At some point, when I was a little girl, I started to believe the lie that who I was simply wasn’t worthy of love. I started to believe that I just wasn’t enough; enough to be loved, enough to spend time with, enough to spend money on, enough to be wanted as a friend, enough to be a good student. I have my theories as to when and where this lie entered my heart and put down roots, but that’s not important. What’s important is that I’ve spent the rest of my life either catering my actions around the fact that I believed this lie or fighting like mad to not believe the lie.
The lie that I need to work for my worthiness.
The lie that I need to prove I am enough, that I am worth time, love, affection, energy, money, trust.
The core believe that I start at a negative place, not a place of worthiness, in all my endeavors, be it social or otherwise.
It could have been that I never fit in. I was always bigger than everyone my age. I was teased and bullied a ton first through third grade. I clearly remember ‘Katie K’ germs. I remember returning to my chair to see a pin tapped to it. I had glasses that were always a style behind. I didn’t have a ton of brand name clothing. Then I became a Christian and things just got super weird for me socially. I mean, I didn’t do myself any favors, either. For example, my junior year of high school, for homecoming spirit week, I dressed as ‘Mother Teresa at 17’ (that’s what my name tag said, I kid not) for Superhero Day. It’s both amazing and astounding I had friends.
There are certain situations where this lie can get kicked up. Junior high and high school were obvious places where the lies just ran rampant. Unfortunately, it didn’t die there. My first year at school in Chicago, I felt the lie pulling for my attention as I met people, made (and tried to make) friends, started classes and picked a major. I felt it starting to yawn and stretch and wake up when I moved back home and didn’t have a proper job and had dropped out of seminary. It was sitting at the table when Stephen took a new job at a big church.
And it followed me to the missionary field.
And, from what I can tell, that insidious little lie is sitting at a lot of other people’s tables as well.
How do I know this? How do I know I’m bending toward the lie once again? How can I tell when people around me also feel like they are working for their worth, not from it?
When I feel myself start to hustle, I know I need to take a time out and really, honestly examine myself. I need to ask myself what my motivation is. What my motivation for saying or doing whatever it is I’m saying or doing.
After college, when I started and stopped seminary, was dealing with really difficult things surrounding my sexuality, and I moved home, I felt myself changing socially. I started to question weather or not I was actually an introvert. I would leave parties and social gatherings, just normal things where people were together to hang out, and I would be drained. I would feel tired, emotionally raw and jumpy and generally annoyed. I slowly started to dread parties with a certain number of people. Five people, okay. Fifty people, great. Fifteen, die. Like that middle number of people, where a lot of mingling and small talk needed to happen, just felt awful to me.
Now, this was surprising. If you know me at all, this probably surprises you too. I’m outgoing, loud, would list preaching and teaching as some of my favorite things to do, and I have a hard time leaving places without talking to people (check out lines, man).
But still, I could not deny this growing distaste for groups.
When we first got to Chiang Mai, it felt like freshmen orientation on crack. I don’t know where it was coming from, exactly, but it felt like there was this external pressure pushing us to claim our spot, pick our space. Who were our friends? What kinds of missionaries are we? What kinds of parents are we? What church did we go to? Do we drink? All these factors seemed really important as we were launched onto this new social scene. All these parts of us would eliminate certain groups and places and open the doors to others.
I felt myself dreading nearly every interaction with new people.
I wasn’t sure why this was, so I just blamed it on getting older and becoming more and more introverted. Now, I know some of it was culture shock and the process of transition, but it was and is so much more than that.
I’ve been reading a ton of Brene Brown. If you don’t know who she is, find out and read everything she’s written and listen to her TED talks. You’re welcome.
In one of her books, she started talking about hustling in regard to worthiness:
“When we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our lives that don’t fit in with who we think we’re supposed to be, we stand outside of of our story and hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing and proving.”
Well then. The second I read that the Holy Spirit essentially screamed, “Sound familiar?”
I’m going to be self compassionate now and give myself lots of grace (this is a new thing for me). Moving to a new place, and entirely foreign place for that matter, with a young baby and another on the way, is hard. We lived a really hard, vulnerable year before coming, and we only went into another hard, more vulnerable season. I can understand why when I was meeting people, I wanted them to like me. That in and of itself isn’t bad, in fact it’s normal.
What isn’t awesome is approaching meeting new people, attempting to build a community, from a place of lack. It will get all kinds of messed up and icky and painful when I start from a place of worthlessness instead of worthiness. When I start from worthlessness, a lot hangs on things “going right” and I will do things to ensure they go right: I hustle. I perform. I perfect. I please. I provide.
The bummer about performing, perfecting, pleasing and providing is that until you know someone, you don’t know them. Meaning, if I’m trying to hustle with a stranger and be just this perfect, wonderful, providing person they just have to befriend, I’m probably doing and saying things I wouldn’t otherwise.
I’m not living in sync with who I feel conviction to be. I’m not being authentic when I hustle.
And you know what that feels like?
It feels tired.
It feels draining. It feels like dreading meeting new people and gatherings and social situations around 15 people. It feels like wondering if I’m actually an introvert.
If I spend a good, fat chunk of my social time performing, hustling for my worthiness, then no wonder I’m drained and tired. One, performing and perfecting are hard (and also stupid and impossible, but that realization came later) and two, living out of sync with my convictions (that may sound dramatic, but authenticity is a value of mine, and little things like smiling and nodding along when someone is talking about someone else, exaggerating a story, and saying I like something more than I really do, adds up quickly) leaves me feeling fragmented. And we weren’t made to live like that, so it makes us tired.
So, when I put all this together, the mission field kicking up my hustle gremlin (a term borrowed from Brene) made total sense. And it makes sense why I’m left so drained sometimes and questioning weather or not I’m actually a loud introvert.
Stories about the field started to make more sense. Stories of hurt and rejection and confusion. Stories of loneliness and disillusionment and isolation. Stories of disunity and dissension and competition in ministry.
Man, we’re all just stuck in the hustle. We need to spend some time back at square one: you are created with intention by a God who loves you because He just does, and it’s love that makes you lovely and worthy, not your loveliness or worth that makes Him love you. We need to get it drilled into our skulls and hearts that we are enough. That’s it. We are enough.
And then we can work. Then we can run and move and make things happen, when we start from the place of worthiness. When our starting line is enough and worth, nothing has to go a certain way. We are contingent on nothing. We don’t need a,b, or c to make us. We already are, and everything else is just extra.
I’ve been working really hard since getting to Thailand at not working for love. It’s hard, like I said. Add having kids and wanting them to have friends and aunts and uncles, and the pressure to hustle just increases.
I’ve been intentional to not perform. If I don’t like it, I don’t act like I do. If I don’t believe it, I don’t say it. If I can’t afford it, I don’t do it.
I haven’t succeeded one hundred percent, but I can say this: I’m not tired. I don’t dread meeting people. I love parties and gatherings.
And, we’ve made a few really good friends. Friends with whom we can be honest. Friendships where no one’s worth is on the line, where “impressing” just isn’t a thing. Now, coming here pregnant and not speaking the language and not knowing anything in general forced this vulnerability a little as we just needed so much help. There was no faking skills or talent or pretending we had it all together or had more to offer anyone than just what they saw: us. But now I’m thankful our hand was forced a little into vulnerability, because the friendships we got from it are so valuable.
We don’t have a million friends. We spend nights at home just us. My phone isn’t blowing up. We go places alone.
But man, when we are with people, we are with them. And it’s amazing. It’s freeing and honest and it’s community.
So, I am no longer hustling. And I invite you to ask yourself some questions about motivation and really, honestly, get back to square one: God says you, just as you are, are enough.
Let’s be nice to ourselves and give ourselves lots of grace and get back to basics, shall we?
It feels so good and not tiring to be yourself fully. The people who you attract when you’re you, that’s where the gold’s at. So, slow your role, check yourself. Stop the hustle.