In middle school I had a friend I thought was the coolest – not because she was the coolest in the conventional sense. She wasn’t popular, but she was interesting. To be specific, she tip-toed everywhere. In fact, she became so good at it, she tip-toed every single day throughout high school. As a middle schooler who desperately wanted to be unique, I decided to copy her.
The irony in finding your own uniqueness by copying a unique thing about someone else is a blog for another day, but here’s the thing I learned about tiptoeing. You really have to focus. It is not automatic. You have to will every single muscle to walk like that if you do so for longer than ten steps. I remember being so focused on planting my feet on the blue squares in the hallway and paying attention to every single step.
Which meant I couldn’t talk while tiptoeing.
Which also meant that phase was very short lived.
I quickly decided that tiptoeing was not for me. It was far more natural to skip or dance awkwardly into the room in that season.
But something happened as I grew through those awkward teenage years. As I crossed over the bridge between adulthood and child, my stride began to change. Tiptoeing became a more learned skill. I’m not even sure who the teachers were exactly, instructing me how to walk through a room unnoticed, shrink into the corners of a conversation or not stand firmly in certain spaces. I just know it happened so gradually, without my even knowing.
By the time I crossed over into young adulthood, my legs were tired, my stride was completely changed and my identity was in a death spiral. There was a knowing in me that the little girl who skipped and danced awkwardly about was no longer able to show up in all her brilliance. She was once celebrated for it, but she was now
“too much” when speaking her mind.
“not enough” to fill certain seats.
“uninvited” to lead certain things.
“invited” to prepare tables where she would not be allowed to dine.
In a season designed for spreading my wings to fly, I found myself locked in a box with barely enough space to move, much less take flight. My existence was becoming so small, I could not shrink myself anymore to accommodate it. The thing I thought was so unique about my middle school friend, had become a status quo for me. I had become basic on the outside, while harboring brilliance on the inside. I missed being myself.
Here’s the thing about adapting to a stride that isn’t your own: It will eventually trip you up. Maybe even cripple you.
I had tiptoed myself into a place I was never designed to live. In order to stay there, I was confronted with continuing to become someone I was never designed to be. I had made myself at home in someone else’s house, inside my own skin. What a disorienting thing. My only way out would be to find my stride again and make myself at home within it, above all else.
You see, when we try to “make ourselves at home” in a place, in a relationship, in the approval of others or a role or a title, the terrain is slippery. Others can often dictate, determine, define or decide. If our footing is planted in those things, we will fall, fail or have a full-blown meltdown. But if we can find our own stride and get strong in it, our unique God given, breathed, designed way of maneuvering, we can step onto any terrain and not lose our footing. We can maneuver any relationship, within our own integrity, and not lose ourselves. We can fulfill any role, or know when to pack it up and move on down the road when our brilliance is being exploited, neglected, abused or ignored.
When we are rooted in who we are and confident in who we’ve been uniquely designed to be, we can walk through any door, sit at any table and occupy any space from a position of authority. Even if we aren’t in charge of the room, we are ALWAYS in charge of ourselves, first and foremost, before anyone else is.
So women, if you’ve learned to tiptoe to the rhythm of someone else’s beat, we hope you find your full footed stride again and take your full self with you wherever your heart desires to go.
Authored by: Lauren Sellers and Jennifer Barnes