Excerpted with permission from In Bloom: Trading Restless Insecurity for Abiding Confidence by Kayla Aimee. Copyright 2018, B&H Publishing Group.
Social media sometimes gets a pretty bad reputation, but it has really deepened my prayer life. Seriously, every single day when I log on to Instagram and scroll through my feed, I put my hand to my heart and think, "Dear Lord, thank You that social media did not exist when I was in my adolescent years."
What I did have to document my youth was a diary. In fact, I have a box full of old ones because my childhood self thought it would be a good idea to save them all for my future children to read. It seemed a very romantic notion at the time as I pictured my eventual offspring poring over my deepest thoughts and gleaning bits of wisdom from the pages. Then I reread those diaries as an adult and realized no one should be subjected to that level of teenage angst.
Dear Diary, I am going out with Michael. I really am. Today, Katie leaned over and said, "Michael, are you going out with Kayla?" And he said YES. I love Michael!
More disturbing than the fact that I apparently let my romantic fate be decided by whoever wanted to call me their girlfriend at the time was the very next page: Dear Diary, I hate Michael!
I was like a little modern-day Jane Austen. My diary was pretty much the same plot as her book Emma, "I love John! I hate John!"
By the time I hit junior high, I also wrote a lot of diatribes about the It Girls. It is such a movie cliché, the table full of popular girls in a school cafeteria. One table was all baby doll dresses and knee socks, and when I tried to sit there with old friends, I was shunned. They were in, I was out. Their opinion meant everything to me only because it meant everything to everyone else. I didn't even particularly like them, but their approval was the only way to ensure that everyone else liked me. And as a teenager, nothing felt more important than that.
I thought when I grew up, I would outgrow the notion of It Girls, but instead it seems society decided to make the very concept of It Girls an even more pervasive thing as I matured. Before social media, celebrity seemed at a distance, mostly flashbulbs and magazine features. Now our culture is obsessed with consuming celebrity, and our access seems unfettered. All it takes is installing an app on your cell phone, and suddenly Instagram lets you peek into the intimate lives of movie stars and musicians. It seems exclusive in a different way, like front-row seats to something unattainable.
It's easy to feel insignificant when the rest of the world looks picture-perfect in the palm of your hand. Whether it's Facebook statuses of a friend's family in matching first-day-of-school outfits while you're in yesterday's sweats and running late for drop-off, or Instagram pics of Taylor Swift surrounded by supermodels and hashtagged "squad goals," these quick glimpses into someone else's life can make our own lives pale by comparison. They can also make us question our place in our friendships. Are we in or out? Are we part of the tribe?
I blame Taylor Swift for the introduction of squad goals into the current vernacular. (I blame her for a lot of things actually, like my penchant for skinny jeans and red lipstick.) Personally, my #squadgoals would consist of the members of The Baby-Sitter's Club or the cast of Hart of Dixie. I presume the fact that my ideal squad is made up of entirely fictional characters is quite telling of my level of coolness.
But mostly, I think squad goals, for any of us, are indicative of our desire to belong. To fit and to fit in.
I was scheduled to speak at an event about my book, so I parlayed the travel into a road trip with one of my girlfriends, Jess. We stopped at a trendy restaurant in downtown Nashville and talked about fitting in as an adult. "I'm so intimidated by this group of women at our church," she told me. "They just all seem so perfect." She scrolled through her newsfeed and then flashed me a photo of a group of women laughing in front of an exposed brick wall. "See? Total squad goals," she sighed.
The trip had fallen early in my second pregnancy, when I was in the throes of morning sickness. I had spent the morning revisiting my breakfast before attempting to give my ashen face some semblance of color. Even if I had been at the top of my sartorial game, it wouldn't have mattered. I entered the auditorium and was immediately intimidated by the room full of stylish women, almost in uniform: black-and-white striped shirt, green utility vest, skinny jeans, ankle boots. I looked down at my coral pink eyelet top that I scored for three dollars at a consignment sale, and it was like the chunky-heeled shoe incident all over again.
"Total squad goals," I side-whispered to Jess.
I couldn't help but feel slightly out of sync. I mean, on the one hand, I was in the middle of my biggest dream, something I had worked so hard toward. I was the headliner for that event, and I still felt insecure, out of place, and small by comparison. That day I learned that you can watch your dreams come true and still feel a longing. You can be in the spotlight and still feel invisible.
I am grateful for the infinite nature of grace because I'm still in the process of overcoming. If you find yourself right there alongside me, trying to overcome, take a moment to pause today and give yourself some grace.