In elementary school, I was cool. Okay, it was a small, private Catholic school, and my fifth grade class had nine students, including something like four or five girls, so it wasn’t hard to be cool. But I was, just for the record.
We had uniforms. White button-up shirts, navy slacks or shorts, sometimes plaid jumpers or, for the really unique, navy culottes. I typically sported the slacks or shorts (much more comfy than the itchy jumpers), a ponytail for my unbrushed hair, and some thick, Urkel-like glasses. You can picture it, right? I was the fifth grade equivalent of Heidi Klum. I oozed sexy, even from a young age.
Then I stepped into a public school for sixth grade. Culture shock. I vividly remember my First Day of Middle School Outfit. I even have a picture floating around online somewhere. But you don’t need to see it. I’ve mourned it enough for the both of us. Let’s just say: floral print shorts, white loafers, Dallas Cowboy t-shirt. That’s all you have to know.
In high school I started regularly brushing my hair and, when feeling extra trendy, even curling it. I started wearing makeup, very uneven Cover Girl foundation and badly applied mascara with occasionally too much blush (it’s easy to overdo it, you know). My standard dress was a white wife beater (or similar, light-colored tank) under an unbuttoned plaid flannel shirt with Arizona jeans. Again, super sexy, right here.
I jest, but here’s the truth: the whole time, all along the way, I wore what I thought looked good. I can mock it now or look back in horror, but I honest-to-God thought I looked good in those things. More importantly, I wanted more than anything to be cool and fit in. I thought my choice of clothing would allow me to fit in, but it had the completely opposite effect. I was mocked. A lot.
I can still tell you the names of the girls on the playground in middle school who made fun of my Hanes tennis shoes I’d begged Mom for, solely because I thought they resembled the Nikes everyone else was wearing and hoped people would think I had Nike shoes too. These girls followed me around singing the Hanes commercial jingle. (One of those girls is now a Facebook friend. I wonder if she has any idea how much that crushed me.)
I remember girls–one evil girl in particular–who mocked what I wore in high school. I remember proudly picking out my own outfit for a Valentine’s banquet at our church and, upon arriving, realizing I was dramatically underdressed in my polo shirt and new Levis, sitting next to girls in gorgeous dresses. I could tell story after story of how completely and utterly rejected and inadequate I felt as a result of my clothing. But that’s enough.
My senior year I worked at Wal-Mart and manned the fitting room. Capris had just revealed themselves as the hip, retro clothing of cool people. A little girl, rounder than was probably healthy, came into the fitting room with her mom to try on a pair of capris. From outside her room, I heard her exclaim to her mom, “Now I can be popular!”
My heart broke.
The thought of her imminent teasing and humiliation was almost unbearable, but I knew exactly how she felt.
These days, you wouldn’t know it to look at me and my typical outfit of jeans and a t-shirt, but I am incredibly neurotic about clothes. Uh, “obsessed” is a better word. I’ve sat in tears before, afraid to leave the house, because of feeling I’d be horrifyingly ugly if I wore anything in my closet. My husband asks me why on earth I think anyone would notice or care that much. Because I do, that’s the simple answer. Because I can’t walk in a freakin’ Stripes or a church service without critiquing everything every woman (and some men) is wearing.
I keep thinking, if only I had enough money to buy an all-new wardrobe, something á la Katherine Heigl in Life As We Know It, I’d finally be okay. Even if no one else thought I looked great, I would feel great with new clothes.
And now: I’m regularly meeting with a great group of girls to work through our insecurities along with Beth Moore in her book, “So Long, Insecurity.” We’re only at week two, and already it’s enlightening. The big lesson for me this week is what Beth calls a “false positive.” It’s the one thing about which we’re most insecure that we think, if fulfilled, we’d be entirely secure. For me, that’s clothes.
And you know, it’s a false positive because it’s a lie. Even if I had Kat Heigl’s movie wardrobe, I’d be insecure about my hair. Or my weight. Or my eyes (one is bigger than the other, true story). Or my credibility. Or my posture. There’s a million things for me to be insecure about and only one where I can find security. You know what I’m going to say here. It’s God. More specifically, it’s my faith in Jesus as my Savior, and my place in God’s Book of Life.
All of this is a work in progress, you know. We’ve only reached chapter four of the book, and by the time I’m finished I’ll be the most secure person in the world. Or maybe I’ll just read through it again until I get it right. Regardless, I’m grateful to Beth’s wisdom in this book (we’re on a first name basis because I follow her on Twitter). Until last night, I knew I was neurotic about clothing but didn’t know why. So there’s progress in that, and the hope and promise of more progress to come.
Your turn. What are some of your false positives? Can you see the roots of those false positives in your life? How has God taught you to find security in him?