Being the oldest of seven children had its advantages. I was the first to try many new things, and spent extra hours doing grown-up things with creative grandparents while new babies were being cared for. But it also had its downsides. As more brothers and sisters came into the family, I felt overlooked, even forgotten.
My parents expressed their love for me in wonderful ways, yet somehow, it still didn’t seem like enough. I kept making attempts to get their attention and desperately longed for them to tell me that they were proud of me. But even when they reveled in my achievements, there still seemed to be a hole I was trying to fill that had to do with who I was, how I fit in, and whether I was good enough.
I did all kinds of things to turn attention toward me. I got superior grades, excelled in several sports, played musical instruments with perfection, and tried to appear super responsible and deserving of praise. And yet, when I did get praise, it never seemed like enough, and in spite of my achievements, I wasn’t really happy. I felt exhausted from trying so hard and frustrated that I could never fill that hole. I knew something needed to change.
There seemed to be a hole I was trying to fill that had to do with who I was, how I fit in, and whether I was good enough.
I so loved and admired my mom. She seemed so confident, brave, and comfortable with others—in every situation. I wanted to feel that confidence and assurance, too. My mom let me know that these qualities weren’t unique to her, but came directly from her daily study and living of Christian Science. She’d learned through this study that we each have an ever-present Parent, God, who adores us—and knowing this had changed her life and the way she saw herself and others and enabled her to express these qualities.
I had always attended a Christian Science Sunday School and had learned about God being my Father and Mother—the source and cause of all I truly am, and of all that I always have, including happiness. I had also learned I could pray about whatever was bothering me, and had experienced many healings of sports injuries and witnessed several other meaningful healings in our family. But I hadn’t yet connected with how this related to my identity and sense of worth.
I was soon inspired to talk with my Sunday School teacher about my unsatisfying efforts to get praise. It was such a good talk, and it helped me realize that I had been looking in the wrong direction. I had been looking to others, namely my mom and dad, to notice my good deeds or successes and then tell me that I was good and worthy. But I learned that this approach was always going to leave me feeling that hole and striving toward the next accomplishment.
Instead, my teacher encouraged me to start from a different standpoint—from the fact that I was God’s child, the loved and worthy child of divine Love, and that this was already true, always had been true. I saw that God had always known me as important, loved, and needed. As it says in the Bible, I was even “the apple of his eye” (Deuteronomy 32:10).
It was like a lightbulb went on for me, and I saw that I didn’t need to be driving hard to please people so they would tell me I was a worthy individual. My worthiness isn’t something to earn; it’s about how God made me and knows me. I saw that instead of pleasing people, I wanted to be serving God, loving God, and participating in activities so that I could express God’s goodness. That was what would fill me up with purpose and happiness. I saw that it was natural for me to feel my Father-Mother’s approval of me as His, Her, sweet daughter—and that is exactly what happened.
I saw that instead of pleasing people, I wanted to be serving God, loving God, participating in activities so that I could express God’s goodness. That was what would fill me up with purpose and happiness.
From then on, when I participated in sports or music events, took tests, or climbed mountains, it wasn’t so that others would notice me. It was so I could experience the pure joy of being me and letting Love’s light shine through me. I felt more satisfied and happy, and I stopped looking to others to determine who I was or whether I was good enough. Such a feeling of freedom, acceptance, and love came my way as I let go of a need to try to be noticed and allowed myself to get a palpable sense of God’s constant approval and love.
Today, I can share from my experience that looking for someone to be proud of us really isn’t where we’ll find the satisfaction we’re seeking. What’s really joyful, really satisfying, is to do our best, knowing that it is our nature as God’s sons and daughters to be happy and fulfilled, and that we are always deeply cherished by the One who knows us best.