In my conversations with people, one of the recurring unspoken sentiments I hear is a request for permission to be themselves. No one actually says it in quite those words, of course, but under the surface, the question often is, “Am I ok (especially if I’m not like others)?”
A couple weeks ago, I bumped into a newly pregnant friend who confided in me that all the unsolicited advice she was getting from people only made her want to do the opposite. A relative of hers told her she needed to eat an apple and an egg every day of her pregnancy and she found herself expressly avoiding apples and eggs. She wondered if it was alright if she didn’t eat what others told her she should eat. She didn’t say this explicitly, but beneath her question, she was asking if she could make her own choices, to forge her own path, to be herself.
As an introvert, I often struggle with opting out of events, even though they are fun and enjoyable, just so I can have a quiet night at home because I know that will ultimately recharge me most (more to come on my love-hate relationship with introvertedness). Sometimes I feel like I need to justify my reason for not going out, to offer an explanation to the other party. But I realize that I do that because I am secretly hoping the other person will say my choice is alright and that I’m acceptable as a person, even if I’m not like everyone else.
Part of my growth in the Christian journey is coming to understand the impact of the gospel of Jesus Christ on the various areas of life. When it comes to my identity, applying the gospel to it means that I must believe that God’s unconditional love is for me, just as I am. I have all the permission I need to be myself. After all, if God thought it was a good idea to make me how I am and loves me for it (complete with my particular set of strengths, weaknesses and quirks), how can anyone else say that I should be anything other?
Having this permission does not mean I can stop growing or making changes in my life to become the best version of myself possible though. But it certainly helps me to relax and be less tied to what others think of me. When I remember that I am already fully accepted, I can make my choices in freedom and confidence.
So if you ever find yourself in a situation where you’re wondering if who you are is ok, (and in case no one else says this to you) let me say this: Because you are uniquely created and completely loved by God, you hereby have full permission to be yourself.
There. Permission granted.
P.S. The Gift of Being Yourself (affiliate link) by David Benner is an excellent book related to this topic.