When God was handing out talent and good looks, I’m pretty sure I got skipped.
…well, wait. Saying I got skipped makes me sound like a victim. In all honesty, I probably snuck back to the kitchen to get snacks.
Me (whispering to the guy next to me): “Dude. This is taking forever. BRB, I need a cookie.”
Being passed over is the most straightforward explanation I can think of for my ordinary, sub-standard existence. I’m sure I have zero talent and meager looks because both were given from what was left, scraped out of the bottom of the pot.
I can see it in my head.
God (to the last dude in line, the one who held my place as I snuck to the kitchen): “And for you, the last of your batch, I bestow upon you the final bit of TALENT and BEAUTY for this round of blessings.”
*does double take*
*notices me standing where I wasn’t before, chewing with bulging cheeks and a cookie crumb face*
God (blankly): “Oh. Ummm….. I missed one.”
*looks into empty pot*
*looks at used blessing spatula*
Gabriel: “Father, it won’t take long to mak-“
God: “NOPE, I GOT THIS.”
*slaps spatula onto my forehead with a long, downward drag*
God: “That’ll do.”
*grips empty pot and spatula with clenched fists*
*thundery air punch*
*turns to angel recording notes*
God: “DONE. IT’S MILLER TIME.”
Short changed, and probably my fault. Like a cosmic “…meh,” I exist as a talentless and ugly person. I have felt that way almost my whole life.
I also know I’m not the only one that feels that way. You’ve probably felt that way, too, at least once in your life.
I used to ask myself, “Who would ever want what I’ve got to give?”
“No one,” I’d answer, “with all the other interesting people in the world, no one would want me.”
I used to feel (and still feel, sometimes) that I have nothing IN ME or OF ME worthy of contribution. Not to the world, not in a relationship, not even to a conversation. Other people seem way, way more interesting than I am, myself.
From age seven onward, year after year, over and over, life never seemed to miss an opportunity to remind me that I was meant for “leftovers.” My brother was the smart one. My sister was the pretty one. My brother was the musical one. My sister was the athletic one. He was drum major. She was homecoming queen.
Erin was “the oldest.”
(awesome, right? not really the kind of shit you put on a resume.)
I did grow up. Things did get easier. Once I was on my own I felt LESS like the leftovers, primarily because I crumpled in on myself like a used up aluminum can. I introverted. I stayed alone, because when I was alone I had no competition. I never felt overshadowed when I was by myself.
I stayed isolated and allowed as few people as possible into my heart, and I didn’t feel leftover much anymore.
Then I had kids, and HOLY CRAP.
Leftovers is the land where moms live.
One day, not long after the birth of my third kid, between crying and diapers and nap time and messes, I found myself hunched over the trash can in the kitchen, cramming down a makeshift lunch of cut-off, kid-sandwich crusts and apple peels, and reality dawned on me with full force.
“Wow… The Land of Leftovers. I have officially arrived.”
As I think through these feelings and type them to share with you, my also-life-long urge to please other people makes a lot of sense. I’m a recovering codependent, and I’m convinced that a huge part of my people-pleasing, can’t-think-for-myself problems revolve around a sense of worthlessness, and an obligation to help others so I might serve a purpose.
I NEEDED other people’s leftovers, the dry, gaggy crusts cut off of their delicious lives, because without those crusts I felt I had nothing.
And what a cop out.
Refusing to make decisions for fear of what others will think, avoiding who you really are, and hiding inside your own perceived failure is a chickenshit way to live. It’s cowardly.
I WAS A TOTAL COWARD, pretending that I had no worth or talent.
I ate the scraps of other people’s lives, because as long as I was okay with what they shaved off for me I never had to decide what *I* wanted to eat. I never had to ask myself “What do *I* like, what do *I* want,” and I never had to take risk.
Deciding what we want for ourselves is RISKY. It feel scary. DECIDING is scary. Cooking up a life for yourself based on decisions you make all on your own is terrifying.
“What if I choose a life that feels right but it ends up horrible?”
“What if my choices taste like shame and ugly crying?”
“What if no one else ever likes what I want, and I’m left all alone?”
We abstain from being who we really are, because if we’re never really ourselves we never run the risk of being truly rejected.
Being yourself these days is an act of bravery, and I was not brave.
Instead of being me, I hid.
Instead of being me, I kept my head down. I intentionally avoided deciding for myself who I was, discovering what I’m good at, and identifying all the things that made me great, because it was too scary.
Instead of being me, I gave away my principles, my body, my taste, my opinion, and years and years of my life to feed on the scraps of others, just to be sure I didn’t make anyone else unhappy.
As long as they accepted me, I could accept me.
Have you ever done that?
Have you ever given yourself away just to be SOMEONE, even if that someone wasn’t really you?
After living 30+ years as a hollowed-out-shell filled with the expectations of those around me, I snapped. It was ugly. I cried. My marriage fell apart. My family fell apart. I finally hit rock bottom.
I gutted myself, and took out every expectation and opinion that wasn’t mine. It was terrifying, because I had no idea who I was without those things.
When I took out everyone else from my head and heart, there was nothing left. I WAS NOTHING. “Worth” had left, because I defined myself by the approval of others, and suddenly they weren’t around to approve.
I had no idea what to think, how to feel, or even who I was. All I had left at that point were my kids, and the empty-shell-of-a-self I called “ME.” I had no apparent talents, abilities, beauty, skills, or gifts.
One Sunday at church, our pastor preached about Spiritual Gifts. I sat and listened, but only halfway. Why should I pay attention? I had no gifts. I was nothing. Duh. I was sure the sermon did not apply to me. I had been skipped, remember? Instead of receiving gifts, I was busy stealing extra angel food cookie scraps out of Heaven’s kitchen, and probably spent a bit of time cleaning up in there as well. (It’s what I’m good for, clean up other people’s messes.)
The sermon I was sitting through was about the life of Joseph. “Technicolor Dream Coat” Joseph. Joseph was hated by his brothers so much they sold him into slavery. Eventually he served as Pharaoh’s right hand and acted as interpreter of dreams, deciphered a dream about skeleton cows, saw a seven year famine coming, and saved the country from starvation by stockpiling food. I’d heard the story one hundred times.
Just as the last thread of my attention was truly gone (I was probably daydreaming about cookies), the pastor said, “…spiritual gifts of administration and organization, and saved the entire country from famine.”
The little OCD version of myself inside my head started to jump up and down, clapping.
The more realistic version of me took a bit longer to catch up.
Gifts. Of administration and organization.
As in, “cleaning up.” And boxing things according to type, and filing, and pouring all the spices in my cabinet into matching containers, marked with hand-written, perfectly centered labels.
“Oh my goodness, that’s a GIFT? No way. How is that a gift, it’s so easy. Even *I* can do THAT.”
Yes, yes I can.
After that sermon, I got to thinking.
“Holy crap, what if I didn’t get skipped?”
“HOLY CRAP, what if I’m actually good at some stuff?”
I studied. I tested. I reevaluated my experiences and learned to see my life in a different way. I discovered that I’m quite talented in many areas.
I do have a gift. I have lots of them. Most of them I just couldn’t see, because they seemed too easy.
We all have gifts. Each and every one of us. I believe that our most abundant gifts are harder to see, not because they’re hidden, but because we take them for granted. WE skip over them. Our true gifts do not seem special or significant, because they don’t take a lot of work. They come naturally.
…as though we were made for that purpose.
After that brain-bending morning, I studied and applied myself to figure out what I was actually good at. I started thinking about my skills, not my inabilities. I spent time thinking about what I could contribute as myself, instead of how I fell short in comparison to others. I started a list, and it gets longer all the time.
YOU GUYS, I HAVE GIFTS, AND SO DO YOU.
Isn’t it time you find them? If you’re tired of feeling worthless, you must.
YOU ARE NOT AN EMPTY SHELL, WORTH ONLY THE SCRAPS FROM OTHER PEOPLE’S GLORIOUS LIVES. You are worthy of your OWN life, stuffed full of your OWN talents, skills, and abilities.
You are blessed, and it’s time you found out how.
At the start, finding your gifts won’t feel easy. We’ve had a lot of training to think in the other direction, to stack up our failures and wear them like badges, so looking for good things will feel weird.
We have to UN-brainwash ourselves.
It takes effort to think differently, and then practice to see the new things consistently. After 30 years of feeling worthless, I had to work hard to train myself to see things in a new way. It didn’t come naturally. I had to TRY to see the good.
Even then, in some cases I had to ask other people to help set my head straight. I’d literally ask the question, “What do you think I’m good at,” then I’d ask them to keep reminding me. “TELL ME HOW GOOD I AM I NEED TO HEAR IT.” Without the reminder, I would forget the gifts were there and slide back into destructive thinking.
(And before you argue with me, NO. Asking someone to reinforce their positive opinion of you is not weak, self-centered, selfish, or stupid. In a world drowning in negativity, calling out for a life preserver isn’t dumb, it’s how we save our own lives.)
For years you have felt worthless. For years, you have spent your time and energy trying to smoosh and crunch yourself into a box shaped like someone else so you might be worthy and acceptable. Squashing yourself down and carrying other people’s garbage has been painful, requiring suffering and sacrifice.
You’ve been suffering for a long time, and after this long your brain has made a connection that really shouldn’t have ever been made.
You’ve been suffering for so long, your brain now thinks that suffering = worth.
THIS IS NOT TRUE.
It is not true, and you cannot find your true self until you change the way you think about worth.
SUFFERING DOES NOT EQUAL WORTH, AND NOT ALL WORTH REQUIRES SUFFERING. You can be (AND ARE) worthy, even if you don’t suffer. You can be good at things, even if accomplishing those things requires no discomfort. Your talents and skills are profound and significant, even if you didn’t have to work hard to execute them.
When you can step into a messy office and (joyfully) have it completely straightened and usable within two hours, that’s a skill. You are an organizer and administrator. You know how to get shit done, make decisions, and think ahead. That’s a gift! The world needs you and your skill.
When you see a suffering child or animal and have to pick it up and comfort it, without regard for head lice, obligation, consequence, fleas, or ringworm, that’s a skill. You are a nurturer. You know how to love others, empathize, and assist. You are creative and imaginative (both necessities of empathy), kind, and willing to sacrifice yourself for the betterment of others. That is a gift! The world needs you and your skill.
When a blank piece of paper or a silent room screams at you to create art or music, when you can pick up a pen or a stick or paint or strings and create delight for the eye or ear, that’s a gift. You see in your mind what others cannot, and you have the ability to turn your imagination into reality. Amazing! The world needs you and your skill.
When someone comes to your home, expected or otherwise, and you open the door with kindness and friendship, that is a GIFT. I know people who won’t even answer their phone, let alone open the door, even when it’s an Amazon delivery. Hospitality is a gift, and the world needs your skill!
When your friend is six weeks into a horrible relationship with a guy that strings her along, and you are the only one who lovingly says, “HONEY. It’s time. He’s just not that in to you,” THAT IS A GIFT. You are a truth teller, a person who can see fact and reality without the cloud of emotion. The world, your friends, and your family need you and your skill, even if they argue with you and get angry when you use it.
When you see someone being yelled at or assaulted and you jump to their aid without hesitation or concern for your own welfare, that is a gift. You are a protector, a warrior standing on ramparts you built around those you love, willing to defend with your time and breath and life those you hold most dear. Your family and friends are lucky to have you.
On and on, we are full of gifts and abilities that we don’t see as such. YOU ARE SIGNIFICANT. You are special. You are built to deliver to the world a message only you can give, because no one else is you.
And you never, ever got skipped when handed out blessings.
You got extra.
Step one to living the life you dream is “own your shit,” and ALL OF IT. For some reason when we hear that, we go straight to the bad stuff in our head. We think, “Oh yeah, that means I have to accept my addiction, my abuse, the fact that I’m overweight, my eating disorder that got me there, my horrible marriage, the bad relationship with my kids. I have to own that stuff.”
Yes, but also ALL OF IT.
You need to own the good stuff, too.
To help you find your gifts, check out these links. They will get you started in the right direction. Once you’ve found a true gift, share it in the comments below and we’ll celebrate together!
Push on, my friend, and dig deep. You’re worth it, just as you are.