When Brooke asked me if I’d like to contribute an article to her online magazine she is launching, my initial reaction was ‘no way.’ There were many reasons why this was my response, but then I started thinking about it, and thought ‘okay, maybe I can do this.’ As I started thinking about what I would write about, one topic kept coming back up again and again: fear of what others think of me.
I think college was where a shift occurred for me. I started to see myself and others differently than I had before. Before college, I wasn’t overly concerned with outward appearance, both my own or that of others. I don’t know if it was living with and being surrounded by girls all the time, but something changed for me in my college years. It was as if a switch had been flipped and I started to notice these external things. Then the comparison game began and I started feeling as if I didn’t measure up. I would watch my close friends date and be pursued by guys and this wasn’t happening for me, and it didn’t feel good. I did eventually date, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I wasn’t pretty enough, skinny enough, etc. I think college was the beginning for me of being aware of and worrying about what others thought of me.
Although it looks different today, I still struggle with worrying what others think of me. Unless I’m heading into the office, you will find me in yoga pants and wearing no makeup, and I am generally okay with that. I do still struggle with body image like I think most women do, and worry if I look fat in certain outfits. But today it oftentimes looks like being anxious over meeting new people and wondering if they’ll like me. It’s worrying during conversations if I said something I shouldn’t have said. Did I say something stupid? Did I say something that could have offended anyone? I am an over-thinker as well, which definitely doesn’t help. I am now in my mid 30s, have been married for twelve years, and have three elementary age children, and I still get nervous in new situations, meeting new people, and doing things out of my routine. I think the fear of what others think of me is always there, it just morphs and changes as I enter different seasons of life.
As a mom I want to pass on to my children that they don’t need to fear what others think of them. In this world we live in, there are so many things pressing in on them, and image and living up to others’ expectations is certainly at the top of the list. I want them to know that they don’t need to live their lives wanting to be liked, but rather live their lives to please God and show others love and kindness.
Our pastor recently did a sermon series on fear, and after one of the sermons, he gave an opportunity for the congregation to go to different tables that were set up around the sanctuary and write on a piece of paper a fear that we needed to let go of. Then after writing it, you put the piece of paper in a bowl of water and it disintegrates. I wrote “fear of what others think of me” on the piece of paper. This was so freeing and a great start for me, but truly letting go of this is something I’m still working on daily. I love that I have this moment though as a reminder of what I am striving towards.
If you are like me and struggle with anxiety and fear of what others think, let’s remember that we are not put on this earth to please others. I believe we are put on this earth to please God and love other people. How can I do these things well when I’m worried what others think of me? I want to be confident in who I am and what I have to offer people. I want God to use me, and there is no room in my life for worry about what others think of me. There are way too many other things to worry about in this life.
Adriane Weidner is a wife and mom of three. She is a stay at home mom, and also works part time from home. She resides with her family in Westerville, OH. Contact Adriane at firstname.lastname@example.org.