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Everybody Tells Me to Be Myself ... but I Don't Know Who I Am!Faithgirlz!
By Nancy Rue
ZONDERKIDZCopyright © 2013 Nancy Rue
All right reserved.
Chapter OneYou Want to Come Along?
I have an invitation for you.
If you are a mini-womanthat is, you're a girl between the ages of eight and twelveyou're invited on a journey. It's not a trip, because once you set out you won't be coming back. It isn't a vacation either. Even though parts of it are going to be a blast for you, some of it will demand hard work. And it definitely isn't a tour. You'll have guides on this journey, but you'll do more than see the sights and go, "How cool is that? Now when do we eat?"
I promise you, though, that this journey will be worth your while, because where we're going is a place you really can't afford to miss out on. We're going ...
To your true self.
Seriously. This is a journey designed for you to discover the genuine, authentic, unique person you were made to be when God created you. It's a long one. As a matter of fact, nobody totally gets there because some of the things about who you are will change as you get older. You could actually say that this is a journey of learning how to make the journey.
So, why would you want to embark (that's a cool travel word for "start out") on such a tough, never-ending road? I'll let your fellow mini-women answer that for you:
"Some people at school and church think you have to act like a twenty-year-old to be cool. And sometimes I do because some of my friends are intimidating."
"Something that stops me from being me is the thought of someone not liking me or thinking I'm a freak or something."
"It's hard for me to be myself when someone is doing something better than I am."
"I don't like who I am!"
"I think what keeps me from being me is that I don't know who I am in the first place."
If you've had those thoughts or others like them, that doesn't mean you're a loser. It means you're breathing. You're a tween girl, and this is the time in your life when you're finding out that ...
You really aren't the same as everyone else.
Not everyone automatically likes who you are.
It can be a bummer because it's happening at exactly the same time that you're discovering how much you want people to like who you are, especially BFFs (Best Friends Forever), CFFs (Close Friends Forever), and maybe even, uh, boys. The problem is, they're trying to figure out the same things you are. It's a wonder anybody ever gets there!
But you can. This book is like a travel guide to get you started on the journey toward your true God-made self. It's set up to help you ...
figure out who you really-deep-down-inside are
be that person no matter who you're with.
You may be thinking, it's easy for me to say you can do those two things. I'm a grown-up, after all. But I'm still on that journey, and although it's a lot easier than it used to be, there are still some bumpy roads and switchbacks along the way. And besides, I've had a lot of help with this book from mini-women who, like you, are starting out right now and are making progress. You'll see their absolutely true stories here, and you'll know you are SO not alone.
If you think you'd like to come along, let's do a little pre-journey preparation.
"I have a problem when my friends think I'm crazy and I'm just being myself. They think it's not ladylike to eat a cupcake so half of it ends up on your face. Who said I was trying to be ladylike? I'm just trying to have fun."
HERE'S THE DEAL ABOUT BEING YOURSELF
How many times have you heard grown-ups say, "Just be yourself"? Like that's supposed to prepare you for a situation where you don't know anybody, or you don't know what you're supposed to do, or you have that feeling that you are not going to fit in at all.
In the first place, what do they mean by "be yourself"? They're probably talking about a thing called authenticity. When you're authentic ...
You're always honest.
You don't pretend to be rich, or way smart about something, or totally into horses (or whatever everybody else is into) when you're not.
You don't copy the way other kids dress or talk or laugh if it doesn't feel natural to you.
You go after the things you're interested in even if nobody else does.
You make up your own mind by what you know is good and true.
Easy, right? You just do all that stuff and you're authentic.
Uh-huh, except for these questions your fellow mini-women ask:
"What if I'm so honest I hurt people's feelings?"
"What if I just do my thing and everybody thinks I'm weird?"
"What if I always do what's right and nobody wants to be with me because I'm too 'good'?"
"What if I don't even know what I like and what I'm interested in and how I want to dress? What about that?"
"Certain people keep me from feeling like I can be myself. Mean people. My family sometimes. That socute boy I have a crush on."
Take a big ol' sigh of relief. The whole point of this journey is to turn every one of those "what ifs" into a "what is." It is possible to ...
Be honest and encouraging at the same time.
Know what your own "unique thing" is and go for it without worrying about other kids thinking you're weird.
Show people that good is cool.
Discover more and more the special, one-of-a-kind person you are ... and love yourself.
Wait ... did I just say you're going to love yourself? Isn't that conceited? Selfish? Stuck up?
Let's see what God has to say about that. Read this next part very carefully, because without it, the journey can't even begin.
Even if you've only just started thinking about God on your own (as in, outside of Sunday school class), you probably know that God-loving people believe God thought each one of us up, made us, and put us here for a reason. The Bible (which is where God mostly talks to us) says that over and over. Here's just one example:
[God] has shaped each person in turn; now he watches everything we do.
Psalm 33:15 THE MESSAGE
It's kind of cool to imagine God's magnificent hands making an individual person who is totally different from every other baby girl or boy ever created before. It's like God is a potter, shaping people out of clay. God makes a perfect work of art, breathes life into it, and loves it.
"Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker ... Does the clay say to the potter, 'What are you making?'"
So if God loves what God has made, including you, how can you do any less than love yourself too?
It's hard, though, with the world telling you to pick yourself apart all the time:
* Are your clothes hip?
* Is your slang up to date?
* Are you cool enough?
* Funny enough?
* Blond enough?
We'll talk more about that later. For now, just remember that God knows how hard it is, which is why God sent Jesus to make everything way, way clear. From all the commandments the people had to remember and follow, Jesus got it down to the two most important ones:
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"
Basically, if you don't love yourself, you're not going to be very good at loving other people. Loving yourself does NOT mean you're conceited. In fact, loving your true self is actually a requirement. Jesus goes on to say that all the other commandments are based on these two. If you can't love God with everything you haveand love yourself and other people the same wayyou don't have a chance of obeying "Honor your father and your mother" (Exodus 20:12) or "Do not envy" or any of the rest of them. That could get to be a mess.
Here's the way it works in God's world:
God made you beautifully unique, right down to your fingerprints, your one-of-a-kind voice, and your designer ears.
God gave you made-for-you talents and interests (and not just the kind that show up on American Idol).
God shows you who you are as you get to know him better and better. That is, in fact, the only way to know the Unique You.
It only makes sense, then, that if you hate who you are and try to be something or someone else, you grow more false. You move further away from your true, beautiful self.
Not only that, but anytime you reject any part of your real selfmaybe the fact that you're naturally quiet or you have a crazy sense of humoryou're also telling God he didn't know what he was doing when he created you.
I mean, really?
"The world makes it hard to be who I am, you know what I mean? It's like everyone expects you to have a boyfriend at twelve and wear makeup and stuff. And I don't."
"Sometimes I feel like I have to do what some of my friends do, especially some new friends I don't know too well. It's sometimes like I have to do what they do to be friends with them, even if they SAY they want me to be myself."
"I sometimes hate myself so much that it flows out to other people, and I end up hurting them."
"Most of the time I am myself, but I don't always feel at ease doing it."
HERE'S THE DEAL ABOUT NOT MAKING THE JOURNEY
What if you don't make the journey? What if it's easier to be who other people tell you to be?
There are several answers to that question. Before we start out for real, let's find out why it's dangerous to not make the journey at all. Below are just a few of the things that can happen if you're not being your authentic self.
You do things you really don't want to do. Most teasing, lying, and gossiping doesn't happen because people want to be mean. It starts because somebody's unhappy with herself or she needs attention or she wants to feel important. If you're just being you, you're usually happy, you get the right kind of attention, and you know you're valuable.
You don't do things you really want to do. For instance, you might miss out on some really cool art classes if it's more important to you that other people won't think they're cool. And that's not all. You might fail to stand up for somebody who's being teased or fail to stand up to someone who's bullying you because you're not sure if your group will approve. Always checking to see if you still fit can really cheat you out of the places and things and people who are perfect for you.
You get resentful about always having to "measure up." Doing your best in school and at home and following the right rulesall that helps build your confidence. But if your friends (or the people you want to be friends with) also have "requirements" for belonging to the groupbeyond being yourselfyou're bound to start thinking little mean thoughts and snapping at people and generally feeling like you want to smack somebody. And for some reason, the person you say something evil to is seldom the person you're really annoyed with. Yeah, it's a problem.
You never feel totally comfortable. When it's not easy to just be you, nervous questions wave their sweaty hands in your head. "Do I look okay?" "Did I just laugh too loud?" "Do I sound like a geek when I say that?" "If I do this, will they still be my friends?" "I don't know how to act right now!" Pretty soon you're chewing on your fingernails or your hair or your pencils while the questions keep chewing on you from the inside.
As you get older, that anxiety can get more serious. Some girls develop eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia. Some injure themselves on purpose. Some get depressed. Others always seem to be angry. Still others just load themselves up with activities so they won't have to think about it. None of that makes growing up fun, and a lot of it is downright dangerous.
If you lose the Unique You that God made you to be, you won't discover what God has planned for you to do with your life. No one who is being her honest, genuine self ever has to worry that she won't figure out what God wants her to do. She'll just naturally do it. But a girl who tries to be somebody else or a different somebody for every group she's with may never find her purpose. That's where the real happiness is, in living out exactly what you were put here for. It would be such a bummer to miss that.
GOT GOD? (AGAIN)
As you go forward on the path to your God-made self, remember this passage, written by John about Christ:
Whoever did want him, who believed he was who he claimed and would do what he said, He made to be their true selves, their child-of-God selves.
John 1:12 THE MESSAGE
Let's make that our journey verse. Keep it in your mind that God made you to be his child. Jesus wasand still isthe perfect child of God, and he's the only one we should imitate, just by following his lead.
If you've got that, then let's go for it!
"You have to find you buried underneath everything people tell you about yourself."
"Other people have this image of me. I'm shy around people I don't know, so they think I'm always quiet. They imagine things about me from the outside, but most of the time they aren't true. It's just that I have two sides of me. One side likes to study, get good grades, and read books. But the other side likes to have fun, sing, listen to music, dance, and spend time with friends. I have to work on not getting trapped in the image that other people have of me."
YOU CAN DO IT
At the end of each leg of your journey (leg is another cool travel word for "part") in this book, you'll have a chance to do an activity that will help you get to know and be yourself even more. On this leg, discover what you already know about yourself deep inside by making a collage. That's a collection of magazine images (or photographs, if that's okay with your mom) that you paste together on poster board or paper to create one big picture. We'll take it step by step.
What you'll need:
* a pile of magazines you're allowed to cut pictures from (Be SURE to ask permission before you start.)
* scissors (or you can tear pictures out.)
* paste or glue (Tape doesn't work so well.)
* a piece of cardboard, poster board, or paper at least 11 inches by 14 inches
* a timer (or just a clock or watch you can see easily)
* a quiet place where you can think and spread things out and not be interrupted (by pesky brothers, nosy sisters, mischievous pets ...)
How to make it happen:
* Set your timer for twenty minutes (or look at the clock or watch and jot down what time you start).
* During that twenty minutes, go through the magazines. Each time you come to a picture or some words you really like, cut or tear them out. You don't have to have a reason to choose a picture or words other than "I just like it!"
* When twenty minutes have passed, put the magazines aside and spread all the cut-out pictures and words on your paper. Rearrange them, sides touching, until they create a picture that makes you go, "That's me!" You don't have to be able to explain why you placed the images that wayit just has to make you happy.
* Glue or paste the images to the paper the way you've arranged them.
* Sit back from your completed collage and gaze at it.
* Rather than looking at each picture and word individually, look at the whole collage as if it were one big picture.
* Try to come up with one sentence that describes the picture. This is a picture of a person who ______________________________. For example:
* This is a picture of a person who is upbeat and cheerful and loves life.
* This is a picture of a person who likes to be quiet and peaceful.
* This is a picture of a person who has a lot of different sides to her personality, from totally wacky to way smart.
*If you need help discovering your sentence, think about ...
* The colors. Are they bright and wild? Soft and pastel? Black and white? What do the colors tell you about your personality that you know is totally the truth?
* The way you've placed things on the page. Is it neat and orderly? Scattered and happily confused? Does it make a design? What does your placement tell you about the way you do things that is absolutely right on?
* The kinds of pictures you chose. Are they all of one kind of thing? Is there a huge variety? Are they in categories? What does that tell you about your talents and interests and tastesthe ones you may even keep secret from other people?
* Put your collage up in a place where you can see it as you continue your journey.
* Look at it often. See what more it might tell you. (I know it's weird, but it does kind of "speak" to you.)
* If there is someone in your life who always accepts you for who you are, ask him or her to look at your collage and tell you what they see. You still get to decide if that helps you know yourself even better.
* Let your collage help you like the real you more and more.
Excerpted from Everybody Tells Me to Be Myself ... but I Don't Know Who I Am! by Nancy Rue Copyright © 2013 by Nancy Rue. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERKIDZ. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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