Standing out or 'shining'?

Courtesy photo

I’d always thought that in order to be beautiful you needed to be skinny, have a pretty face, long hair, and, most important, be able to fit in.

Throughout my life, I was OK with being unique and not following the status quo. I have always been the outgoing, try-it-all, sporty person. From preschool to the beginning of my seventh grade year, I didn’t give much thought to others’ opinions of me and what I wore. But in seventh grade I was trying to figure out who I was and who my true friends were. I started to change in small ways.

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As the school year went by, I felt as if I didn’t recognize myself. For example, I started wearing jean shorts instead of soccer shorts, sparkly tops instead of T-shirts, and makeup. While there‘s nothing wrong with these things in and of themselves, the change didn’t feel genuine to me. It felt like I was molding myself to fit into a society where I’m supposed to get lots of attention and stand out. It just didn’t feel right.

I also acted arrogant and selfish, completely blocking out my friends, because at the time I felt like I was too cool for them. I thought that if I acted differently, I would become popular. But this attempt didn’t exactly work. My friends withdrew from me, and I felt lonely and alienated.

Trying so hard to fit in made me feel less happy than I used to be. And by the end of the school year, I was very upset. I brought all my concerns with me on my summer break, and decided to pray to God about this. During that summer, I worked to better understand my spiritual identity as God’s child. I prayed with one of my all-time favorite hymns (from a poem) by Mary Baker Eddy titled: “ ‘Feed My Sheep.’ ” The first line of the hymn begins: “Shepherd, show me how to go” (Christian Science Hymnal, No. 304).

Why not let my light shine? I am God’s child.

I used to be scared that I wasn’t making correct decisions. But that all stopped once I started praying, “Shepherd, show me how to go.” I realized that God is directing me down the right path, and that I shouldn’t be afraid. My job was to listen to God’s voice only and not to all the voices that told me I needed to try so hard to be like everyone else. As I listened to God, I got a better sense of who I am. I understood that I have a God-given purpose and that I am here for a reason. When I listen for and follow God’s voice—and often God’s voice is a very quiet voice—I can be confident in the choices I make.

The actress Katie Walter, also a Christian Scientist, came to our school, and she said that as we “let our light shine” (see Matthew 5:16), we consciously give other people permission to do the same. She said that as we are liberated from our own fear, we help liberate others. That really stuck with me. Why not let my light shine? I am God’s child who expresses joy, love, happiness, vibrancy, and perfection! And that’s not perfection based in matter, but the kind that is spiritual—right from God, Spirit.

I returned to school after that summer with a much different attitude and a brighter outlook. My clothes and attitude were more balanced. Sometimes I wore T-shirts and sometimes I wore sparkly tops (I still love sparkles!). I wore less makeup and looked more natural. That year I found a nice group of friends, and in classes I wasn’t scared to express myself. I had a wonderful school year, during which new opportunities unfolded for me. I didn’t feel held back by the idea that I need to be “perfect” because, like everyone else, God already made me perfect!

That year I played on my volleyball and basketball teams, participated in the school play, was on my ASB (Associated Student Body Council), and was asked to join the advanced drama course. I didn’t let any insecurities stop me from “shining,” from expressing my true self, which is the reflection of God.

I’ve always loved the following quote from Irish writer and poet Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” To me, it sums up God’s purpose for each of us. And my thoughts on beauty are different now. Remember that you don’t have to listen to thoughts telling you that you aren’t good enough. God made you perfect and you will remain perfect forever!

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