As a teenager, I was very insecure and rather shy. I didn’t feel like a nothing or a nobody. I felt like a not-seen. I thought myself a decent looking kid, but a pretty face just wasn’t enough in high school. I lacked the fashion sense, the funds, and the charisma to be noticed. I knew I was smart, but in a studious sort of way, not a clever, impressive sort of way. I fancied myself a deep, poetic soul, tragically undiscovered due to my annoying habit of never saying anything. I became obsessed with getting people to see the value in me.
In typical adolescent fashion, I tried on the personalities of extroverted peers that I admired. That was ugly and unsuccessful. On the rare occasion that I found a relatively safe and captive audience, I took the opportunity to divulge the most profound insights of my soul and the most intimate, painful details of my life. It was my hope that such a conversation would so touch another person’s heart that it would be the catalyst for a rich, meaningful friendship. Rather than the instant connection I expected, this technique seemed to make people rather uncomfortable, and resulted in polite avoidance.
Sadly, it wasn’t until early adulthood that I understood my error. I was trying to force people to see the value in me, rather than trying to live a life of value. My attempts at relationships were entirely self focused. I was so preoccupied with how others perceived me that I didn’t even consider what I might have to offer them. If I gave advice, the primary goal was to sound wise. If I helped a friend, the greatest benefit was that I would appear helpful. If someone confided in me, my concern for the issues the person was facing did not even begin to compete with my contemplations on what great things this confidence meant about me.
It is horrifying to look in the mirror and discover you’ve had something big and green stuck right between your front teeth all day, but it is also the only way you know to get it out–in fact you usually wish someone would have been kind enough and brave enough to tell you. The revelation of my backward relational skills struck me that way. I knew I had to change. I began intentionally utilizing conversations as a means to find out about others and discover ways I could bless or encourage them. Revolutionary, I know.
The most amazing thing began to happen. When I served others, they easily recognized and appreciated the value in me. My honest concern for another person reveals my compassionate heart. Counsel given with an earnest desire to help someone is a fulfilling outlet for any wisdom I may have. Identifying with others in their struggles and encouraging them in their dreams has been awarded by some of the most meaningful relationships I have ever known.
My personality has not changed. I am still on the introverted side. I still get nervous when I know I have to socialize in a group setting or meet new people. I still worry about saying the right thing and I spend far too much time wondering what people think of me. I’m a work in progress.
It isn’t wrong to want to be seen and valued and appreciated. God, Himself, desires those things. I’ve just learned that I don’t have to convince anyone of the value that God has invested in me. It’s there–and if I make my life about serving others, the precious things in my heart will be evident enough.