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I’m Not Who You See on Instagram

Written By Hilary Charlet, USA

One square photo. One little box under our fingertip that we scroll through daily. That’s all it takes for us to form an opinion about someone or something.

These little squares are composed under the right light, edited with the best photo-enhancing tools and filters, and posted with witty and well-crafted captions. They tell us who’s up to what, who’s hanging out with whom, and who’s gone to the latest café in town. We look at them when we’re bored, when we’re stuck in traffic, and when we’re hanging out with our friends.

We see these and it sparks something inside of us. On some days, it’s envy, because we wish we were doing this or going there, just like our friends. Other days, it’s inadequacy, because we don’t seem as accomplished as others.

But we forget that while these photos are real instances, they do not fully reflect reality. Rather, they’re more like a highlight reel. I’d daresay that many of us *#doitforthegram more often than we’d like to admit.

So I can say it, as I’m sure many of you can: I’m not who you see on Instagram.

I think through my captions. I insert and delete words. I try to pick just the right photo to go along with what I want to say. I take time to decide what to say and how to say it.

Although my goal for my Instagram account is to inspire, encourage, and love people, I can’t say that I am happy and enthusiastic all the time. According to my Instagram feed, I may look like I have it somewhat together. I have great friends to go with on weekend adventures, new places to hike in and explore, and a great brother and sister-in-law whom I spend a lot of my time with laughing and third-wheeling on their dates. And I can strike a yoga bridge pose on a paddleboard without effort!

But if you really knew me, you’d know the truth is somewhat different. Sure, my feed is full of actual events and portrays how I strive to live daily. But it does not reflect my every waking moment.

I have my struggles and doubts. My cheerful persona online doesn’t mean there aren’t days when I grow impatient waiting and want to settle down because I can’t figure out what God wants me to do or where He wants me to be. I have my stressful days as well as days when I’m super pumped and expectant, knowing that God is working behind the scenes in my life. There are times when I question whether what I have to say is even making a difference, and times when I get to witness how what I’ve said has encouraged someone else.

Social media has a way of making it seem like everyone has their stuff together and their life is flawless. Don’t get caught in believing those lies and start comparing your lives to those of others. Just because we don’t see the bad days and struggles of these people doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

Next time you find yourself wishing your life were like so-and-so’s, remember that you are where God meant you to be. You are loved. You don’t need makeup and filters to make yourself look more appealing so someone will like you more.

Instead, embrace your natural beauty and quirkiness. Laugh at yourself. Ask people questions, be curious in a world that is more focused on communicating behind a screen. Be yourself unapologetically in a world that tries to dictate who you should be. Love the unlovable, forgive the unforgivable, take a chance and know that God has your back, and most importantly, be the person God has called you to be—fully and without fear.

The number of double taps and followers we get do not define who we are or how much we are worth. We’re so much more than a tiny square photo.

So, no, I’m not who you see on Instagram. I’m so much more, as you are. I laugh, I cry, I freak out, I get excited, I stress out about silly things. I think I have it all figured out, then I stumble, laugh, and keep chugging along when I realize God has other plans for my life.

What you see on Instagram is part of who I am, but behind every photo, behind every social media account, there’s an author with a valuable life and an incredible story. There are emotions, passions, hopes and dreams, and all that we are cannot be minimized to fit into a social media platform, for we are so much more than that.

 

 *#doitforthegram is used to refer to someone does something unique with the sole intention of taking a photo to post on Instagram.

I Dare You to Fail

Written By Megan Tibbits, USA

I got a call one day. The voice on the other end said something like, “We really like your voice. We want you to be on our TV show.”

I couldn’t believe it. I was just a small town girl from Michigan, who had gone to Los Angeles for a visit. I didn’t intend to pursue a career in music but over time, I felt God put the dream on my heart, and I ended up making the city my new home.

When a friend told me about a new show that was accepting auditions, I made a home video of me singing “Royals” by Lorde and “All of Me” by John Legend in my closet and uploaded it to YouTube. I didn’t expect anything would come of it—but I got the call.

Over the next couple months, I made it through rounds of auditions, and eventually to the live show where, each week, I had to prepare a song to perform live in front of approximately 10 million home viewers. They would then vote “yes” or “no” to decide if I should move on in the competition or not. If the majority voted “yes”, a giant screen shielding me from the celebrity judges would rise and I would move on to the next round. If the majority voted “no”, the screen would stay in place and my journey would end.

 

 

I made it through two weeks of live show and my confidence grew. I saw myself making it all the way to the finale show and maybe even taking home the title of “winner”. However, God’s plan took me in a different direction. My third week of competition didn’t play out as I had intended. As I neared the end of the song, the wall was still down. And not only did the wall stay in place, I saw the percentage of people who voted “yes”. Thirty-one percent of the viewers thought I was good enough, talented enough, and worthy enough to click the “yes” button on their phone—which meant sixty-nine percent did not. So I was out of the competition. Almost as soon as my dream began, it ended.

I didn’t sleep well for weeks after that. My whole town in Michigan and all my friends in Los Angeles had rooted for me, but I had let them down. I thought I had disappointed everyone. I was filled with regret, and my mind was in turmoil with thoughts of everything that I had done wrong. I thought I picked the wrong song and that I didn’t sing well. I thought about how, if anyone were to look up my name, the first thing they’d find is the video of my failure. I thought my shot of going anywhere with my music was over.

These thoughts filled my head for months until I heard an amazing lady from the Salvation Army named Danielle Strickland talk about how people so often try to be like Hercules. We tend to want to be a “never-let-them-see-us-bleed” type of person, working ridiculously hard to keep up a reputation that makes us look amazing, strong, undefeated, and perfect.

I had always secretly wanted to be perfect, to be seen in a way that no one could ever find something bad to talk about, or something to be disappointed in. I’d always wanted to be someone that succeeded at everything I tried, someone that never let anyone down, including myself.

But then, I remembered Jesus. He bled in front of everyone. His reputation as King of Kings and Savior of the World was shattered on a cross for everyone to see. He willingly and publicly “failed” in a way that would make history. And that became one of the most important parts of His story. Without that part, the rest wouldn’t matter. It’s through the moments that look like “failure” that God redeems and transforms us into something extraordinarily beautiful.

My failure made me die to myself that day. I died to needing to be perfect, because now millions of people knew that I wasn’t. I died to having to succeed at everything I did, because there were videos proving that I didn’t. I died to trying to have a reputation and a name for myself, because now to some people, my name was simply “the girl that got kicked off that show”.

And you know what? I’m so glad I failed. Because sometimes, trying to maintain a “reputation” of being great is where we miss what we are purposed to do. Failing helped me see that my identity is not found in what I’ve done, or what I’ve accomplished, but in the fact that I am a treasured daughter of God.

The Bible says over and over that God exalts those who humble themselves (James 4:10, 1 Peter 5:6). When my need for “Megan to be awesome” is out of the way, He can use me so much more effectively by His power at work through me. I’m not perfect, and failure is part of my story, and a necessary part of where I’m going. We don’t need to take the failure out of our story. We don’t need to appear perfect, because we’re never going to be. In fact, Jesus says in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Two years later, as I write this, I see that happening. I’ve begun traveling around to schools and talking with students about courage, identity, and following their dreams. I’m also a worship leader at my church in LA; I sing and share at conferences and churches and schools and events. I’m still making YouTube videos. I have been given opportunities to lead people into worship as well as tell the stories of what Jesus has done in my life through the songs that I write and the platform God has given me through music.

 

 

My blip of disappointment has allowed God to grow my character into something that He can use more powerfully than before, to grow me into someone that sees the beauty of imperfection. It has taught me some really important things about humility, and how as I die to my need to be perfect, I become more fully alive in the perfection of Jesus. And I believe that the way God shaped me through this experience has enabled me to walk even more fully and mightily into the purpose He created me for.

So have hope, my friends. Because when you fail, it’s okay. Let it be a part of your story. Let God grow your character and mold you into who you are meant to be. Let Him lead you further into the purpose He has for you. In fact, I dare you to fail. And I can’t wait to see who you become.

 

This article was originally published on the writer’s blog here. This version has been edited by YMI.

My Identity Crisis: All I Wanted Was to Fit In

I spent a large part of my adolescence searching for my identity as if it were a lost item to be found.

I suppose it was because a large part of my childhood and early teenage years was spent moving between various states in Malaysia before settling in Auckland, New Zealand. My dad’s former job required him to move whenever a new position arose, and we would move with him.

By the time I was 15, I had been to three different kindergartens, three primary schools, and two high schools. To be fair, some of my friends zipped through even more schools, so I can’t really complain. But the constant state of motion meant that I was always searching for a new identity just so I could fit into my new environment. I didn’t want to be seen as an outsider, so I found myself always trying to meet the status quo.

For example, when a friend told me that someone had labeled me as an outdated individual due to my taste in music, I made up my mind to learn all there was to each new pop group. I would pester my dad to buy me the latest albums and music magazines, and would collect posters of each band.

Trying to fit in also extended to the extracurricular activities I took part in. When I was in primary school in Malaysia, I signed up for Taekwondo as it was the coolest club, and worked my way to a brown belt. But when I moved to junior high school, Taekwondo lost its appeal and was replaced by Scouts.

The first few months of Scouting went relatively well, despite having to put up with the heat in Malaysia and the relentless mosquitoes that swarmed around us in the humid evenings when we were camping. For me, it was a chance to do something cool, with hopes that I’d be accepted into the “in” crowd. I mean, all the camping, tramping, and hiking would surely result in good camaraderie between teammates right?

But an incident that happened during one camping trip cemented the fact that I was never going to be part of the popular crowd. I was putting away my teammates’ mess tins, which we had all washed and dried, onto a makeshift tripod—which was made out of bamboo sticks and held together by the different knots a Scout is supposed to learn and know—when it tipped over. Immediately, a chorus of groans went up, with voices demanding to know how I could have been so careless. It was all arms and elbows as everyone pitched in to rinse the dishes again and steady the tripod.

As the evening wore on, another girl managed to upend the tripod after supper. She was pretty, older than most of us, and hung out with the right crowd. Instead of angry voices demanding to know why she was so careless, there was only laughter. All she got was a joking remonstration, “Oh, you’re so careless!” I went home sad and miserable, gave up Scouting, and shied away from all outdoor activities thereafter.

My early secondary school life in Malaysia was a drag—my academic results were less than stellar, and at one point, I was failing just about every subject there was under the sun. But society saw Science stream students as the smarter bunch, so I had to continue studying subjects I was weak in because I didn’t want to be seen as anything less.

When my parents announced we were moving to New Zealand, I breathed a sigh of relief. Don’t get me wrong: I was reluctant to leave my friends behind. But I realized starting school in a new country would give me a fresh start—and a level of anonymity.

To the rest of my Kiwi classmates, I was just one of the many Asian students at high school. Granted, there were the usual stereotypes of Asians excelling in math and science, but I was also given the opportunity to study the subjects I was interested in. I also felt that it hardly mattered if my clothes were of the correct label or not, because most international students bought clothes from their home country anyway.

Furthermore, my teachers were far more interested in nurturing my strengths—such as English and writing—so the pressure to excel in certain subjects fell away. As a result, I enjoyed school tremendously, and went on to do the same subjects I loved at university.

But if you think that solved my identity crisis, you’re wrong. I disliked the fact that I was poor in math and that accounting wasn’t really my cup of tea. And I wondered why God would have me excel in English and not biology. On top of that, my parents’ friends would question my decision to pursue an English major in university. “But why?” was the most common question. “You can speak English, can’t you?”

So, by the time I was ready to graduate from university, I was still floating in the big world with no identity to anchor myself on.

It wasn’t until I attended a workshop at my church, that I learned about where my real identity comes from—and it certainly isn’t about being like other people.

At the workshop, we were given a list of affirmations of who we are in Christ, followed with Scriptures to back them up. The list had items such as, “I am a child of God” (John 1:12), “I am a friend of Jesus” (John 15:15)—and one that hit me like a ton of bricks: “I have been accepted by Christ” (Romans 15:7). You see, for years I had tried to gain the acceptance of others, but here was a verse that told me that Jesus accepted me—even when I was the uncool individual who listened to bad music before I joined Taekwondo and Scouts. That verse told me God saw me for who I was (with all my flaws) and yet still said: I accept her for who she is.

I also learned how I’m God’s workmanship, created in Christ to do good works (Ephesians 2:10), and that I am greatly loved by God (Romans 1:7, Ephesians 2:4, Colossians 3:12, 1 Thessalonians 1:4).

Intrigued, I read Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life, which said: “God never does anything accidentally, and He never makes mistakes. He has a reason for everything He creates. Every plant and every animal was planned by God, and every person was designed with a purpose in mind.”

You see, not only did I have to contend with an identity crisis, but there were also times when I wondered if God had made a mistake when He made me. After all, I was hardly Miss Influential and some of my schoolmates treated me like as if I were an insect. As my insecurities melted away, however, I started to see how silly I had been in looking to my peers for an affirmation of my identity. I realized that God is not bothered with the bands that I follow, the clothes that I wear, or what outdoor interests I pursue. Discovering (and making peace) with my identity also gave me a sense of purpose, which I believe is an important factor when it comes to fighting off insecurities, comparisons, and jealousies.

When I realized that one of my life’s purposes was to write for God, I started to view it as something sacred because it’s a gift from God, instead of a thing to be wished away. Don’t get me wrong, I have always enjoyed writing, but when I was growing up, adults around me made me feel it wasn’t a valuable skill set. What is the use of being able to write if your math and science is falling behind? Have you ever heard of a poor accountant? Those comments certainly had a way of making me feel inferior. However, when I learned to accept who I was, I stopped trying to be someone else, and begin to develop my skills and talents instead.

My newfound identity in Christ has given me the freedom to pursue my hobbies like writing and swimming wholeheartedly. It has also made me braver in pursuing new adventures. For example, never in a million years would I have dreamed of training to be a surf lifeguard, but I’ll be spending a huge amount of time this year training in the pool and open water to qualify as one.

You may be struggling with finding your own identity, and at times, it can seem like you’re drowning in an ocean of voices telling you to be this or that. But let me encourage you: Take the time to read about what God says about you, and you’ll find out that your identity can be found in Him. Because in God, we have an identity so strong and solid that it will never be eroded by popular culture or the latest trend.

Who I Am- Who We Are

Title: Who I Am- Who We Are 
Materials: Photography
Description: 
For the past eight months I have been blessed with the opportunity to serve In Peru at an international school of ministry. This was something that came out of the blue, I don’t even speak Spanish! But I knew I had to go and the director reassured me that I would pick up some Spanish and things would be great. All these months later my Spanish is still no bueno but communicating isn’t as much of an issue as I had anticipated. In some ways, I feel that I can better communicate with those who speak only Spanish as we use fewer words to communicate.

One thing I have discovered during my travels is that we are all united by the bonds of having the same Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We might not relate in our culture, fashion, food preferences, or the way we look, but we have Christ in common! And all other things seem unimportant in comparison. We have this common goal, to serve God and make Him known to the world, all people of the world. We have His same Spirit living in us, what more could we have in common?

Photos by: Rebecca Roberts

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Racquell, California

 

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Jesús, Peru

 

Maynardia-Belize(small)

Maynardia, Belize

 

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Josh, California

 

Karina-Peru(small)

Karina, Peru

 

Santiago-Columbia(small)

Santiago, Columbia

 

Janelle-Mexico(small)

Janelle, Mexico

 

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Bryton, Belize

 

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Bethany, California