Lately when I sit down to write something I hear all the people in my head, the critics, the loudmouths, the ones who are just out to make fun, I hear them in my head saying, “Oh, here she goes again with her advice and stories about God.” “Now she thinks she knows everything, now that she’s engaged.” “Who does she think she is?” It’s so easy to be critical, isn’t it? Maybe none of you are saying that and I’m just telling myself an untrue story based on lies, but I think all creative people everywhere who dare to put their ideas out into the world – I think we all battle this same obnoxious voice in our heads.
But, in case you are that voice – in case you have that opinion about me – here’s the truth: I don’t think I know everything and I’m not pretending to know everything, but I do know some things and I know them because I’ve been through them. I just want you to learn from my ridiculous mistakes. I know that I wish someone would have taken me by the shoulders and said, “HEY, WAKE UP!” I know that I can look at my life right now and wish I had done some things differently – not wasted so much time on things that didn’t matter, not given myself away in many ways. So I don’t know everything but I do know a few things. I guess I could just start a blog series titled, “Things I Wish I Knew.”
Here’s one of them:
I wish I would have had a little more self-respect in the game and knew myself just a little bit better. I was watching an Instagram story from Sydney Poulton a couple of weeks ago and she was talking about how she wishes she could go back and have a little more self-respect in this one key situation where she felt she acted like a doormat. And I watched that and thought, “Same, girl. Preach.” I had little to no self-respect in high school or college or even until about three or four years ago, honestly. I was the doormat. The people-pleaser. The “I’ll-just-have-what-you’re-having” kind of girl so that I didn’t upset anyone or rock the boat in any way. I didn’t have favorites. I didn’t stand up for myself. I didn’t think I deserved good things. And that drove the way I acted with other people, how I acted in relationships, and it informed my general outlook on life.
Several years ago I read this book called When Wallflowers Dance and you might think that’s a silly title but it’s about learning to be confident and if anyone needed a heavy dose of confidence, it was me. This part from chapter one has stuck out to me for years:
“Blueberries or strawberries?”
“Which would you like, blueberries or strawberries?”
“I don’t know. Whatever you think.”
“It doesn’t matter what I think. Choose what you like.”
“I don’t know what I like.”
I was thirty-eight. A grown woman with half a lifetime of experience. Fairly educated and organized. But I couldn’t choose between blueberries or strawberries for dessert at a friend’s dinner party. We laughed off my indecision, and I sat at the table watching my girlfriend serve me a little of both, wondering, ‘Why did that just cause me stress? Why don’t I know what I like?’... It wasn’t just that I couldn’t make a decision about dessert; I began to realize that I really didn’t know anything about me at all. I had no preferences. No top fives. No particular likes or dislikes… I realized I always chose what I thought would make someone else happy.
Finally someone put into words what I was feeling. I read that and thought, “What do I even like? Who am I?” So I sat down and started a list of the things I liked and the things that were truly me and not just a reflection of what someone else liked or what they wanted.
Not too long ago I had a moment similar to the one in the book. A friend of mine had a baby and I thought, “What could I just pop over there to surprise her with?” But I knew right away that this sweet friend loved popcorn, she loved cinnamon ice cream, and she loved putting Cinnamon Toast Crunch on top of that ice cream. I knew she liked tea. I knew she liked flowers. I knew what to bring to her because she wasn’t afraid to put a stake in the ground on who she was and what she liked and just be that person. She knew how to say, “No, I don’t like that.” Or, “Oh, that is my favorite!” I thought, “What would someone say about me?” I didn’t know! But I wanted to be a person with favorites, with likes and dislikes, with things that were truly me. I wanted to stop letting other people make decisions for me. It’s called an opinion. And it’s okay to have one.
I think this is a newer revelation for me because I thought I always had to be nice. I was raised to get along with everyone. I was raised to follow the rules and obey. I didn’t ask questions – I did what I was told. Pile on top of that some misunderstood Christian principles like, “Love your neighbor” and “Always put those you love first,” and I was just a wreck of a twenty-something trying to please my way into getting a small scrap of love in return. Because not knowing who I was led me to being a doormat in relationships. I wanted to be loved and instead I got taken advantage of repeatedly and wickedly. I was putting people first because I loved them, meanwhile they did nothing to show they even had an ounce of love for me. I was being nice to people who did not in any way deserve my niceness or my respect. Sure, put that guy you love first, but if you find that he is continually putting you second, fifth, last, then he loses his position with you also. Oh my gosh, how many times I bent over backwards, contorted my will to fit, "Put those you love first," while he blatantly loved everyone but me. And you might think, ‘Gosh, Lyndi, did you have any dignity?’ No, because I wanted to get married more than anything else and I put myself as a sacrifice on that alter over and over and over again. Listen, treat others how you want to be treated, sure, but at some point you have to also respect yourself enough not to be their doormat forever. If there’s no reciprocation in that love, you need to reevaluate the relationship and your necessity to keep it alive.
Ladies, I think a lot of times we get into this deep sinkhole of wanting to be chosen by that cute boy we like, but goodnight, choose yourself first. Don’t let him use you. Don’t let him come and go as he pleases – popping in and out of your life at will. Don’t let him. If that’s happening now, put an end to it. You are better than that. Not one time has Aaron ever made me question his intentions, his feelings toward me, his desire to be in my life. Not one time did I feel like he was playing a game with my heart. The right relationship will not be a guessing game of, “Does he or doesn’t he?” Does he like me? Is he seeing someone else? Is he telling me the truth? Does he want to spend time with me? No. You will ask yourself none of these question in the right relationship. None of them. If you’re asking yourself these questions now, it is the reddest of red flags and I would urge you to end it. The same principle applies in other areas - especially those where you find yourself just trying to be nice to the extent that you are not even respecting yourself anymore. Sometimes it's okay to not be nice!
All of this is really about boundaries. Knowing your likes and your dislikes is a boundary issue. Knowing who you are and not letting others take away from you is a boundary issue. Knowing what you’ll accept and not accept in a relationship is a boundary issue. Self-respect is a boundary issue. I had no boundaries. I existed for other people to take what they wanted and be who they needed until I felt like a used up pile of bones. But boundaries are a good thing – in work, at home, at school, in relationships. Boundaries are a statement about where you begin and someone else ends. And you know what I learned? Something this heart that just wanted to be nice could really fall in love with: setting boundaries is a NICE THING TO DO. It might not seem nice at the start. The people you set boundaries with might not like it at first. But setting boundaries will make you so much healthier and happier in the long game. Setting boundaries will allow you to be a steady, confident person who people can actually rely on and trust. So understand your boundaries and decide what is okay and what’s not okay.
I know a lot more about myself these days. I don’t like olives. I want a golden retriever someday. I like to write. I don’t like Chinese food or ramen or pho (I mean, what even is that?). I like to travel but don't particularly enjoy flying. I have a fear of sinkholes.
Who are you? Do you know yourself well? Have you asked God who he created you to be? Do you know where you stand on strawberries or blueberries? Listen, that seems so trivial but I think it’s indicative of a larger issue. Don’t be afraid to have opinions. You are not just here to please others and make sure that they are comfortable and happy. You’re here to please God. He made you unique and gifted and talented and you are not called to shy away from who you are in him but lean into it and glorify him through it.
That’s what I wish I knew then. Thankful to be learning it now.
A helpful resource in learning what it means to have boundaries in our lives is this book by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.