Now, before you start thinking you need to send me a pep talk, I want to say this is the voice that “at times” is in my head. She doesn’t scream as often or as loudly as she has in the past. Perhaps it’s true with age comes wisdom? Perhaps it’s experience brings contentment? No clue. All I’m saying is… if it’s screaming in your head, keep reading. If you know someone who hears this, keep reading.
Not special enough….
Starting as an insecure teenage girl, I learned that by doing came approval. Youth Sunday at church needs someone to share? Ask Jodi. She’ll do it. Need someone to teach a class? Ask Jodi. She’ll do it. Need someone to serve on a committee? Get Jodi. She’ll do it. Want someone to watch your kids? Jodi will, and she’ll even entertain them with her reading skills. I found myself working, trying, pushing, working, volunteering, serving, working to earn the approval of others….to feel like I mattered. Get the picture. Don’t get me wrong…I enjoy each of those things, but I also found myself saying “yes” when I didn’t really have the desire to do it…in order to please others….to be accepted.
I figured if I DO enough then people would appreciate me. I would matter. Most had no clue these were the thoughts in my head as I tempered my lack of confidence and overwhelming self-doubt with humor and talent. They’re still my “go to”…my crutch. If I was Linus from Peanuts, then my humor & abilities would be “my blanket”. I pondered sharing my struggles, but I would push the thought away in order to protect the “image” of confidence. If I ignored the inner battles, then they would go away. Right? Nope. Nada. #notgonnahappen.
Not attractive enough…
I’m 100% certain that I was/am not the only female to struggle with this one. My teeth aren’t straight or white enough. My hair is too poofy. My weight is too high. I was certain the reason I was “still single” was because men are visual creatures and my “packaging” wasn’t enough to grab their attention. I recall one drive back to Carson-Newman College during my freshman year, my friend Dana was talking about his girlfriend (who I was nothing like). He said, “Jodi, face it…you’re the kind of girl you take home to Mom and then marry. You’re not the kind of girl a guy dates.” I assured him that I didn’t think marriage was possible without dating or courtship. He simply shrugged his shoulders. It seems I’ve forever been a guy’s best pal…the girl he cries about his girlfriend or wife to.
Perhaps that’s why my commitment to getting healthy hasn’t stuck….because I was doing it “for someone else”. This time, I’m doing it for me. I’m worth it. I need to be healthier. God gave me this body for my life on earth, and I’ve not been a very good steward.
Not worthy enough…
I found this inner battle especially a struggle in the realms of relationships. A friend asked me once, “Jodi, how can I pray for you? What do you need? You’re always there for us, but you don’t tell us how to be there for you.” I was shocked. I couldn’t recall a time when someone asked me that question. If I admitted to someone else my struggles with my self image, then I would be speaking against what God had created. How could I do that? He loved me. He made me. He sent His Son to die for me. How could I speak negatively about His creation? Here’s the thing… Yes, He made me and in a fallen world my body comes with challenges. But…He’s not the one who would choose to go home and not exercise. He’s not the one who had too much junk food in my grocery cart. Those were my choices. Don’t get me wrong…I’m not on one of those fad diets and I’ve not cut anything out of my diet completely. I did Atkins before and lost over 30 pounds, but…I like potatoes….I like bread. That “diet” wasn’t for me. So, I’m just making healthier choices. With the encouragement and accountability of others and my determination to get healthy….I’m hoping these choices stick. With each pound loss and when clothes are looser, I think, “Thanks God…keep me going.”
Becoming the TRUE me…
Along this journey of “Becoming Jodi”, I’ve created my own motto: “Encourage those you appreciate, and appreciate those who encourage you.” You see, while in college, I started writing notes of encouragement to friends. Some were directed to close friends I cherished while others were mere acquaintances that God prodded me to encourage. I recently realized that I needed to restart that practice. Why? Encouragement matters.
How do I know? Because of those He’s placed in my pathway to encourage me. It was during this past summer, as my 50th birthday was approaching, that I decided it was time to start living healthier. Really, this was long overdue, but slow and steady the journey continues. Knowing how often I’ve attempted to “get healthy” in the past, I knew I’d need encouragement and accountability to keep going. I’m using Facebook to help me with that fact. My sweet friends have been encouraging and some are holding me accountable. For instance, as I went through the library drive-through to pick up a book I had on hold, Ann affirmed my efforts and told me how my exercise posts encourage her. Then, while waiting for my students to take a restroom break at school, Kevin comes by and asks if I’m still walking my parents’ dog (on the days I don’t go to Planet Fitness). Meanwhile, Erin, my neighboring teacher, spurs me on as I drink my gallon of water each day. “Keep drinking more water.” With each exercise post, many friends give me a little cheer to keep spurring me onward. They may only spend a few seconds making their comment, but it matters. It motivates. It encourages me to keep going. Encouragement and accountability matter.
Not polished enough…
Let’s refocus…my struggle with self-worth wasn’t just in my appearance, but it also manifested itself in my career. I would allow the harsh words of one parent to overshadow the edifying words of many others. I would see the strengths of another teacher and judge my skills in those areas harshly. Now, I find myself in year 25. I still try to improve in areas that I know need polished, but I tell myself “effective” on an evaluation is fine. I know I’m effective. I know my passion and purpose are true, so I need to let those self-degrading issues go. Yet, I admit that a few years in a row my final “label” was “highly effective”. Made my day! However, it also set me up for the feeling of failure when the next year I was 0.50 points away from that “label”. It really means absolutely nothing…maybe a couple extra hundred dollars, but I allowed the “label” to tell me who I was. I allowed the opinions of my administrators to have power over my self-acceptance. You see….I still struggle with that. I still want to be “the best” I can be. There’s nothing wrong with trying to improve yourself, but if it steals your joy then it needs to be put in its place.
Recently, these thoughts have been playing over and over in my self-analysis. In fact, I think these things started stirring last winter when a small group book study challenged me to write 100 positive things about myself. And I failed. I failed miserably. If you go back to my January post called “Toxic or Healing”, you would find a sad list of 15 positives about myself. Actually, they’re more like “mediocre” positives. How could I not find 100 things positive about myself? I mean, the Creator of Heaven and Earth knit me together in my mother’s womb. Was His work sub-par? Nope.
Now, I’m not saying one should be boastful and self-centered, but we should be able to list countless positive things that are true about ourselves. So, feel free to stop reading, but I’m going to attempt to come up with 100 positives about this 50-year-old-lady who loves God. It may take me a while, but I tend to fixate on goals….so I won’t share this post until the goal is achieved. [Started on Wednesday & posted on Friday evening.]
You see, I tend to over-analyze just about everything. Yet, this time, my analysis has been tempered with reality and acceptance. I’ve concluded…..
- I am a teacher who loves her job even on not-so-hot days.
- I’m sensible.
- I’m an author of children’s books that cause my 4th graders to burst out in laughter in all the right spots.
- I’m realistic.
- I’m smart.
- I’m a lover of figurative language and eager to help both young and old develop an appreciation.
- I’m unique.
- I’m passionate about things that are important to me.
- I’m a good cook.
- I’m diligent with my tasks.
- I enjoy providing meals for new parents, sick friends, and stressed mothers.
- I’m sincere.
- I sing.
- I’m reflective.
- I enjoy writing parodies.
- I’m imaginative.
- I enjoy teaching kids Bible lessons at my church.
- I’m personable.
- I love a good pun…or even a bad pun.
- I love to laugh and do it daily.
- I’m benevolent.
- I’m a fine feline mom.
- I’m polite.
- I’m encouraging.
- I’m empathetic.
- I can bring stories to life for my students…and the ladies in my Sunday School class.
- I’m enthusiastic.
- I’m a committed reader.
- I’m principled.
- My superpower is appreciating a good night’s sleep or sweet afternoon nap.
- I’m creative.
- I can create “personalities” complete with their own voice and attitude.
- I’m capable.
- I’m an appreciated dog walker.
- I’m faithful…to God…family…and friends.
- I am grateful.
- I’m a good hugger.
- I’m focused.
- I’m a fun puppeteer.
- I’m optimistic.
- I’m a friendly greeter at the church doors on Sunday.
- I’m hopeful.
- I enjoy writing poetry.
- I’m romantic. [One day, someone may find out…]
- I’m merciful.
- I like mentoring & helping younger teachers and wannabe teachers.
- I’m purposeful.
- I try to help friends see the positive on their bad days.
- I’m supportive.
- I attempt to bring joy to others.
- I’m animated.
- I’m a planner.
- I’m cooperative.
- I pray for my friends.
- I am kind.
- I try to maintain a positive perspective…even in the midst of a pandemic!
- I’m persistent.
- I try to avoid giving up whenever possible.
- I’m earnest.
- I am a goal setter.
- I’m punctual.
[Unless it’s for my surprise 50th birthday party when I was late due to an unplanned nap.]
- I attempt to maintain peace.
- I’m humorous.
- I can be serious when needed.
- I’m focused.
- I’m giving.
- I’m loyal
- I make mistakes, but I own them too.
- I’m thoughtful.
- I want to make my school, my community, my world a better place.
- I enjoy doing & writing drama/skits.
- I’m helpful.
- I’m a rebel to the stereotypical expectations of this world.
- I’m dependable.
- I’m a woman of integrity.
- I am perfectly imperfect.
- I’m joyful.
- I’m a devoted church member.
- I am talented.
- I’m hard working.
- I’m a teacher who calls my students “my kids” regardless of their ages.
- I’m contagious, as in my faith, my laugh, & my joy. [Thanks, Meridith, for that one!]
- I’m a reliable friend.
- I celebrate the success of my friends.
- I’m appreciative.
- I’m a committed employee.
- I try to make each day the best it can be.
- I’m conscientious.
- I’m supportive to my oldest sister Dianna.
- I’m the best friend of my sister Sherry.
- I’m a reliable and loving daughter to my mom and dad.
- I’m the “Best Ant” to my favorite nephew in the whole entire world!
- I’m a daughter of the King of Kings.
- I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
- I shine His light on social media.
- I’m fearfully and wonderfully made.
- I was created in the image of God.
- I am blessed.
- I’m an original.
- I. Am. Enough.