Today I’m happy to herald Sara Baysinger! We met at the Mt. Hermon Writers conference last March. She grew up as a missionary kid in Ecuador, and now lives among the endless cornfields of Indiana with her husband, Michael. She calls herself a radical homemaker, writer, traveler, dog owner, and bibliomaniac. Follow Sara on Twitter.
And now…..ta-da! Here’s Sara:
Smart. Social. Beautiful.
What do these three words have in common? They’re expectations. They’re beliefs ingrained in our heads that, in order to be accepted, we need to excel at at least one, if not all, of these three things.
In elementary school, my teacher accused me for having bad grades because I daydreamed too much. It was true, I really wasn’t the smartest person in my grade. But then adults started asking me why I couldn’t make better grades like my sisters. I know they were trying to encourage me, but their efforts backfired. Instead of making better grades, my self-esteem plummeted, which resulted in worse grades… and reclusiveness.
My parents were missionaries, which meant we moved. A lot. It seemed like by the time I formed a deep relationship with someone in my area, my family moved again. So what was the point in making friends? I became socially awkward. Getting me to hang out with other kids my age was like, as my mom would say, pulling teeth.
By the ninth grade, when I was sent to a preppy christian school, I was a socially awkward unattractive slow learner. Needless to say, I dangled at the bottom of the popularity line.
Finally, after two years of misery at that school, my family moved back to the US. This was before my junior year. I decided that in order to be accepted in my new school, I had to have the looks. I worked on losing weight, I wore make-up, and I dyed/straightened my hair.
Did my efforts work?
I hate to say that yes, they did. Because I was skinny, sporty, and had a short blonde pony tail, more people befriended me in school. (Or maybe ‘low-life’ public schools really are more accepting than preppy christian schools. But that’s a topic for another blog.)
This is the pressure society places on us, isn’t it? Either be smart, social, or beautiful, and society will accept you.
It wasn’t until I graduated high school and left home that I built lasting relationships. I met people who didn’t care about looks or awkwardness. It was all about passion and living for Christ. I learned about acceptance and how Jesus often associated with the unlearned and socially unaccepted.
I learned to live uncaged, free from expectations.
I learned that my strengths lied in serving, not leading, in listening, not teaching, in encouraging, not preaching. And because I now know this, I can channel my strengths for the benefit of others.
Unfortunately, not all people come to this realization. They sink into depression because they think they’re not worthy. They see smart outgoing leaders getting the spotlight, and since they aren’t smart, outgoing, or leaders, they think they failed at life.
But it isn’t so. Everyone has a purpose, they just fail to see it.
Find your strengths, not in what the world idolizes or expects, but in what you know you can offer to the world.