Trust that you add value here.
BY HALEY TODD
Last summer, I road tripped from Auburn, AL, to Boulder, CO. Nine of us piled into two cars and drove 24 hours straight across the country. We slept in a one-bedroom apartment and only stayed for two-and-a-half days before making the 1400+ mile haul back to our little college town. It was wild and adventurous and joyful and freeing.
And I almost didn’t go.
The nine of us who went were part of a larger group of 59 counselors for Auburn’s summer orientation program. We had a five-day break in between orientation sessions and that was when people were going to Colorado. I had seen that a trip was being planned, but I definitely wasn’t planning on going. Then, two days before they were scheduled to leave, a message popped up in the big GroupMe with all 59 counselors: “There are two spots open on the Colorado trip; text me if you want in!”
I immediately dismissed the idea. I am not spontaneous, I thought. I’m kind of different from the group that’s going, I thought. No one will want me there. But as I tried to go back to what I was doing, my mind stayed stuck on Colorado. My thoughts began to change from I’m not spontaneous to I’m not usually spontaneous, but I kind of want to try. Before I could overthink it, I took a deep breath, texted the guy who was planning the trip and told him that I wanted to go. Immediately, I was exhilarated. I giggled as I told my roommate, couldn’t stop grinning while I FaceTimed my parents about it. I wanted to shout from the rooftops, “Look at me! I’m being spontaneous!”
But that night, my excitement spiraled into dread. I lay awake for two hours, overcome with anxiety about the trip. My main concern: that everyone was mad at me for going. I worried that they would be uncomfortable with me there, because I was quiet and introverted and sometimes awkward. I assumed that when they had extended the invitation to the whole group, they hadn’t meant to include me. Now that I had joined in, they were disappointed and annoyed. They wished someone else had taken my spot. They didn’t want me there.
Unfortunately, I had already committed, so I had no choice but to pack my bags and load in the car on Friday afternoon. I felt so guilty for joining in when I was sure no one had wanted me to. But when I went out to the parking lot, I was surprised by one of the guys giving me a giant hug. Everyone was excited. They were open. And just like that, I was part of the group.
We drove and drove. I talked my way out of a speeding ticket, and we drove some more. Kansas was flatter than a dead man’s cardiac monitor. We brushed our teeth in the McDonald’s parking lot. At a friend’s house outside Boulder, her mom cooked us the most amazing homemade meal (especially after being in the car for a full day with nothing but packaged snacks and fast food). The views in Rocky Mountain National Park were soul-healing. We laughed a lot. We made memories. And at the end, I felt so restored from the adventure, connecting with nature, and most importantly, the people. I felt valued.
My assumptions that people didn’t want me there were completely rooted in insecurity and not at all related to reality. Afraid of being awkward, I wanted to be as small as possible. The smaller I was, the less people would notice that I took up space without bringing much to the table. I had been feeding myself these lies, fueling nothing but more fear.
But in Colorado, I felt accepted. I had fun, real conversations. I got to know a really cool group of people, and that really cool group of people welcomed me. I realized: I add value. And it’s not because other people think I do but because that’s who I am. I was created with something to offer. My quiet, introverted nature is a blessing; my sweet personality makes other people smile. I am inherently valuable, exactly as I am. My purpose isn’t to avoid being awkward--it’s to give out that value as much as possible. And I can’t do that if I’m shrinking because I mistakenly assume it would be better for others if I disappeared.
Where are you making assumptions about how others feel about you? Are lies about your worth infiltrating your mind? In the face of fear, have you forgotten what you were made for?
I am sure of this: You add value. It’s not because others see it that way; it’s because it’s simply true of you. Intrinsically, without doing anything, you add value here. That doesn’t mean everyone will always like you or want you in their group; at some point, people will be annoyed or disappointed. But you’ve still brought something good to their lives. They will learn something from you that they can’t learn from anyone else. They will be blessed by you, even if that blessing is disguised. Regardless of how they ultimately feel about you, others will miss out if you’re not around. Your worth doesn’t hinge on their perspective; it’s secure, deeply rooted in the very core of you, unshakeable. No matter what you do or others think, you bring something good and important to the table. Assuming that you don’t add value is nothing short of believing an outright lie.
So occupy your space without guilt. Love so hard you leave behind the fear of being awkward. Trust that you add value here. Please, believe me when I say: You do.