Have you ever wondered what life would be like if everyone said what they thought? If everyone was so real and honest that they were unafraid to be, say, or do whatever they wanted? I’ve always wondered how differently people would act if they truly knew how friends, teachers, role models, and even family honestly thought of them.
School has always had one constant for me. Through middle school, high school, and even college, I’ve always had a heightened sense of self-image. For me, school was not only a place to learn but also a place to meet new people and build relationships. With that comes the ever-present battle to present yourself in a way that looks good to others. Over the past several years, I found myself contorting to the expectations of others. If a group needs a funny guy I fill that role. If people expect me to be calm and collected, I try and fill that role. Even the church expecting me to be the perfect pastor’s kid had changed my persona.
While none of these things are inherently wrong, they do pose a danger. found myself contorting to so many different perceptions I lost who I sincerely was. Ephesians 2:10 says, “You are God’s masterpiece.” Not the person who contorts to the ways of the world to fit in. Why? Because that’s not really who you are. I got so tangled in who people wanted me to be I didn’t come to appreciate the masterpiece God made me be.
BE YOURSELF, I tell myself, those that pursue you because of the dream they think you are or will become are not worth pursuit. Many times I’ve tried to be a person I wasn’t to fit in with the crowd or to receive admiration. That admiration will never last as long as what is being admired isn’t authentic. I have found that you can lie to yourself so much that you can even begin to change into bits and pieces of the lie you have been portraying. But all that is doing is messing with the masterpiece God made you and me to be!
Year one of college is going to offer you more opportunities than you ever dreamed! I was thrust into a whole new world with new responsibilities and new exciting challenges. I remember the first day being in my apartment with my roommates thinking, “this is it!” College is the time for freedom, time for fun, time for a fresh start. No one knew how cool or uncool I was in high school, no one knew the odd country kid who loved sports and the outdoors, no one knew my flaws. And as the first few weeks of school came and went, I remember going through the routine of meeting people, seeing what they expected of me, and portraying that to receive maximum appreciation and love. I think this was especially evident when it came to those special people who I wanted to be “more than friends” with. I tried to change into the person I thought they wanted me to be so much that it kept them from seeing who I really was. And this cycle continued for the entire school year, and it wasn’t until the summer that I truly realized it.
This summer those kids that I tried so hard to impress and fit in with, I don’t talk to anymore. The kids that expected me to fit a role that wasn’t designed for me are not the ones that I still text and hang out with. I finally realized that all that sacrifice to be the “perfect friend” was honestly just meaningless as the relationships I made through it. All of the relationships that mean the most to me are the ones that know me for who I truly am. The fake that I have portrayed in other relationships has not netted a single meaningful relationship, not one. I think so often we want to be the perfect versions of ourselves instead of just being who God created us to be. The relationships that last are the ones that appreciate you for you because in the end, your true self will always shine through one way or the other. It’s the people that accept you for that person who truly deserve your friendship.
Now I’m not saying all personal change is terrible. In fact, many times, changing yourself in certain ways can be beneficial. However, it’s when we start to change the core, God-given, values of our hearts to please the world that we begin to live that lie. Overall my first-year experience at IUPUI has been amazing, and it has resulted in it many authentic friends that have accepted and loved me for who I am. My involvement in IMPACT has also provided a group of people who just choose to love me for who I am. It’s so freeing to have a place that just simply loves Michael for simply being Michael.
Now to answer my original question, what would I do differently if I truly knew how people felt about me? I would simply do nothing because I don’t want to have to live my life catering to other people's perceptions of me.
All I know is that God loves me for me and if that isn’t good enough for the world, then so be it. I’m just going to be me and let others worry about whether that is good enough for them because I know I have real friends that love me, and a God whose love for me never fails!
Michael Shetler, IUPUI student, Life Group Leader