Two years ago, I was exploring the great city of London with some good friends. We couldn’t have imagined a more perfect day. The sun was shining (a rarity for bleak British weather), and we were blissfully happy after crossing Tower Bridge and touring underground an eight-hundred-year-old church. That’s when the video camera came out, and amidst bursts of laughter and shaking sides, we broke into giddy – albeit uncoordinated and clumsy – dancing, right there on a crowded London street. And to this day, it is one of my favourite memories (and the video footage still makes me laugh).
Why is this memory so special to me? Well, if you know me, you know I am not a person who takes myself very seriously. I laugh at myself when I trip over words, pull ridiculous faces, and joke around with strangers. So dancing on the streets of London was not a stretch. But there was a time I never would have dreamed of doing such an embarrassing thing. And I know a fair amount of people who would find the mere thought mortifying.
I used to be so aware of how I looked to other people. I didn’t like acting goofy or publicly doing anything that could be considered awkward. If I ever blurted out the wrong thing or got a weird look from someone, I would kick myself about it for days. I always wanted my hair to look decent, I would never go out makeup-free, and I was strategic about what I posted online. After all, I wouldn’t want to ruin the illusion that I never stuck my foot in my mouth or had a bad hair day, right?
Thankfully, through an adventurous season of growing and God placing some important people in my life, I realized how this obsession was a form of selfishness, vanity, and pride. Ouch. I gradually learned how to get over myself and stop taking myself so seriously. If you think this sounds pretty trite, just hang on, because oddly enough, not taking myself seriously has been one of the most humbling and liberating lessons I’ve ever embraced.
As I stopped worrying about what other people thought of me, I realized I was thinking of myself much less. Since I wasn’t as consumed with keeping up my own appearances, my thoughts naturally began to shift towards others. I wasn’t so anxious all the time, always concerned about my own wants and my pride. This was a very humbling process, but through it the Lord showed me my pettiness. So I accidentally said or did something a little embarrassing. So what? It’s not the end of the world. I shouldn’t think so much of myself that a little slip-up has the power to ruin my day. But more importantly, I stopped focusing on trying to please people, and rather focused on how my actions pleased the Lord.
On a bit of a deeper level, before He left this earth, Jesus commanded His followers to go and make disciples, to shine His light to all the world. It is nearly impossible to fulfill this commandment if we are scared of what people think of us. Jesus even warned us that we would be mocked and taunted. So if we live according to what people might think, we will be timid about being the light of Christ. But that isn’t an option! Light must shine, and it must shine boldly. Life is not about us and how perfect we look or how comfortable we feel. It is about loving people and loving Jesus and living fully and joyfully. We shouldn’t be so caught up in ourselves that we throw away opportunities to shine our light or bring joy to others. And instead of worrying about pleasing people, we should only be concerned about honoring Jesus in how we live and love.
I’ve learned to embrace my awkward moments and laugh at myself. After all, those moments can turn into some of the most treasured memories, just like that day in London. Our dancing was a little odd, a little awkward, and certainly very public. But I don’t even remember those aspects. What stands out to me is the laughter and fun I was having with my friends. Sometimes getting out of your comfort zone is totally worth it just to make someone else smile. We shouldn’t cheat ourselves or others out of some fantastic memories just because we can’t swallow our vanity and loosen up a little.
From time to time, we all do stupid things or find ourselves in awkward situations, and sometimes our sentences don’t come out quite as witty as we intended. And that’s okay! Just laugh at your imperfections and move on. If you can do that, then what other people think won’t bother you anymore, and you can spend your time and energy dwelling on much more important things. I challenge you, friends, to kiss vanity goodbye and turn your focus where it should be: on Christ and on people. Do something out of your ordinary and make people smile. Dance on the street with your best friend. Relax and laugh and don’t be afraid to look a little silly. The joy and memories you make will be well worth every second.