It was in my first year of intermediate school when I discovered that I was “weird”.
Up until then, I’d just been Jessica, with straight brown hair, freckles, and blue eyes; who loved art, drama, writing, and her enormous collection of stuffed animals.
But then there was this group of “cool” girls in my class, who were just a little more sophisticated, who no longer played with stuffed animals and did “play dates”. According to them, I was strange. Odd. Intense. And yes, weird.
And rather than these comments remaining merely the opinion of a bunch of tween girls, I considered their words authoritative on who I was, perhaps because in a way I saw them as what I ought to be. I began to use their words towards myself too, little comments about how I was “weird”, or “Why am I so weird”.
When my parents noticed, they became concerned and had me shifted to another class, hoping this would interrupt the negative narrative I was receiving and cultivating about myself. But the damage was done. I was no longer just Jessica. I was a weirdo, who would do anything to be socially acceptable.
This mindset hung over me like a thick shadow for most of my teenage life, especially whenever I met new people or tried to make friends. I became fixated on being the most “palatable” version of myself to be liked. And in many ways it became a self-fulfilling prophecy—the more I tried to mitigate my “weirdness”, the more awkward I seemed to become.
After I finished high school and went to Bible college, I met a good friend who, if I was a Mean Girl, I’d say was “weirder” than me (the right words would be zany, creative).
It was this friend who encouraged me to stop being so self-critical and allowing others to dictate how I see myself. She reminded me that God made me as I was, and I needed to let my guard down and be the person He created me to be.
If this struggle with feeling awkward and unlikeable resonates with you, I hope to share some thoughts to help you navigate this maze of trying to like and accept yourself as you are.
1. Remember what God says about you
My mind immediately goes to Psalm 139 (an oldie but goodie), specifically verses 13-17 (NLT):
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!
I know how Psalm 139 is so often quoted and splashed all over tote bags, mugs, and such that it can wash right over us, without us fully appreciating the enormity of the message. How then do we let it sink in, so that God’s voice is the loudest in our heads, rather than people’s unkind or unhelpful comments?
I found that it came down to my relationships. Firstly, with God as my Creator.
God made me purposefully. He gave me the talents, the interests, and the unique qualities that make me who I am.
I used to teach creative writing to school students, and I’d always raise this point about writing characters: usually, the character’s greatest weakness point to their greatest strength (and vice versa). For example:
Are they quick at decision-making? If so, there’s a chance they’d be pretty impulsive too.
Are they super compassionate and empathetic? You can bet they probably take too much on board emotionally, or are more drawn to co-dependent relationships.
Seeing how weaknesses and strengths are opposite sides of the coin helped me think about how God can work through us and our “weirdness”.
My peers found me weird and intense because I wrote stories and learned to write Egyptian hieroglyphics after a school project sparked my interest, and because of my off-the-wall sense of humour.
But over time God showed me His thoughts about me—that these qualities actually reflect some of my biggest strengths. He made me someone who’s creative and curious, prone to looking for unique solutions and answers to things; who thinks deeply and asks big questions; who, because of her struggle with small talk, is more geared to strike up meaningful conversations.
Secondly, I surrounded myself with others who didn’t say mean things about me.
It can be surprising how readily we maintain relationships with those who speak negative and hurtful things towards us.
I’m not talking about the “iron sharpens iron” kind of constructive criticism. I mean relationships with people who are masters of the casual put-downs, back-handed compliments; or a friendship that always seems to leave you chasing them or in a kind of emotional deficit.
Find friends who speak life and the truth in love, not truth that’s coated with envy or a kind of meanness.
2. Remember that God didn’t give us any instruction to “be normal”
My mum is an educator and works specifically with children who are, for whatever reason, a little different. She uses this expression, “The Mythical Normal”, to describe this assumption we have that there is a way of being that we all ought to follow, and if we aren’t like that, then we aren’t “normal”.
But the idea of normal is a myth because everyone is different. We learn and process things in different ways, we are impacted by things differently. We have different likes and dislikes.
Nowhere in Scripture does it say, “Try to be as normal as possible so people like and accept you.” Instead, here are some of the things God instructed us to do:
- To not conform to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2)
- To love one another (John 13:34)
- To imitate Christ (Ephesians 5:1), to sanctify ourselves (1 Thessalonians 4:3), to serve and show hospitality (Romans 12:10-13).
Jesus Himself didn’t seek out “normal people” when He was on earth. In fact, he reached out to the outsiders, the fishermen, tax collectors, even prostitutes; the only people whom Jesus “rejected” were those who first rejected Him.
Perhaps rather than seeing what makes you “weird” as a weakness, you can choose to be curious about how God intends to use it for His Kingdom.
I’ve seen how God has utilised my intensity. Because I get super into whatever it is that sparks my interest, it has enabled me to be a better writer, preacher, and teacher. My quirky sense of humour is also something people comment on when they tell me that they enjoy my preaching.
I’ve found out how, once I stopped trying to be normal and embraced my awkwardness, people would usually relate to me better. As a result, I find myself having wonderful conversations with people about Jesus.
I’m glad God made me the way I am, even if sometimes people don’t quite get me, or even like me. I think of the words of the Apostle Paul:
“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)
“…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13)
Our strengths can begin from the areas where we experience weakness, where we learn to rely on His grace to utilise the unique qualities He has given us for His good.
Remember that it was God who took the overzealous shepherd boy David and made him a king and transformed the brash fisherman Peter into the first leader of the early church.
My hope today is that you have been challenged to like yourself a little more. After all, God knew what He was doing when He made you.