Let me set up this post with a fitting backstory.
I am a Type A, overachiever kind of person. I homeschooled myself through high school and graduated with all A’s (yes, I navigated my way through algebra and British lit solo). In college, I didn’t take naps or drink coffee, never skipped class unless I was so ill I was told to skip by the campus health center, and graduated with departmental honors and a 3.97 GPA.
Following graduation, I submitted over 40 job applications in the first two months. When the first job I was offered didn’t work out, I had another job secured in a matter of a few weeks. At my current job, I do everything from scrubbing crayon off walls, to hauling supplies up and down multiple flights of stairs, to scrambling around trying to turn off false fire alarms, to helping callers in crisis find local resources for help. Many times I have become more sweaty and exhausted after an hour or two at work than I have after deliberately doing a long cardio workout.
I am wired to serve, doing whatever is asked of me to the best of my ability without quitting until the task is finished. If asked to describe myself in five words, “hard-working” would certainly be on the list.
So why is it that this morning I sent this text to my boyfriend, genuinely unsure of the answer?
“Do you think I’m lazy?”
For me to ask such a question after sharing the personal background information above might seem ridiculous. But it wasn’t a question rooted in who I know myself to be; it was a question rooted in insecurity.
That’s where most of these kinds of “loaded” questions stem from that females tend to ask—from a gnawing insecurity about ourselves that threatens our sense of identity.
Does this outfit make me look fat?
Am I too much of a burden?
Do you think she is prettier than I am?
Do I eat too much?
Am I ugly?
Do you think I’m a bad person?
These questions are a guy’s worst nightmare because there are seemingly no right, or adequate-enough, answers that satisfy us. But if you take a look at each of these questions again and probe a little deeper, you’ll see every single one boils down to an even deeper question.
“Am I okay?”
It’s not about whether that shirt really does flatter my body, or if I really am consuming too many calories, or if my physical appearance really isn’t as attractive as other’s. The actual question driving each of these lesser inquiries is simply, “Am I okay at my core?”
It’s about knowing in my heart that I am an okay person, that I am someone who has worth and is worthy of love, respect, and authentic relationship.
For women especially, our sense of okay-ness is constantly being bombarded by attacks. We have the voices of culture shouting that to be okay means to look a certain way, eat a certain way, even exercise a certain way. The voices of others point out to us how we don’t fit in, don’t measure up, and don’t possess what we need in order to be okay. The voices of our pasts constantly try to remind us of who we’ve been, how we’ve messed up, and how we’ll never escape what’s happened to us. And perhaps one of the most potent sources of attacks we face is the voice of comparison.
Personally, that insecurity prompting me to ask my boyfriend about my work ethic came from feeling like I’m not living up to other’s expectations. See, while I am a very hard worker and give a lot of myself at my job, I currently only work part time. I still live at home, and the only expenses I have to worry about are repaying my student loans. I’m 24 and still don’t have my ‘career’ established. I worry that people will judge me because my life doesn’t look a certain way by this point, and I assume others will think I’m lazy because I spend more time at home than I do at my workplace. To me, in the eyes of the world, who I am is not enough.
While everything I started out this post by saying is true, my feminine heart tends to zero in on how I’m not measuring up. I wish the door to my heart wasn’t so easily accessible, and the security of my identity wasn’t so easily compromised. And while I do turn to those closest to me to speak truth about my worth, I know ultimately my sense of okay-ness cannot be fully dependent on another person. Worth is something I already possess, and always possess, because of Whose image I bear. I just need others who I know love me to remind me of who I am sometimes, to hold up a mirror for me and help me see who I really am, undistorted by anxiety.
So to the men (and women) who find themselves faced with another loaded question from their female friends, thank you. Thank you for listening and taking our continuous questioning seriously. Thank you for being patient with us. Thank you for hopefully realizing our questions are coming from a place much deeper than it may seem at first. Thank you for time and time again choosing to help us see who we really are.
Okay. Worthy. Loved. Enough.