hello monday: vol. 2

Hello Monday. I went to see a movie on Friday.

You've probably heard of it — the one that depicts the life of P.T. Barnum and how his circus began. Critics have heralded it as spectacular entertainment, a must-see, and more. My official opinion is, if you can put aside the ethics of the circus for a couple of hours, it is a movie with wonderful performances, beautiful cinematography, phenomenal choreography, and a soundtrack I am sure to have on repeat for the next several weeks at least.

Amidst all the spectacle the movie presents though, one particular moment stood out to me. It stood out to a lot of people, in fact, and the particular song has been lauded by the film's director as its anthem.

I am referring, of course, to "This Is Me."

 
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Without spoiling anything for those of you who haven't seen it yet, partway through the film, when once again confronted with being hidden away because of their unique characteristics, Lettie Lutz, also known as the Bearded Lady, leads the performers of Barnum's Circus in an anthem filled to the brim with important messages about love and self-acceptance, not to mention the amazing vocals by Keala Settle.

The chorus of the song makes this bold statement:

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I'm gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I'm meant to be
This is me

I've more or less had the song on repeat since I went to see the movie on Friday afternoon, playing these words in my head over and over again, wishing I could belt it out like Keala and mulling over the importance of the message.

//

People are going to tell you a lot of things about who you're "supposed" to be. Thanks to social media, the internet as a whole, and our culture of consumerism and comparison, those voices can be deafening and their words oh so painful.

Even if they have no authority to speak into your life, nearly everyone you come across, especially on the internet, will feel like they have the right to tell you who you should be. They will tell you you're too tall or too short, too quiet or too loud, too opinionated or too much of a pushover. On the flip side, they will also tell you you're not smart enough or pretty enough, not talented or interesting enough, not skinny or curvy enough.

At every turn, people will simultaneously tell you you are too much and not enough at the same time and how do you even live in that kind of world?

It's simple: send a flood and drown them out.

Easier said than done, I know. But the reality is, that random dude on the street or the troll on the internet does not have the authority to speak into your life or tell you who you are, who you are becoming, and who God created you to be. The opinions of strangers on the internet should never determine how you feel or what you believe about who you are.

//

On Saturday afternoon, I got coffee with a couple of friends. After staying up late, I'd slept in, so when I got the text about hanging out, I was still in my pajamas. I immediately hopped in the shower, and 30 minutes later walked into a Starbucks dressed, makeup on, and hair (mostly) dried.

"Would you believe me if I told you I hadn't even showered when you sent that original text?" I asked. The wife of the couple was floored, wondering how I'd managed to dry my hair and get it so straight in such a short amount of time. "This is just how my hair dries," I said. "It took me a long time to realize a lot of women would kill to have hair like mine."

"Multiple people," she said, laughing. "I would kill multiple people for hair like that."

Growing up, I hated my hair. It was fine and stick straight and wouldn't hold a curl to save its life. I finally willed it into submission after many years, but as a child, all I wanted was to have the thick wavy locks of my favorite Disney princess — Aurora. I recognize now that the unrealistic expectations Disney gave me about hair far exceeded the unrealistic expectations they gave me about men, but it didn't change my desire for those golden locks with that perfect curl at the end.

It's a simple thing and now it seems rather silly, but as a child, it was one of the ways I perceived myself as being not enough.

The more I listened to the words from this song over the weekend, the more I realized there's a deeper application than just ignoring the haters and the trolls that lurk all over the internet and grow bold under the cloak of anonymity.

While words from others can and have hurt me in the past, there's a louder voice that has caused much more damage. I've carried it around with me as long as I can remember, and chances are you have too. 

It's your own voice.

It's said we're all our own worst critic, that no one else is paying attention to our flaws as much as we are. These statements are usually made with a laugh, written off as a mildly humorous reality we all have to accept. But there's a serious truth to them.

The words of others have hurt me, yes. But I also know the words I speak to myself, the lies I allow to take root in my own head and heart, have caused far more damage than the words of any other human being. 

Chances are, there's something about your life, your body, or your personality you wish you could change. We all do. And the desire to change those things may be exasperated by the hateful and unkind words of others, reinforcing the words in your own head, the fear that you will always be too much and never be enough.

Hear this now, sweet friend: you are never too much and always enough.

Change is good. It's powerful and wonderful and inspiring and I do believe we should all strive to grow as individuals. But changing your eating habits or your wardrobe or your hairstyle or your opinions to fit into a mold of what the world told you you should be and you tell yourself you should be is not the end all, be all. It's not even the primary goal.

Whoever you are, wherever you are, I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt you were created in the image of the almighty God. He designed you to uniquely reflect elements of His character that only you can reflect. He created you exactly as you are for a reason that may not make sense this side of heaven, but it's there. I promise.

As we step into the second week of this new year, if you make one resolution this year, resolve this: drown those sharp words out.

Send a flood of truth to wash them away. You might feel broken and bruised by this world and the words inside your own heart. But you are beautiful and brave, exactly who God created you to be and where He wants you to be in this moment. 

It's a new year. There are hundreds of days in it to rewrite the story, to change the narrative, to be kind to yourself, and to speak words of love and truth that build up instead of tear down.

That is my prayer for you, and for myself, this year. That we would embrace who God has created us to be, bruises and all, boldly share out gifts with the world for His kingdom and His glory, and through it all, unapologetically say to the world, "This is me."