By Donna Columba
Can you remember your first day of high school? I can most accurately describe my experience by the distinct “school smell” and how I tried to avoid eye contact while power-walking to my next class. I remember coming home with a sore jaw, not from getting into a school fight but from not saying a single word all day! I avoided any and all social interaction possible and was undoubtedly shy.
The following days, I remember eating lunch alone in the library because I was so self-conscious. This was the only part of the day I felt comfortable enough to let my guard down. There was a sense of safety being alone. No one expected anything from me and I knew I wasn’t being judged, which gave me enough peace of mind to eat. I was soon labeled the shy, quiet girl. I dreaded going to football games because, since all my friends were in the band, I ended up sitting alone or with people I wasn’t very fond of. For a while, I felt like I had to be someone I wasn’t in order to feel the slightest bit appreciated or noticed. I never wanted to believe that my worth lied in how confident I was or how many friends I had, but sadly I did.
To put my freshman year into even more perspective, here’s a quick story. For some reason, I decided to audition for the Fall Play. Prior to this, I’d never auditioned for anything. Acting requires confidence or even just a drop of it. For the audition, I was glued to my chair in fear, waiting for my name to be called. When it was finally my turn, I literally read straight from the script as quickly as possible, with no emotion whatsoever. A couple of days later, I was surprisingly cast–as a mime, of all things! However, opening night was so exciting, and I loved being on stage. It’s so much easier pretending to be someone you’re not. I didn’t have to worry about what I was going to say or do because it was all rehearsed.
But in all seriousness, I put on a mask at school. I pretended to be okay when I really wasn’t. I lacked confidence in myself and felt so distant from God. I hated being shy and quiet. I allowed a spirit of fear and anxiety to have power over me. I cared so much about what others thought of me, never even considering what God thought of me. Growing up, I thought God was indifferent to my heartaches and long, painful nights when I’d “think” myself to sleep.
In all my brokenness, I never would’ve imagined that someone could love me even when I didn’t love myself. In all my brokenness, I never thought someone could love me to the point of dying on a cross. In all my brokenness, I finally surrendered the pieces to God.
In prayer, I allowed God to speak truth into my heart. I realized that since God is truly good, He can only give and make what is good. God doesn’t make mistakes. If I’m made in the image and likeness of God, then I must be good. I found peace and joy when I finally allowed the Father to speak. I came to believe that my worth and dignity doesn’t lie in my confidence, accomplishments, or amount of friends. I’m a beloved daughter of God.
I was slowly able to let my guard down more and more, allowing real friendships to enter my life. Through the power of prayer, God removed my heart of stone and restored my heart to flesh. Knowing God even allowed me to know myself better. I still struggle with being hard on myself at times, but now I choose to take my worries to God.
I no longer identify with the “quiet girl” label. My identity is simply that I’m a daughter of God. Being called a shy or quiet person isn’t an insult, which was something I had to come to terms with. Silence is a beautiful thing–God speaks through it. I’ve learned to embrace this side of me and have full confidence in knowing who the Father is: good and loving. I never had to do anything to earn God’s love.
If you’re reading this right now, know that you’re enough and that our God is madly in love with you. I’ve learned to renounce lies and have found so much freedom in that. Jesus gave us the power to speak over these lies and cast them out in His name. I encourage you to do the same.