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?
Thank 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