Where Is Your Identity?
I’ve just returned from a few days in Nashville, where I attended the American Christian Fiction Writers annual conference. I was trying to figure out dates in my head and I think this must be at least the eighth conference I’ve attended, and still, I’ll be honest, it’s the best of times and it’s the worst of times.
And I need to unpack that this morning.
The best of times – moments like this. Seeing old friends and making new ones. Words like community and fellowship become reality over these few days. As a writer, I spend a lot of time alone. I’m not good at getting out and making new friends. And to be honest, most of my really good friends, my heart-friends, my writer friends, live across the ocean. It’s hard. So when ACFW rolls around, I’m so pumped to get to spend those few days with them, talking life and writing and all that involves. Honestly, I think I talk more in those few days than I do all year. Not kidding.
So this year’s conference was a little different. This year I went in still celebrating the release of my first book with a major publisher. People I didn’t know from Adam walked up to me and told me they loved my book. I got the shock of my life one evening at dinner when my book – my book – was one of the giveaway books on the tables.
I finally got to meet my wonderful editor and the team at Harper Collins who’ve all worked so hard to get my book out there!
Got to spend time with my amazing agent, and celebrate the book’s release in person!
There were many sweet moments with friends, lots of laughter and hilarity.
And then there were those moments when I wondered just what in the world I thought I was doing.
The best of times. The worst of times.
Because on the outside I was smiling big, while shaking my head on the inside. Listening to old voices saying, “Well, aren’t you all that? Not.” All weekend long, fear crept in.
Insecurity. Feeling like I didn’t belong. That I was faking it. And that sooner or later somebody would see, and call me out. “Hey, you there! Yeah. What do you think you’re doing here trying to be cool with all these authors who are so much better than you?! Come on. Get outta here.”
Do you know that voice? Oh, please tell me you do. Tell me I’m not the only one here in crazy town. Because seriously, I’m fifty freaking years old and I don’t need to be dealing with high-school kid feelings. I don’t need to be feeling like I’m looking at all the cool kids, wanting desperately to fit in, knowing that I don’t.
What is that even about??!! It makes me mad. So mad. Mostly at myself for buying into it. I should know better. Yet here I sit, struggling to make sense of it all.
Because it’s easy to pretend we have it all together, isn’t it? But that’s not who I am. I stopped pretending awhile ago. At least I hope I did. But if you’ve read my writing, you probably already figured that out. I am all about real. I have to be. Because to be anything else is to deny who I am and what I’m feeling. And that is never okay.
So that’s why I’m being real here, with you, because it’s stupid to be anything else. I believe in writing from a place of freedom, telling the most honest story God places on my heart, in the rawest way possible. I must also live out my life in that freedom.
I long for community. For friends. For those heart-sisters I can share secrets with. Yet my insecure self always holds me back. The old mean and nasty voices tell me I’m not good enough, not deserving enough, not . . . whatever. You know?
Where is your identity?
That’s what I think God’s been asking me this weekend.
I think for me right now, it would be so easy to stay on the mountaintop. To put on that badge of ‘published author’ and be all that and a bag of chips.
Oh, God help me if I do.
I never ever, ever want to feel better than anyone else, to be seen as better. That sucks. I hate that feeling, truly. Just because I’m published doesn’t make me any different than when I wasn’t. Sure, it’s a great accomplishment, one I’ve worked for, and I am so, so grateful for the opportunity to share my words in a broader market . . . but it can’t change who I am. I think I’m seeing that this morning. No matter how many books I have published, whether they do well or not, deep down I still feel like that young, dorky girl who doesn’t belong, who wants to shrink in a corner and just go invisible. And I don’t think that’s what God wants for me either.
We are all sons and daughters of a Father who loves us beyond our earthly imaginings. We’re all on equal ground in his eyes. We all belong.
If there is any good in me, it comes from Him. Any talent, all from Him. Insecurity, fear, feelings of insignificance? Not from Him.
So when I’m in a room of over 500 people? Sure, I freak out a little. But I do belong. I belong because we all do. We’re all connected. All on equal ground. I may not have the confidence that some of my peers do. I am not in that place right now where I could get up and speak with boldness to an entire room full of people. I may never be. But that doesn’t mean I’m not just as important in the eyes of God. That doesn’t mean I can’t trust Him to take my gifts and use them for His glory. I absolutely must.
That is my identity.
That’s really all there is to it. So simple, yet often so hard to live out. But I’m trying. It’s all we can do, isn’t it? Try.
So that’s my bit of honesty today. I pray that if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, like I am, perhaps this may help a bit. Sometimes it’s good to know we’re not alone in this.
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14
Lovely, transparent essay, Cathy. Bravo.
I don’t really find that I have a sense of identity any more. I’m pretty much OK being in the moment, and since all the definitions I used to use have fallen away there’s little desire to find another.
I can truthfully tell you, you are not alone with those thoughts. I just turned sixty this year, and I go through those bouts all the time. I teach adults and they are always telling me how smart I am and it is still hard for me to believe at times. I just keep giving those thoughts to God.
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Glad to know I am not alone, Linda! 🙂
Beautiful post, Cathy – thank you so much for baring your soul!! I’ve had other well-established Christian Fiction authors make the same comments to me as you did in your post, one even commenting she would go to her hotel room and cry each night during ACFW. It’s an event that brings with it such high emotions I feel satan uses that time to try to steal joy and self-worth from it’s attendees, thereby fostering insecurity. Christ is the key – I’m so glad you know your identity, we are all equal in His sight, regardless of earthly accomplishments/honors/talents. Hugs and blessings!!
You are exactly right, Bonnie. And this has been a great lesson for me, because I see that as I venture further into this journey, I will be under attack. The world needs our stories so desperately. Of course there is going to be opposition. When we go into these cities where it’s all lights and party and so so heavy, did you feel that? It’s so interesting to hear now from others that they were feeling all this. I think we’re being shown something here. 🙂
Definitely not alone, my friend. I’m wrestling with the words “joy” and “authenticity” as I leave Nashville. God is definitely working on me to break down a huge barrier I’ve built! Not easy letting go of useless fear, and wasting time on whether I have talent or belong. With Christ, we have all we need. Love you — so glad to see you this year.
Nuts, isn’t it?! I wish I knew why we feel this way. We are worth so much more to God, and all that other stuff, the wanting to belong, feeling that we don’t fit or aren’t good enough? It’s bunk. Let’s remind each other of that?!
Cathy, it was such a joy to spend time with you, my friend. To talk, to laugh — to hug you! And yes, there are times when I’m with other authors that the whisper, “You’re such a fraud,” or “You don’t belong here” infiltrates my thinking. The lie — because it is a lie — steals my joy. It makes me want to shut down, to go hide. But that’s when I remember that God is the voice of authority in my life — no one else. And that’s when I look around and realize that I’ve been welcomed into this beautiful community of writers — again and again and again!
OH I LOVE that we’re all walking around feeling the same thing!! I feel normal now. Well. Not quite. But you know! Yes, I know where all that nonsense come from, but in all the joy I was feeling, it was also a struggle not to buy into it. I think I should have voiced it to you and had you pray for me!! Next time we should do that before the whole thing even starts. But I’m celebrating YOUR great success and still grinning over that one. So glad I was there to see you win your first (but not last) Carol Award!!
Cathy, you’re singing my song. I have most definitely struggled with those same thoughts, those same feelings. I struggle with feeling “less than.” I so appreciate your reminder that none of us is less-than. We all belong. And Jesus is the One to Whom we belong. When I embrace this, and hold it tight? That’s when those lies that try to warp my identity are chased away. Thanks for sharing so beautifully and transparently,
I think I needed that reminder. That the enemy can sneak in there when I least expect it. In the high of being at conference, with my friends, with a book out, bam! Right? It makes sense now and I think knowing a lot of us were feeling the same, we can rest in the assurance that we’re doing exactly what we’re meant to be. And God is pleased. But yeah, next time I definitely need to get prayed up more!! 😉
Wonderful thoughts carrying on the theme of what many spoke about this weekend. Yes, first and foremost we are loved by God! We can’t ever forget that. You’re a lovely woman. It was a pleasure meeting you, and then talking again in the lobby. I’m sooo glad I found your book on my chair. Looking forward to reading it when I get home ❤️
It was so great to meet in person this weekend, Jebraun! And congrats again on your win! What a wonderful way to end the conference!
thank you 🙂
I fight these feelings, too, but this conference I felt so at peace knowing I’m enough in God’s eyes. It was so great getting to see you!!
That’s awesome! I’m glad you felt that way. I had a few confident moments, but for some reason it was a real battle to put myself out there this year. 🙁
Well said, Cathy. I so love your authenticity here. I battled those voices a bit, too, during the conference. But not as often as when I’m writing in solitude week after week. I think it does the heart good to be among friends who share the same writing passion. I appreciate the reminder about where our true identity lies. Thanks for sharing your heart with us.