Letting Go of Cool to Embrace Goofy {Day 31}

by | Oct 31, 2013 | Uncategorized


It was her 50th birthday and we were going to celebrate big. My best friend was crossing a marker in her life, hundreds of miles away from where I was living at the time and women in her hometown were organizing a weekend surprise party. She didn’t know that several of her close friends, including myself, were flying in to join her around the table at a local restaurant. Party planners were thinking of every last detail down to the snacks. Suspense was invigorating, until I got the email about the hula dancing.

They decided to invite a professional to teach us how to hula dance, complete with coconut bras and grass skirts. I know, you’re probably thinking  . . . . How fun is that, right?

It made me want to hide underneath the table. I had to pray through the anxiety.

On the night dancing took place, I hid behind my camera. I sat and observed what laughter and complete freedom looks like on other people to avoid being vulnerable myself.  I have lots of pictures to prove it.

A few months ago while walking on the beach with another friend; I asked her how she does it. How does she dress up in funny outfits as a youth leader and make a complete fool of herself for the sake of a laugh without feeling self-consciousness or fear of embarrassment?

She said she has a dad who has always told her how much he loves and believes in her. He is still convinced she could be Miss America and he means it.


After writing this 31 Day series on loving yourself, reading The Gifts of Imperfection and discussing it with you, I now understand why I didn’t want to hula dance. That reaction I had to hula dancing triggered a shame cycle. The fear of looking goofy made me feel vulnerable, because I wasn’t telling myself the truth.

I didn’t really believe that my Father loved me like that, for who I am, not for what I do.

It’s the same kind of fear I had as a practicing Catholic, the first time I visited a charismatic church. The thought of raising my hands petrified me and ruined any kind of intimate moment I might’ve had with Jesus. Absorbed by the perceptions of others, I chose to protect my reputation over the gift of deeper intimacy.

At least, on that first visit to a new church anyway.

I experience the same kind of fear at weddings while everyone is dancing barefooted and I’m seated on the sidelines in high heels.

Everything in me wants to abandon self-protection but shame keeps me seated.

Last weekend at Allume, I intentionally wanted to take pictures in the smile booth, a place of unbridled silliness with girlfriends captured on film as a takeaway of the conference. Not because I was practicing shame resilience but because I thought it would be fun.

This is what 31 Days of progress towards truly loving yourself looks like.


Previously, I would’ve been horrified to share this picture with you, but now I don’t care that I look like a Muppet head showing my teeth to the invisible dentist lying underneath me. Okay, well maybe I’m a little embarrassed but it makes me giggle just looking at it. After a humorous thread of conversation with my friend Jennifer on Facebook about this picture last night, I laughed myself to sleep. The bed was shaking, honestly.

I returned home four days ago from the conference and the contents of my suitcase are still strewn over the floor at the foot of my bed. And it doesn’t make me anxious.

I went to sleep accepting that I am imperfect and loved completely. That nothing I do will change that. And I’m grateful to have sojourned with you through the deep end, letting go of the things that keep us seated on shore with regret.

Your story matters because you matter to Jesus.

Now where’s that hula skirt?

rb31daysdeepbutton2Thank you for joining me for 31 Days of Letting Go in the Deep End. If you were one of the nearly 60 new people who chose to follow me this month, I’m honored. I hope you will stick around. We have a lot of fun around here in the comments and behind the scenes. I pray you will leave here with inspiration toward bravery, hope will be renewed, and we will be transformed together as we listen and follow Jesus.   ~Shelly

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  1. Glenda Childers

    Strong work, dearest.


    • Shelly Miller

      Thanks for being here Glenda!

    • Shelly Miller

      The feeling is mutual.

  2. Elizabeth Stewart

    It looks like you had so much fun! I know you were doing serious prayer ministry, but glad you got some lighthearted moments in there as well!

    • Shelly Miller

      It was a very well rounded conference for me Elizabeth, loved every single minute, even the exhausted moments of little sleep.

  3. pastordt

    Oh, GOOD FOR YOU. Love both pictures, Shelly. Just love ’em.

    • Shelly Miller

      Thanks Diana, I’ve enjoyed having you sojourn with me this month. I’m looking forward to catching up on your series over the next few days.

  4. Michelle DeRusha

    I am both laughing and cheering, Shelly. What a great series. Good job, girl. And thanks for making me smile.

    • Shelly Miller

      Laughing and cheering is good. I think we should toast to perseverance and faithfulness to something that was exhausting.

  5. Lynn D. Morrissey

    I’m going to let Michael read this, Shelly, because I am always trying to get him to dance. I can be pretty prim and proper, but for some reason, at weddings, I just don’t care and abandon myself to the dance floor. I’m so glad that you just let go and had fun. I LOVE this picture (and didn’t even know there was a smile booth). Having met all of you, I think you might have even gotten me in there to pose without my eyeliner! I love your fathomless big smile, your craziness. It looks as if you are really jumping into the deep end–mouth first!! Ha!!
    Love you!

    • Shelly Miller

      I can’t believe you didn’t know about the smile booth Lynn. It was upstairs and sort of hidden I guess. We kept saying that we wanted to go up there and take more but we kept getting distracted. Glad I got a few of you anyway. I was so focused I really didn’t get very many photos, period.

  6. Lisa Wakefield

    I remember feeling ashamed and embarrassed to wear a swim suit with my friends until one loving friends said to me, “Lisa, it’s not like we will be surprised that you’re fat.” And she was loving and sincere and RIGHT! I slowly have learned that my experience is the memory I want to have and not the memory of watching others enjoy life. My mother in law, Judy, is a good example to me. She tries new things if she’s physically able to; just because she want to have fun. Seems that since I’ve learned to laugh at myself, the opportunities just pop up everywhere!

    • Shelly Miller

      What a great friend and I’m so glad you know how to laugh at yourself, I think its actually harder than it seems. It’s a gift actually.

  7. Leslie Durham

    This is so good! I just had to laugh out loud at the fun you were having. Yes, I needed that laugh today. Thanks for sharing and being transparent. You are incredible!!

    • Shelly Miller

      I am so glad you laughed Leslie. My work is done now. Thank you.

  8. Anna K.

    Yay, Shelly!! I’m so tickled that you were able to embrace your goofy, free-to-be-you self. I still struggle with the need to be cool vs. goofy in front of others, but so often my goofy leaks out everywhere without me even trying. I have an overabundance of it, I guess. 🙂

    But, you know what? There have been moments when those awkward, silly moments allowed those around me to relax and just *be*. So, my embarrassment was worth it in the long run…

    Thank you for sharing this series!

    • Shelly Miller

      I think that is so true. I love being around people who know how to be silly, loosen up and not take things so seriously. It usually gives me permission.

  9. DeanneMoore

    Love this 🙂 You know when I wrote something in the book club about dancing being vulnerable, I didn’t know the dancing chapter was at the end of the book!! I was reading the two guideposts a week! Ha! Thank you so much for your dedication to not only writing for 31 days but for doing it with such wisdom and vulnerability. For letting transformation happen in your life, and ours…at least mine. (If you don’t know this yet, I am already a goof ball.)

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m so glad it was transforming for you too Dea. It has been a wonderful month for sure. Yes, I know that about you, I do.

  10. Jillie

    Thank you, Shelly, for this series. It is figuring in greatly in my attempts to be more “real and authentic” around others. Being “goofy” is something I excel in quite naturally. I love to make others laugh–as it’s been said, it frees others to relax and be themselves. Love the photos! But a hula costume? That would be difficult for me too. I do relate to the sitting on the sidelines, in sassy heels, while others dance barefoot, uninhibited. Did that very thing this past summer at my nephews wedding. Came home and wondered why I didn’t let loose like everyone else? I have GOT to stop worrying so dang much about what other people think!
    The Mark Twain quote? I have it hanging in my kitchen. Now I just have to heed his wise words.

    • Shelly Miller

      oh wow, I love knowing that this quote hangs in your kitchen Jillie. It’s been great having you work out this things with me this month. I hope its been as life changing for you as it has for me. I remember where we started after that post I wrote, I was imagining you with me, beside me, cheering me, nodding and wiping tears together. Love you friend.

  11. Nancy Ruegg

    I am right with you in the hesitancy to look foolish. Is it partly because of our “pastors’ wives” persona? (Aren’t we supposed to be dignified ladies?!) And yet vulnerability and humility, in the act of being a bit silly, might just make me more approachable. And it would certainly do wonders for my perfectionism tendencies! Your post has me thinking, Shelly: next time I’m inspired to be a little crazy, I should go for it! The positives outweigh the negatives.

    • Shelly Miller

      I think you should definitely go for it. I try not to think too much about that pastor’s wife thing actually. I once replied to someone who asked me how to be a pastors wife after her husband entered the ministry by saying, “just be yourself.” That’s all I know who to be.

  12. Maureen

    Thank you for these 31 days – loved reading along with you. This post sparks a question. Why is it that when you are “really you,” “truly vulnerable,” you “let your hair down” and dance in the aisles? Why can’t being really ME mean being quiet in the corner? Maybe I haven’t achieved that level of freedom yet? Or why can’t being free mean being background and quiet? I don’t know – the last guidepost of Imperfect Gifts still has me asking questions…When we aren’t naturally up front and out there – is that something we have to change in order to be real, and if so, who says so? Perhaps this could be a future post for you, I would trust what you come up with on this. Love your photo by the way…it did make me smile. Again, thank you for your posts all month!

    • Shelly Miller

      I like these questions Maureen. I think we definitely need to own who we are and not try to morph into what others think we need to be. I think in the instances I’m writing about here (and many I haven’t shared) there was something in me that really desired to let loose but I was too afraid of what other people might think. Dancing, singing and laughing are part of being a Christian because they are all over the bible so I have to think they are part of God’s character and attributes. I shared this quote by Frederick Buechner in our book club: “We tend to think that joy is not only not properly religious but that it is even the opposite of religion. We tend to think that religion is sitting stiff and antiseptic and a little bored and that joy is laughter and freedom and reaching out our arms to embrace the whole wide and preposterous earth which is so beautiful that sometimes it nearly breaks our hearts. We need to be reminded that at its heart Christianity is joy and that laughter and freedom and the reaching out of arms are the essence of it.” I hope this helps.

  13. Robin Dance

    C l e a r l y I’m pretty good at looking foolish. SO glad to have connected IRL; but now we have to wait a while before NEXT time. Dang it. Here’s to being more intentional with those whom I share connection :). And your roommates? Seems like God knew just what he was doing :).

    • Shelly Miller

      Glad to connect with you too. Deidra has asked me several times if I “know” you and I’m glad I can say, “yeah, I do.” I will look forward to the next time our paths cross and I’m hanging out on the doorstep of your blog as my teenagers grow up. I need an empathetic shoulder to lean on sometimes. Glad you’re okay with looking foolish, I like that about you btw.

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