When I was a teenager, around fourteen years old I think, I used make-up to try and make a bruise I had look worse than it was.
I know, I know. I wish I was kidding, too.
There had been this incident in my classroom. One of the popular guys on the other wise of the room had tried to throw something to another guy sitting behind me. Only he came up short and got me square in the forehead. Cue pain and a few (hopefully cute) tears, and a bruise appearing. And most importantly – the attention of the whole class, in particular these two handsome young boys.
The next morning I woke up to find, to my horror, that the bruise, which had been less than impressive to begin with, had faded to near insignificance. So I snuck into my parents’ bathroom (quite a common occurrence) and used some of my mum’s purple and grey eye make-up to help the bruise on it’s way a little bit.
I know. I’m embarrassed even thinking about it. Rasmus may have laughed for an inappropriate amount of time when I told him the story, last week. I swore to myself at that moment that I’d never tell another soul.
But then my friend Ellie wrote about her bruise-debacle yesterday and I told her the awful truth. And then it came to me:
All I ever wanted was to be seen.
I was never the least popular girl in the class. But I was never the most popular either. I was good friends with the girl who would become headgirl of the school, so that counted for something. But I also hung out with the group that were edging into goth-status. Which didn’t help. It was a challenging time, as it is for so many teenagers, figuring out who I was, who I wanted to be.
The memory of the fake-bruise episode brought back such a flood of emotion with it. The anxiety, the careful attempt to control appearance, the utter confusion so much of the time at how I was supposed to be behaving… and that overwhelming need just to be noticed by the right people.
If I could, I would go back to that late-nineties classroom, take the younger-Fiona by the shoulders and lean in close, and whisper the truth I’ve learnt since: I was already seen. I was already known.
The need comes back to me sometimes still, the desire to be noticed and affirmed. That same anxiety floods my mind and I wonder whether I’m liked, what people really think of me, if I should be acting differently, speaking differently. My whole being feels like awkwardness defined. I’ve forgotten again that I am already seen.
When I instead start the day with that knowledge deep in my very bones, when I wake up and breathe in the Spirit before I speak a word, then the anxiety slips away. Then I can focus on seeing, knowing and loving the people around me. My thoughts turn from myself and focus on the people around me. How can I make them feel seen, and affirmed for who they are?
No more make-up to darken too-light bruises. No more covering up or acting up. I am seen, I am known, I am loved.
Pick up that truth like a smooth stone in your hand. Put it in your pocket and carry it with you today. And each time you feel that anxiety creeping back up, all you need do is slip a hand in your pocket and be reminded of it:
You are seen, You are known, and You are loved.
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