These last few years of college have been extremely formative for me. Especially this past year. On this exact day last year, I was in Israel for a school trip. Which sounds like the coolest thing ever and is the dream for many people. I absolutely loved it, but I was also miserable the entire time. It's odd for me to be sitting here now looking back on this experience, but it has shown me just how drastically far I've come in just a year. When I was on that trip, I was in the worst place mentally that I've ever been in. I was at my lowest point, struggling with anxiety in multiple different ways, and was feeling extremely alone in multiple different ways as well.
Most of my years in college have been spent trying so hard to be liked by others and desiring to be included by them. I was constantly gauging everyone around me and was always analyzing myself, always trying to change who I was or how I presented my self. Was I being too quiet, too loud, too immature, not funny enough, not engaging enough, not intentional enough, too annoying, too personal, not personal enough? Believe me, the list goes on and on. My mind was always trying to figure out what I could control on my end that would result in the others around me liking me or not. But the thing about this was that even though I was constantly playing this game in my head, I still ended up feeling the most alone and unwanted that I've ever felt in my life. Because I was overanalyzing everything, it only made it that much more evident when I would fall short or when friends would be sucky sometimes.
Through going to counseling I began the process of realizing that anxiety was a big part of the overall struggle with this. But even more than that I learned the really hard way that at the root of it I was trying to find something in these people that I can only truly get from God. I was trying to place my identity and worth in how I was seen and treated by those around me. When I would spend just one too many weekends in a row alone, or when I would go through weeks where others weren't reaching out to me initiating conversation, or even if it was a day where others just weren't as excited to see me, I would immediately equate that to me not being wanted. This would cause me to continue the cycle of wracking my brain to figure out what I needed to change about myself that would make others want to be around me, which would then mean that I was valued and loved. This is a really dangerous game to play because no matter what I did, I always lost. There's something that a few very wise people in my life had to very patiently tell me over and over and it was this:
"People will always fail you no matter what. The only one who will never fail you is Christ."
Until I was able to realize that I just continued to keep getting hurt and let down. Because of my stubbornness, I sat in this mental torture and this never-ending cycle for quite a few more months. And honestly, I still catch myself in this mindset today sometimes. But slowly I began to realize the validity of that statement more and more. I was able to get to a place where I knew that my value and worth comes from Christ and that it is something that will never change. He set my value when he died for me on the cross, I am loved, valued, and wanted by him. I knew this as a fact, but I still struggled with believing it. It was many months of having to mentally prepare myself before going into social situations where I knew I would be struggling mentally. I would remind myself "It doesn't matter how I am viewed by them, It doesn't matter if nobody acknowledges me at all, it doesn't matter if I get a bunch of empty greetings, It doesn't matter because regardless of how these people treat me they can't change my value. They can't take anything away from my value or worth because it is in Christ and I am already loved by him." It was an extremely slow process of having to do this countless times before I could get to where I'm at now. I am nowhere near where I used to be, but I do still slip back into this mindset at times. I do still need to do this self-talk sometimes before entering social situations. But even in these moments of weakness where I am doubting my worth and am searching for a way to establish it, I am able to catch myself within them and point myself back to Christ.
I know for a fact that I'm no longer in that place mentally that I was at this time last year. Even though most of the overall social struggles are still present, I don't allow those to dictate my overall worth. I also don't allow those moments to mean that I'm unwanted by everyone. In counseling, they described my tendency to do that as "disqualifying the positive". Just because a few sucky situations would happen and a few people would make me feel unwanted, I would allow that to overshadow the ways that others were showing me that they cared and would immediately decide that I wasn't loved or wanted by anyone. But now I cherish and acknowledge the little ways that I do see other people loving me. I am able to love others more freely because I no longer feel like I'm doing these things in order to gain their love and friendship in return.
I am able to love others so freely because Christ loved me. I'm able to do this because I finally think I've reached a place of actually believing my worth is in Christ. I realize that I haven't been as worried lately about how others see me. This doesn't mean that the anxiety is just totally gone, I am naturally a worrier so there are lots of times that anxiety is a still a huge struggle for me. The difference is in how long I allow myself to sit in the anxiety and how I respond once I realize that I am in a moment of anxiety. This is something that is far easier said than done, but I am done allowing my identity to be found in those around me. My Identity is in Christ and I no longer feel the need to change myself for those around me.
While trying to distract myself from the fact that its finals week, I started watching the show the masked singer. On one of the episodes, a contestant sang "I don't want to be" by Gavin Degraw, and that song resonated with me so much. That song perfectly describes where I'm at right now. A line of the song says "I'm tired of looking 'round rooms, wondering what I've got to do, Or who I'm supposed to be, I don't wanna be anything other than me" There is so much freedom in getting to this place, I'm tired of constantly trying to find a way to figure out what's wrong with me so that others will then like me after I change that thing. I don't want to be anything other than genuinely myself. I am someone who is loved by God and that is enough for me. I don't need to change myself to be loved by God, and because of that I am enough. I'm done trying to change myself for those around me, If there are people that will only like me once I've changed certain aspects of myself, then they were never truly a friend to me to begin with.
So, to the person that has been feeling a little extra lonely and unwanted this week, I empathize with you so much. But from the bottom of my heart, I want you to know that you are seen and loved by God. Run to him in those moments of overwhelming loneliness and fleeting worth. He cares for you, your identity and worth can be found in the one true King. Until you realize that, this cycle will just continue because you're searching for something that can only be found in him.