and one them. Does this mean you’re a failure? Definitely not. It means you don’t have to be someone other than yourself, and that should take such a huge load off of your shoulders.
Sometimes we’re afraid of who we are, and that’s why we try to put up walls and say what they want to hear, do what they want to do. We’re afraid that what we feel isn’t valid in the eyes of the world, and that how we want to act will be looked down upon. We fear that we aren’t as talented as others, so we shouldn’t share our talent even though it is the core of our being. We fear that we aren’t ever going to be as kind or as loving as others, so we just have to fake it.
Those are all lies.
Lies that the Devil tells us.
Cliche though it may be, God made each of us in His image, specifically beautiful and talented and loved. We were “fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14) I would argue that it’s disrespecting God to try and change ourselves. He made us exactly how He wanted us and loves us for who we are. When we try to fake or hide who we are, we are hiding the beauty that God placed in us, and hiding the glory He is trying to show through us. I think it goes farther than just faking a smile and saying “I’m great, how are you?” when you don’t mean it; I think we have a higher call to be honest and truthful with and about ourselves for the glory of God. Yeah, some people might look down on you for something you say or do, but who cares? If you’re being true to yourself, you’re being true to who God made you to be. That is so much more powerful than what some hateful and misunderstanding person thinks about you. It says in Galatians 1:10, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
So if you take away anything from this post, take this: no matter how horrible you feel about yourself, you’re beautiful and wonderful and so deeply loved. No matter how much you want to hide because of the fear of others’ opinions, think about whose opinion really matters in the end. Be proud of what God has made you to be and be honest and open about what you feel and who you are; it’ll be one less facade to try and break down in the world.
I know I reference this song in like almost every post but it’s kinda my life anthem. The last couple lines of I Am New by Jason Gray describe exactly who we are in Christ. Why do we care what others think when this is how God views us?
Hidden in Christ
Made in the image of the Giver of life
This is our new name.
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
“I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.”
1 Corinthians 4:3
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”
1 John 3:1
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7