Being the Outsider
Guys, this is real now. I know I've had a blog in the past, but this feels... bigger. Maybe it's because I have an Instagram and Twitter account for this thing (hashtag follow me), but whatever the fear, I am 100% committed to writing what I feel, what I think is important, and what I think will help lift people.
So topic #1: Feeling like an outsider.
The feeling of being an outsider has been a consistent companion throughout my life. No matter the environment, there's always been a voice inside my head saying, "You don't belong here. You're not [good enough/pretty enough/smart enough/whatever enough]." With that comes a certain amount of worry that people will find out about the fraud I fear I am.
Lately, this feeling has manifested itself in an identity I hold sacred: my faith. More specifically, my identity as a Mormon woman. A little background for those who are unaware: I wasn't raised LDS. I got baptized at 18, which was as surprising to me as it was to just about everyone who knew me. I can honestly say, however, it has been one of the best decisions of my life. More on that for another post.
But because I wasn't raised LDS, the feelings of otherness were built in. I didn't know any of the songs or the norms or the culture. Everything was new. Although many times I would feel uplifted by the messages I was hearing, there was an equal amount of times that I felt inadequate, like I wasn't good enough to be around so many good people. Eventually, I learned to cope. When I felt the otherness start to creep in, I pushed it down, and I would focus on the good things I was feeling.
Recently---and I blame the presidential election for this one---this otherness became overwhelming. I realized with extreme clarity that I do not share the same political views as many in my community. This wasn't a surprising revelation. After all, I am "a liberal" living in a conservative state participating in a traditionally conservative religion. But because of the immense tension and emotion of this election, I felt an even greater need to hide my true feelings. I didn't want to cause trouble; I didn't want to start an argument. But this stifling of my true opinions became suffocating. Resentment grew, and where resentment grows, faith dwindles.
This all changed on a Sunday several weeks ago when a woman in class said something along the lines of, "I'm not like the rest of you. I struggle, and I don't think I'm a very good Mormon woman."
It hit me like a bolt of lightning. As other women in the room said, "Hey, me too," I realized THERE IS NO PERFECT MORMON WOMAN. I had been trying to fit into a role that I wasn't made for because it doesn't exist. This otherness I had been feeling with extreme intensity was all a creation of my own insecurities. God doesn't ask us to be like the person next to us. He asks us to turn to Him, to love Him, to choose Him, and work as hard as we can to return to Him. In this process, we discover our true selves, our true identities as Children of God.
Looking back on that moment, I wonder what if that woman hadn't shared her true feelings of inadequacy? What if we hadn't shared that beautiful and powerful moment as women where we all admitted, "Hey, me too?" What if I hadn't experienced that intensely real lightbulb moment when I finally realized that there is no perfect specimen of a Mormon woman? What if, what if, what if.
I'm thankful she shared, and it inspired me to share my authentic self, pushing past the fear of rejection and judgement.
So beautiful, powerful women of the world, what say you? Have any of you had feelings of being "the Other?" How have you coped?