Brace Face

When I was little I had a giant gap in my two front teeth.

Think Grand Canyon.

I could nearly fit my tongue through it and I could most definitely squirt water through it. As a young girl, I didn’t mind it too much, I actually thought it was fairly unique and cool. But as I entered the late elementary and junior high years, it became my biggest insecurity.

Crazy. Something that you once loved about yourself can become a source of shame.

I used to smile all big and show off my gap like a prized possession. Alright, I know what you are thinking… LET’S SEE A PICTURE!

Well here you are. You are welcome.

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Geez, junior high is brutal.

Also, kids are so mean. Can I get an amen?! I remember boys telling me that I looked like a bunny rabbit. I’m not exaggerating. I should have punched them in the face and knocked their teeth out.

I soon began begging my Mom and Dad for braces. And once we could somewhat afford the most expensive form of metal ever, I became a brace face.

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Boom. What a BEAUT.

But once my teeth were straight, I moved on to different insecurities. And often times they were deeper and under the surface.

My fears were often related to: will I have any friends? What if I end up alone? Do people like me?

It’s as if my insecurities birthed fear, worry, and anxiety. I often internalize people’s rude comments and my own self-criticism to the point where it becomes “truth.” And then that “truth” causes me to sit in anxiety throughout the day.

I know that I am not alone in this. In conversations with others, I see that a lot of people experience these same feelings. Our insecurities tell us lies, which feed into anxiety.

What if I’m not good enough?

What if no one loves me?

What if I don’t contribute anything to society?

The list could go on.

Consequently, we hide behind a fake mask of “perfectness.” We substitute being “perfect” for actual vulnerability and authenticity. How often do you hear people actually verbalize the insecurities that have led them to a deep sense of fear?

It often takes a lot of time, effort, relationship, and self-awareness for people to actually admit that their insecurities cause them to worry.

This is due to the pressure we each face to be perfect, act perfect, and never admit when something is wrong. We hide in our fears and insecurities, afraid what people will think if we actually admit them. When we fail to admit what is actually going on within us, we act out of fear and hurt the people around us.

Interestingly, the Bible is a library of books full of stories of people with insecurities and worries that often hurt the people around them.

One story that comes to mind is the story of Sarah and Hagar. Sarah and Abraham are given this promise that they will have many descendants. They receive this promise when they are old and without any kids. You don’t need a biblical “birds and the bees” talk to know they would have been confused.

The text doesn’t fully state that Sarah is “insecure” here, but put yourself in her situation. She is embedded in a culture where her physical safety and security is dependent on her ability to bear children. Her husband is given a promise that he will have so many children, he won’t even be able to count! Yet, here she is OLD and not able to have kids. I can’t imagine how many worries and fears were inside her head at this time.

So, she does what a lot of us do. She takes matters into her own hands. She gives her husband her servant, Hagar, to have a child for her. And big surprise, Hagar gets pregnant. This story leads down a never-ending power struggle between these two women. It even leads to a power struggle of their children generations later.

Insecurities. Worry. Hurt. And destruction.

When we internalize our insecurities as truth, worry takes root and drives us into action. And as we all know, acting out of fear will most likely not bring the best outcome.

I’ve seen this in my own life on countless occasions. One small example is from junior high. And we all know how brutal junior high can be. One day a stupid boy told me that I was annoying and that no one should be my friend. Ouch. I took that to heart. I remember going home and crying to my mom because I was freaked out that everyone would listen to him and leave me. Or worse, what if everyone thought that too?

I was 12! In the moment, I internalized it to the point where it became a huge fear of mine that I’m too “annoying” to have friends.

Now, I also think there were many other factors and things said to me that contributed to this fear of being alone or forgotten. However, my point here is that there have been countless hurtful things said over us, either recently or at a point in childhood. In turn, we internalize them to the point where they become fears.  

Sarah acted out of her insecurities and fears. The story says that she was so terrible to Hagar that it caused Hagar to run away. But God met both of these women in the midst of this situation. He heard Sarah’s insecurities and fears, and blessed her with a child. He saw her and made her a huge part of His story to renew creation back to Him. He saw Hagar. The Bible says that “He heard her cries.” And he rescues her from this place of uncertainty.

And friends, God sees us too. He sees the countless things spoken over us and the lies we tell ourselves. God sees things about us that even we cannot see. He hears our cries, fears, and insecurities. And God uses us to bring about a new sense of hope and redemption in a dark world. 

God is teaching me. I am slowly beginning to learn how to uncover the moments that have wounded me and left me in fear. And as I begin to reveal them, I see that they are actually lies. Lies that I have taken as truth. They have caused me to live in fear for way too long.

We do not have to believe these lies. We do not have to act out of hurt any longer. We each have a greater calling to love ourselves and love the people around us. As we begin to strip away these lies, we can begin to see the beauty that is around us.

We don’t have to live in fear any longer.

Elyssa Schultheiss