One of my favorite books is The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. It’s been so helpful in helping assess my personality type and recognize the ways I give and receive love. Seeing my personality defined from afar without judgment has showed me so many positive attributes in myself that I had simply misunderstood. What I thought was too sensitive was actually empathy; what I thought was an overflow of extroversion was actually the blessing of exhortation. Understanding myself has been crucial to learning to love myself, as well as to believing that I was created with a sacred sort of purposeful love.
As a result of this, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve just decided to embrace certain parts of my personality rather than continue nursing the shame that’s been so often attached to them. This is likely what people mean when they talk about “with age comes wisdom” and all that.
Recently, my friend Lauren told me she was insecure about the sensitive part of her personality. “I was basically taught that being sensitive, anxious, or depressed is a character flaw,” she said, “and that I should just snap or pray my way out of it.” When we open up our vulnerabilities, we find our kindred people. “Co-sign,” I wrote her back.
Sensitivity was frowned upon in my upbringing as well. Among the refrains often uttered at me through pursed lips was “Don’t be such a baby,” accompanied by a disapproving look that seems as genetic as blue 94 / In Bloom eyes in our family line. Even now I occasionally catch myself feeling that same sharp look beginning to form, and I hastily hurry to rearrange my facial features before my eyes narrow in the direction of my offspring.
If I look back over my family tree, I see it snaking over the branches on my mother’s side—the unspoken, unyielding expectation for women to be ever put-together, a perfectly lined stiff upper lip. Being sensitive had no place in such sturdy stock. We were not women who were weak-willed.
When my mother unraveled her childhood in a therapist’s office, she could see this same serpent of deception, coiled and poised to strike. It looked like a family friend intruding on a little girl’s innocence, and it hissed an admonishment to keep it quiet for everyone else’s sake but hers. It brought with it shame that solidified into a frigid anger. That’s how the fruit of a tree becomes bitter, when it’s left unprotected from the frostbite. You can try to bury shame deep down below, but it will seep into the roots. Then when the dam breaks, it will upend the forest and ravage the village. My self-confidence was damaged in the wake.
One of my girlfriends told me a story about how when she was a little girl, she desperately wanted to impress her mother, a renowned singer. She waited until she was within earshot of her mom and then started softly singing to herself, hoping for some kind of affirmation, knowing musicality was something her mother valued highly. Instead, her mother criticized her for being off-key. My friend tells me she never sang in front of her mother again.
We’re all just searching for someone’s approval. Longing for acceptance. We’re trying to prove something to somebody, and it keeps us striving, never granting us rest. When we chase validation instead of sanctification, we never find a reprieve from our own self-doubt.
It’s an excruciating thing to seek acceptance where it should be given freely, and it’s a freeing thing to find an everlasting acceptance that doesn’t have to be sought.
I have learned since to embrace the beauty in each unique personality instead of finding flaws or faults or failures. To take people as they are. I looked for my mother’s “well done” as she had looked for her mother’s before her, and
We are living out the transformation.
We are working in grace.
Excerpted with permission from In Bloom: Trading Restless Insecurity for Abiding Confidence by Kayla Aimee. Copyright 2018, B&H Publishing Group.