Be myself — but, what if people don’t like me?

Stephanie Long

In school, I wanted so badly to fit in with the “popular” crowd — of which I definitely didn’t belong. So I started pretending not to like things I actually liked and focusing instead on the things that were popular. I begged my mom to buy me the expensive cool clothes, even though I didn’t like them. I was, regretfully, unkind to one my friends in a terrible, and unsuccessful, attempt to get the cool kids to like me.

James 1:6-8 warns that a double-minded person is unstable, which comes from a Greek word meaning, “unsteady, wavering, in both his character and feelings.” That was true of me. I spent so much time and effort trying to fit in, not only with the popular crowd, but with my friends, that I lost sight of who I was.

Even as I got older I would find myself agreeing with people without taking the time to figure out what I really thought. And often, instead of listening when people talked I would be so focused on thinking of something I could say that would relate that I would miss the genuine connection.

James goes on to instruct us to “be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry …” (James 1:19). It’s taken me years to start letting go of the idea that I need to be quick to speak and embrace quietness as a gift.

How I Learned To Be Myself Instead of Reinvent Myself

When I’m in a new social situation, I need to figure out if and where I fit. My mom used to call me a “cautious observer.” Now, I know I’m just an introvert. I had to learn to both embrace who God made me to be and His call to live in community.

God didn’t make a mistake on me. To some He gives the natural ability to be more outgoing. To others, the natural ability to be more reflective. But all of us were made purposefully and perfectly fit together in community.

Psalm 139:13-15 says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.”

We build genuine relationships when we find peace with who we are in Jesus, and who He created us to be. We use our strengths, and we lean into Jesus in our weaknesses.

God doesn’t want me to be someone I’m not; He wants me to use my introverted qualities to connect deeply with others.

For me, that means leaning into Jesus for the courage to engage new people  — even if it is just one or two at a time — then allowing my quietness to be my strength as I ask questions and listen to other people’s responses. I’m discovering that the ability to listen well is a great way to show someone I care.

I don’t have to be someone else to make friends, but I do have to be brave enough to be myself.

Finding Community

“You were so quiet when I met you, and now you’re so … not.”

People say that after they get to know me. It’s not that I don’t have a lot to say. I just can’t walk up to a stranger and start talking. I need to be comfortable with the situation and the people before I jump in. And after a social gathering, I need space and quiet to recharge. And all of that is OK.

We don’t have to pretend to be someone else to make friends. Who wants to be friends with someone who’s fake? I’m making friends by allowing myself to be myself, and being real and honest as friendships develop (Proverbs 10:9).

It’s better to have a few close genuine friends than a bunch of acquaintances based on our invented persona.

We don’t have to be best friends with people overnight or with everyone we meet. It’s OK if we don’t like someone and if someone doesn’t like us. It’s better to have a few close genuine friends than a bunch of acquaintances based on our invented persona (Proverbs 18:24).

Meeting new people still makes me feel like throwing up. But, the good news of Jesus is not just for our spiritual benefit, it’s for our relational benefit, too. As I understand more of who God made me to be and the benefits He provides in genuine community, I’m more willing to connect with others without changing myself.

When we do that, we begin to form the kind of community God wants us to have.

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