July 6, 2018

An Essay by Allison Staley: "On Insecurity"

I grew up in Tipp City, OH and was raised in a Christian home with my older sister and younger brother. I graduated from Tippecanoe High School in 2014, and am currently a Middle Childhood Education major at Cedarville University. I look forward to completing my degree soon with my student teaching in Mexico this fall. I enjoy dancing, hiking, and traveling to new places and cultures. One of my joys is being involved with youth ministry and mentoring young students.

On Insecurity

One of the most hostile places in the world is a middle school cafeteria.  It is like a pack of wolves gnashing their teeth at all who enter, posies of select species ready to devour anyone who would dare enter their realm.  The cliques.  The tables. The rule that there can only be eight at a table so someone had to be left out; it was the law. I remember that first day of eighth grade when someone decided that I would be excluded from the table, ostracized from the clan, shunned to fend for myself in the jungle of hormones and spearing hearts.  Although, it wasn’t just me who was excluded, but another friend as well.  We were all sitting there with our own distinguishable Vera Bradley lunch boxes patterned in paisley and eager to enter into our rightfully earned place as top dog eighth graders when it was announced that there could only be eight at each table.
We all looked around the round table, scanning one another, as a self-selected member of our clique became the counter, taking her index finger to point out each girl and number them. We had ten.  What we were we to do? Someone had to be booted.  A voice spoke up and decided it was me and my other friend who had to take the fatal sacrifice. And why us? Because we didn’t ever really talk that much, so that somehow made us less of an asset to the group. That was the reason posed, and the others validated it. My heart plummeted to my stomach and it seemed like all the bustle around me in the cafeteria came to a standstill as I tried to grapple with the rejection that had just sprung upon me.  It was like the floor had been ripped out from under me and I was now falling into an abyss.  So we picked up our fragile selves, pulverized, and we moved to a different table--one with girls who were not our friends. Where did we belong now?
The rest of that day I felt insecure, like a door swaying on its hinges back and forth by every disturbance and perturbation--shaky, uncertain, unsafe. Who were my friends? Who was I? Why was I chosen to be booted? What was it about me that made me the one who had to leave the table? What was wrong with me?
Most of my insecurity comes from relational ambiguity.  I’m insecure because I’m unsure of how others feel about me and what they think of me. I’m insecure because I don’t know where I stand with them.  Am I at their table?
None of the knights at King Arthur’s round table questioned if they had a seat of belonging.  The Arthurian legend of King Arthur’s round table has it that none of his barons when seated at it, could claim precedence over the others.  The literary importance of the roundtable in 13th-century literature is that it served to give the Knights of Arthur’s court a name and collective personality.  No one is superior and no one is inferior. All members are included and invited by King Arthur himself, not questioning their place or shunned into the outskirts of lesser importance.  
There are some tables I didn’t have a seat at.  I didn’t have a seat at the outgoing personality table, even though my status as a Tippecanoe cheerleader would suggest otherwise.  My quiet and reserved personality was once something that drove me into an insecure ball whenever someone would point out how I quiet I was being.  It’s not that they meant any harm by it I’m sure. The question, “Why are you so quiet?”, was asked of me often in my preteen and teenage years, and I was never quite sure how to answer it expect to smile bashfully and laugh nervously through my clenched teeth.  Later on, I would run to my refuge of isolation away from my questioners and undergo a combative conversation with myself about why I am the way I am. Could it be that people really wanted to know me? Why did they care if I was quiet? Of course, I wanted to talk more, but I was afraid that what I had to say might not be as good as what someone would contribute.  I came to the conclusion that I was the one who allowed people to cast inferiority on me. I was the contributor of my own insecurity, or rather, the voice inside my head was.
Before I became a licensed driver in high school, my friend Tyler who lived four houses down from me on Copperfield Lane chauffeured me to and from school daily.  On one drive in his 2000 white Honda Accord, he told me that I should talk more.  This was an encouragement, a way to make sure that I was actually human, not an abrasion that sent me into an insecure ball.  So I began to open up around him because I knew he wanted me around.  He wanted to see me. I had a seat at his table.
I’m insecure when I’m not sure how others think of me, which drives me to be what I’m not.  When I’m unsure of how someone views me, I am not myself.  Then the relief of affirmation comes when they express their liking toward me, and then I’m free to breathe and be myself.  
My roommate my sophomore year was my best friend.  We were like sisters, and some people thought we actually were.  We had some issues communicating as roommates though, which was completely unexpected for both of us.  She was frustrated because she didn’t always know what I was feeling.  I was quiet at times, which made her feel like I was mad at her.  Sometimes I felt like she could be overbearing and bossy, and I was afraid I would do something wrong to upset her, so I would avoid her.  She noticed and confronted me about it--how she felt like things were different with us.  I couldn’t agree more but didn’t know at the time what was actually wrong.  It took many more times that year fumbling through how to love each other and communicate with each other well. I felt like I was sailing down the rapids of insecurity the whole year--still wondering how she felt about me even though we would have conversations time and time again, affirming me that she wasn’t mad, but that we still needed to work through things.  She still loved me, which I knew and could see by the way she was investing in me, yet I still felt insecure.  The same thing happened this past week when we spent a week together in Florida, just the two of us. The middle of the week, I knew something was off with us. I felt it--it was the same way things had been the sophomore year, but I didn’t want to admit it. Wednesday morning at breakfast, she stated that we need to work on communication again, that she couldn’t tell if I was mad at her and didn’t know why it seemed like I was avoiding her.  I agreed, stated my case, and thanked her for bringing it up. The rest of the week though I was in a boxing match with my thoughts.  The lies flooded in. The lies telling me that we wouldn’t be friends for life because of this wall of communication we kept slamming head-on. The lie that God hadn’t worked in our friendship, or hadn’t redeemed what had come up two years ago and obviously was still an issue. The lie that he wasn’t working through it to prepare us for future relationships. But this was all in my head, wasn’t it? Here she was, affirming me and enjoying time with me, and there I was tormented by my thoughts of how our friendship couldn’t endure, that I was a failure, hating myself because of the way I am and my communication habits.  How is it that I can still feel insecure when the person I am insecure around expressed their love and acceptance of me? I knew I had a seat at her table, but the lies still came.
I have felt insecure in my relationship with God, unsure about what he thinks and feels concerning me.  Afraid to come to him because I had been too busy to pick up my bible and really bore down deep into him.  Guilty for not giving him the time he deserves. Feeling dirty and unlovable.  I was unsure of how God really felt about me, even though I had known the truth my whole life and seen the ways he had been faithful. I saw in myself a lack of desire, a lack of control to really keep myself faithful to him, really questioned if I was even saved because of how I was feeling--but all the while, He was showing me that I am righteous in his sight no matter how I feel.  All the while, he was telling me that he has betrothed me to himself forever in faithfulness and that this doesn’t depend on me. All the while, he was saying that there is no condemnation for me because I am in Christ—no matter how I feel about it. But still that feeling of insecurity--where was that coming from? That voice in my head asking, “Are you sure that you are His?” I think all insecurity comes from that question in Genesis posed by the serpent, “Did God really say…?” Did God really say that you are his child? Did he really die on the cross for you personally? Did you really confess your sins when you were eight years old or do you just think you did?  Are you really genuine? Are you really saved?  Someone who’s saved wouldn’t be so apathetic as you are. Did God really say that he is faithful despite your own unfaithfulness? Do you really have the Holy Spirit in you? Did he really say that you are righteous in his sight because you believe? All these questions led to doubts and insecurities.  That nagging in my head that rattles around--wracking in my brain from one side to the other with no escape, circling and circling, unable to find a pathway to the mouth to be voiced and find relief, keeping me from living in freedom.
What does insecurity look like? It’s like being captured in a glass box that holds the real you while the worried and tormented and lifeless you walks around--fumbling, shaky, tripping over yourself.  The real you watches from the glass box and agonizes for the you that is out there, banging on the box, wanting to be free and sing and run, wanting to shackle the fumbling you along with the lies so that the real you can live life in the beauty of the community with others. Maybe that’s what the voice inside my head does--catapults me into insecurity so that I don’t let myself be fully seen by others.  Or maybe it’s not just the voice inside my head, but rather the raspy voice of another who is also real and is against me trying to drown out the voice of the One who is for me.  That liar doesn’t want me to break out of the box. He wants me to stay in my insecurity and be sapped of the life that the true One has made me enjoy by being in relationship with others. What he can’t do though is boot me from the table of the One who has held out a hand to lead me to a seat right there with Him.  I want to feel like I’m “in”, like I’m seen, like I belong.  I think this is what all humanity wants in some way--to know and feel we have a seat at the table.  
~Allison Staley
Allison Staley

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