“Oh my gosh- I’m THAT person.”
Have you ever said these words? What do you fear today- being THAT stinky guy, THAT desperate singleton, THAT girl with issues, THAT guy who never makes it out of the friend zone? Whom do you fear becoming?
I never wanted to be THAT fat girl. In fact, I was absolutely terrified of it. My worst nightmare as a teen was standing out as the girl with the biggest thighs in the line of white tutus and pink tights. I dieted constantly and exercised an average of fifteen hours a week in my college years. I didn’t want to be an object of pity. I simultaneously held an opposite picture of who I wished to be in my mind- the girl who always forgets to eat, is effortlessly thin, looks good in every new style trend, and always makes it to the gym.
“I have standards,” I told myself. “And I will stick to them no matter what.”
My fear of being THAT fat girl kept me on the run, through an eating disorder and punishing exercise schedule, until I simply couldn’t keep up any more. I was worn out and unhappy, and I wanted to get better. As I tried to balance my priorities and focus on my spiritual life more, the scale began to creep up a little to a healthier number. “Oh no- it’s happening! Soon I’ll gain back all the weight I worked so hard to lose and everyone will pity me and no one will want me.”
I was becoming a better person- listening to God’s voice in my heart for the first time and investing in friendships, yet my fear of becoming THAT fat girl stole my joy many days and blocked God from moving me freely where he wanted me to go.
Who is THAT person, anyway? He or she is the embodiment of our fears, the picture of what life will look like if we’ve ‘given in.’ Further, he or she is a reflection of the judgment we inflict on others in that situation.
We all have ideas about the way we want to appear to others, which come from deeply ingrained scripts interwoven with our significant life experiences. Most of us will go to great lengths to make sure we aren’t THAT person. I never realized my scripts were there, or how much energy I put into living up to my ideals, until I started trying to change my habits and become more balanced.
Living up to ideals is good when those ideals are virtues (or decent standards of self-care.) However, as I go deeper into my vocation of marriage and motherhood I gain new awareness constantly of how many of my ideals are actually superficial qualities masquerading as virtue. It hurts to admit it, but maintaining some of my so-called ‘standards’ can detract from what I was put on this earth to really do. My desire to avoid being THAT person has caused me a lot of stress, self-criticism, comparison to others, and unhappiness. And that is a great state for the devil to get a foothold.
The thing is, ‘THAT person’ is purely a construct in my mind. It’s my pride, not an objective truth, that keeps me acting from fear. If I identify and work through my fear, God will have space to will work wonders in my life.
I think about St. Paul writing in 1 Corinthians 4:9-10: “We have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and human beings alike. We are fools on Christ’s account…” Would I be willing to appear a fool if God asked me to? I am scared to realize how hard I hold on and how letting go rocks my security.
It is a long ongoing process, but becoming aware and slowly loosening my death-grip on the fear of becoming THAT person is radically changing me for the better. I notice I am able to be fully present to my children and every precious moment with them. I’m not a slave to my workout schedule; rather I exercise because I enjoy it. I eat until I’m full and don’t stress out if I’m a little hungry or a little over-full. I like my body despite its stretch marks from having brought life into the world twice. I can believe that my husband means it when he tells me I’m beautiful. I don’t judge others’ bodies like I used to.
Letting go of fear creates room in my heart for joy and adventure.
Did this strike a chord with you (or would someone you know benefit from reading this)? If so, I’ve included some journaling questions to help you articulate, define, and surrender your fears to God. Only by putting our fears in God’s hands can we truly be free.
What do I NOT want to become? Describe the qualities and the appearance of THAT person.
What kind of feelings does describing this worst-case version of myself bring up?
What am I afraid will happen if I become the person I fear?
Now take a pause, breathe, and imagine handing that person and that fear over to God. Sit with him and see what he does with it. Write down what he says to you.
Thank you so much for reading, and please share what helped you most on your journey in the comments below. And remember to let God do incredible things with your life :)