Because you don’t have to be sorry for being you

It’s interesting to me that it can be so tough for us to apologize when we know we’re wrong, but other “I’m sorry” statements are so simple to make.

Like when we have no real reasons to be apologizing.

When you hurt someone or wrong someone in some way, there’s a need to say you’re sorry. Perhaps you have to cancel plans on someone or are running late somewhere and send an apology text—there’s nothing wrong with that. But there are other times when you might say you’re sorry for something for which you really shouldn’t have to apologize.

Especially if what you’re doing is simply being you.

I remember reading an article a couple of years ago that mentioned how women often apologize for things in the business/office setting that they shouldn’t be—things like speaking up in meetings or presenting ideas that would bring about potential changes and innovations. (I don’t know if men do this as often, but the article focused mainly on women.) Ever since then, I’ve tried to be more aware of times when I might be saying sorry and not actually meaning it.

I’m not sorry for asking a stranger to take my picture.

I eat Wheat Thins with everything and at every meal. I love them with my whole being. I have them with me at all times—there’s always a box in my car, and I carry a sandwich bag of them with me in my purse. Yes, I do bust them out at the dinner table in public places. I remember going to dinner with some new friends a little more than a year ago, and when I got my Wheat Thins out, I said “sorry, I eat them at every meal.” As soon as that first word came out of my mouth, I immediately regretted it. I wasn’t sorry. At all. So now I make sure that I never apologize for having Wheat Thins when I’m eating.

Because I’m not sorry for being me.

I don’t believe that eating my favorite food hurts anyone, even if other people think it’s bad manners. I didn’t go to cotillion at any point in time, and I’ve never been that great with manners, anyway.

Have you ever noticed yourself saying sorry for something for which you really had no reason to apologize? Have you ever said sorry for bothering someone when what you’re about to say is really no bother at all? Have you ever apologized for not being perfect? I’m not sure why we do this. We have the abilities to speak our minds and share our hearts and go after our dreams, and we don’t have to be sorry for any of that. You do you, boo.

And in the same way that we shouldn’t be apologizing for being ourselves, we shouldn’t expect other people to be sorry for the unique individuals they are—we should be giving them love and encouragement and room to continue to grow so that they can be comfortable being themselves.

I was speaking to the junior high students at my church last weekend, and I was talking about accepting others and loving them not just in spite of their differences from us but also because of those differences. I thought back to when I was in middle school and how I was an absolutely horrible example of that. I didn’t know Jesus yet, and I was very selfish and far too concerned with what people thought of me and what I thought of others. It’s not a time of my life that I’m proud of by any means.

I’ve said this before, and I stand by it: Middle school is the worst period of life. It’s such an easy time to be mean and judgmental, and you’re still trying to figure out who you are and what life is and what’s cool and what’s not, and you have no idea of what the genuine and important things in life are yet. I’m sure that there are some mature kids in that stage of life who are rare gems, but for the most part, it’s a painful and awkward stage that we all have to go through as a rite of passage into (hopefully) becoming more mature adults who are concerned with more than popularity and what brands of clothing you’re allowed to wear and which ones are faux pas.

You know what, though? Even though that period of life can be very superficial and unwelcoming, being an adult doesn’t suddenly become easier just because you’re no longer begging your parents for Doc Martens and wearing overalls with only one side buttoned because it looks so much cooler (you feel me, 90s middle schoolers??). It can still be tough to feel like you’re accepted and like you belong, and there will be people who judge you and make you want to apologize without even knowing why you’re saying sorry. But if you’re not doing anything wrong, you have no reason for those apologetic words.

Because you don’t have to be sorry for being you.

I’m also not sorry for wearing shirts under crop tops.

I’m going to keep checking myself to make sure I’m not starting sentences off with “I’m sorry, but” and then following that statement with something for which I feel no actual sorrow. I won’t ever be sorry for eating Wheat Thins. I won’t ever be sorry for having an idea and wanting to share it. I won’t ever be sorry for wanting a turn to speak at a meeting. I won’t ever be sorry for telling a guy that I have feelings for him. I won’t ever be sorry for having the passions and dreams I have. And I won’t ever be sorry for not being other people’s opinions of me.

When you need to make improvements or changes in your life or your behavior or your attitude or whatever, make them. If you’ve hurt people or have legitimate reasons to say you’re sorry, make those apologies. At the end of the day, though, I hope that you’re confident in the person you are and the person you strive to be, and I hope that you never apologize for the things that need no sorries to go along with them.

Because you don’t have to be sorry for being you.

Because our backflips are all different

I’m thankful for the people in my life whom I don’t know who remind me of the important lessons in life.

Especially when those people are little kids who are way smarter than they even know.

On a recent walk on the beach, I saw a girl doing backflips of a tiny sand ledge that had formed naturally near the water. She was ridiculously good, and as I walked by, I made sure to let her know. When I told her, a little boy with her (I’m assuming her younger brother) yelled “watch me!” before performing what I can only describe as one of the most uncoordinated front somersaults I had ever seen combined with a turbo roll of some sort.

When he got up, he looked at me and smiled before shrugging and saying a statement that I wish we were all saying as comfortably and confidently as he did.

“Mine’s a little different.”

Yes, that was the perfect word for it: different. What was so wonderful was that he wasn’t ashamed of that at all. In fact, he was pretty darn proud. He had made it a point to have me watch him perform his own version of the tumble his sister had perfected, and by most people’s definitions, his was so much worse. To him, though, it was worthy of showcasing.

I told him that it was beautiful, and I wasn’t lying. Sure, when I first saw it, the word “ugly” probably popped into my mind. But when I realized what it was to him and how he had actually tried, my perspective changed entirely. You see, what this precious little boy has already learned at such a young age that so many adults still haven’t seemed to grasp is so simple: Our lives are going to look completely different from other people’s, and that’s perfectly fine. We don’t need to shy away from who we are and the things we can or can’t do as well as other people.

Because beauty looks different for everyone.

It’s pretty easy to get caught up in the comparison game—suddenly we’re not smart enough or pretty enough or fast enough or thin enough or strong enough or making enough or talented enough or dating enough or experienced enough or traveled enough or social enough or whatever enough. It seems that someone’s always doing a backflip that’s better than yours, while you’re following with an uncoordinated somersault combined with a turbo roll of some sort.

But what if, rather than getting frustrated or feeling embarrassed that the things in your life look different from those in everyone else’s, you embraced those distinctions and were proud of the things you’ve been able to accomplish and were happy to say that you’re still trying. What if, when you started comparing some aspect of your life with someone else’s, you stopped for a moment to say “mine’s a little different” and were OK with that?

As a single girl approaching my mid-30s (IT CAUSES ME GREAT PAIN TO SAY THAT), I have to do a lot of that in my life, especially around the holidays. I’ve definitely embraced it in terms of making my own Christmas cards that look quite different from most of the ones I receive with families and couples and pets on them. Mine features only me—and sometimes a superimposed orca whale jumping over me—but hopefully someday you’ll get a card from me with my lobster (but the Friends version of a lobster and not an actual lobster, which I realize might be confusing based on my previous statement about the whale).

At church over the weekend, we were setting up for all of the Christmas Eve services and were creating a photo setup so that people could take their pictures in front of a pretty lit-up backdrop with a wreath in the background and trees on both sides. We were trying to make it the perfect size for families to take pictures. I understand why, but I also had a soft spot in my heart in that moment for all of the people who would be coming to church by themselves. I took a picture by myself in the setup right after I had just taken a picture of a precious couple followed by a family all together. When I looked at my photo, I couldn’t help but think of how different it looked from the ones I had just taken. For a second or two, I started to feel sad, but then I remembered the little boy on the beach, and I reminded myself that different isn’t bad. I didn’t need to look at all of the extra space in my photo and see emptiness—it’s merely extra room to welcome in more people in my heart and give more love.

You don’t have to be like everyone else. You won’t be. And you shouldn’t. Your life doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s. It won’t. And it shouldn’t. You may have a pristine backflip, or you may have one that resembles that of the turbo-rolling little boy on the beach. Either way, give yourself a little grace for simply getting out there and trying.

Because, either way, you’re enough being you, regardless—and especially because—of how different you are.

Because sometimes it’s better to launch the shot

There are some things in life with which you might be extremely familiar in some ways but that can still teach you or remind you of truths you need to hear.

For me, two of those things are weddings and basketball.

On Monday night (their first night as a married couple in their home), they had me over for dinner. I love them more than froyo.

When I met Amanda and Phillip back in January, I knew from the second that I saw them that I wanted them to be my people. (I’m pretty sure that they didn’t initially feel the exact same way, but I think I grew on them.) They got married over the weekend, and it was so fun and so special to be a part of their day and to see them start their forever together. I love seeing people take chances on love and chances on each other—it’s beautiful bravery that can change their lives in ways they’ve never imagined.

So as not to stray from the norm, I went solo to the wedding. I sat at Table 5 with a bunch of people I didn’t know (most of whom work with her or are married to people who work with her), and I knew from the second that I sat down that it was going to be a great night. And this is kind of a big deal—I really don’t like numbers in increments of five. But meeting new people brings me tremendous joy, and these people immediately made me feel welcome into their circle (they pretty much all knew each other already). They didn’t judge me in any way and didn’t ridicule me for bringing my own ketchup and Wheat Thins to accompany my tacos.

They simply did what people have the ability to do best—they loved me for who I am.

My Table 5 homegirl Ashleigh is so freaking awesome that it’s ridiculous.

It can be tough to be vulnerable and genuine sometimes, but I really think that there’s no reason to live any other way. Yes, you’re taking a chance by putting your real self out there, but it’s a chance that you need to take if you want people to know the real you.

Whether you’re the person walking down the aisle or the person getting floor burn on the top of her foot from the dance floor (I’m not referring to anyone specific), weddings are good places not only to remember to love people for the individuals they are, but they’re also good places to remember that you have to take chances every once in a while in life if you want your dreams to come true. Take Amanda and Phillip, for instance: They took chances on each other, and now they’re spending the rest of their lives together.

Which leads me to the basketball court.

I joined a men’s basketball league. A couple of my coworkers are on a team, and it sounded like my cup of tea. Our first game of the season was Monday night, and it was a lot of fun (especially because we got the W). There was one point in the game when I got the ball and had an open three, but I didn’t take it. I passed it off, instead. A few of the guys had been yelling “shoot it,” and then my teammate Jeff later said this to me: “Sometimes you just have to go for it and launch it up there. If you miss, meh, you miss. Just shoot it.”

Wise guy, that Jeff.

He’s right. The next open three I had, I took the shot. I missed. It was really ugly, actually. (Behind the arc is not my sweet spot—I’m more of an elbow shot kind of girl.) But I felt better about actually launching it up there, like Jeff had advised me. I really do believe that it’s often better to try something and fail at it than never to try at all. You have to take chances in life if you truly want to live.

You can’t make shots that you don’t take. You can’t achieve dreams that you don’t work toward. You can’t do life with people if you don’t take the time to know them and invest in them.

I’m thankful that I got that second chance at the three-pointer. That’s not always the case, though. You only get one life, and you don’t always get multiple chances at the opportunities that are placed in front of you.

So launch that shot—and, as soon as it leaves your hands, believe with everything in your being that it’s going to be nothing but net.

The essential follow through

Sometimes we do things without really thinking, and they just become habits.

Especially in sports.

I’ve played sports my entire life, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the term “follow through.” In basketball, you have to follow through when you shoot; in baseball, you’re supposed to follow through with your swing after you make contact with the ball and when you throw the ball; in golf, you follow through with your swing, as well; in volleyball, you don’t just serve the ball and stop your arm motion once you hit it—you follow through with that serve; in tennis, you swing your racket and follow through as you hit it over the net; in soccer, you follow through with your kicks by continuing your leg motion; quarterbacks have to follow through with their throwing arms in their efforts to hit their receivers; and I’m sure there are many more examples to go along with these.

Simply put, the “follow through” in sports is essential in order for physical actions to be executed properly and to the fullest potential. I’m sure there is some science behind it, but I’m not really interested in that. (Side note: I read an article on the MIT School of Engineering website that argued the follow through is not needed in golf. I’m curious to see how this professor does on the fairways.) From everything I have been taught in life, though, I just know that following through is necessary.

Follow through on punches
Follow through on punches

And this goes beyond sports.

I can think of many times in life when people have said things to me and never followed through with those things, and I know I have done the same to others, as well. “Hey, let’s go grab a cup of coffee soon.” “We should do dinner next week.” “We definitely need to get together and catch up!” “Let me get your number so we can hang out soon.” Yet, those things don’t always happen. It’s like we just get caught up in the moment and, whether we have intentions actually to do these things or not, we make suggestions or promises that we don’t keep.

But there are hearts involved in these situations, not just sports science.

What if you ran into an old friend who said y’all should get together and then never followed through with catching up with you? What if one of your close friends made plans with you and then didn’t follow through and make time for you? What if a guy told he was going to call you and didn’t follow through with doing so? What if you went to a church and filled out the “Get to Know You” card, but no one followed through with actually reaching out to you to get to know you? How would it make you feel if you were on the receiving end of these things? Or, even further, what if you were the one not following through with examples such as these?

How are real-life relationships supposed to be successful if we are constantly not following through with things we say we will do?

If you doubt my claims on the importance of following through in sports, according to a coach who posted on an Internet forum—and it’s on the Internet, so it obviously must be complete truth—a follow through (though he spells it “thru,” the cool way) in basketball reminds players of proper shooting form, because the ball will always go in the direction in which the hand sends it. Therefore, he says it helps with shooting accuracy. Similarly, I think it can be argued that our own follow throughs can help show us if we are living as genuinely as we should be. If you have no follow through whatsoever, then your form probably could use some adjustments. I think it all boils down to something simple: Mean what you say, and say what you mean.

Again, we are all imperfect and are sure to mess up on following through with things. Truth be told, life happens and often distracts us from some of our original intentions. However, I think we could all be better about trying to live intentionally and not just say things we don’t mean. Sure, it was funny in FRIENDS when Chandler couldn’t not say, “I’ll give you a call sometime” to Rachel’s boss, though he blatantly said he wasn’t actually going to do so, but something like that really isn’t very humorous in real life—especially if you’re in the shoes of the boss.

In sports, improving the follow through takes practice, which takes time. But you make time for the things you want to make time for in life.

Even if it seems no one around you really cares much about the follow through, just know that there is Someone who follows through with everything He ever promises.

And His shot is one that hits nothing but net every single time.

I love you, and I mean that

Far too often in life, people say things that they don’t actually mean.

And words are some of our most powerful weapons.

The movie Diary of a Wimpy Kid was on television over the weekend, and I was watching the first part of it until the NBA Tip-Off show came on before the game. The main character said something that made me laugh but then also made me start to think. He was referring to hearing a conversation in the hallways of middle school, and he said something along the lines of, “I don’t understand why girls our age can’t just talk like normal people.”

Welcome to the beginning of years of confusion, kiddo.

I think it’s really important to put meaning behind the things we say. If we pay someone a compliment, I think it should have sincerity behind it and not just be a way either to get a compliment in return or to flatter someone as a means of selfish intentions.

“Mean what you say, and say what you mean” shouldn’t just be a trite expression.

As much as I hate to admit this, there’s a huge population of people who tend to say one thing and mean something completely different: women. “No, I’m not mad.” “This dress makes me look fat.” “It’s not that important.” “It’s really cold in here.” “Give me two minutes.” “I don’t mind where we go eat.”

Much of the time, those things are translated differently than what your ears hear. “I’m very mad and even more upset that you don’t know why.” “Tell me how good I look. Now.” “It’s probably the most important thing in the world, and there’s no way I’m exaggerating about that.” “Turn off the AC, stat.” “This could take a while.” “I really only want to go where I want to go.”

I’ve never been in a relationship, so I’ve never used girl language in that regard, but I know there have been times in the past even with some of my friends when I’ve said things that perhaps I didn’t completely mean. But I’ve learned over the years how important it is to be upfront, because I’ve also been on the opposite end where people have told me things that they didn’t mean.

And that hurts.

While I don’t think people should be flat-out cruel with honesty–like saying, “Geez, your hair sure has seen better days”–I do believe in honesty that is genuine and pure. For instance, if you’re not interested in a person, it is better to let that individual know early on rather than leading him or her on and breaking a heart even worse later. Trust me, insincere intentions and broken promises are more powerful than we often realize. Sure, sometimes life happens, and you can’t always live up to what you say, but there’s a difference in that and knowing you won’t follow through with the words coming out of your mouth.

Mean what you say.

I also think we sugarcoat our own feelings when people ask us how we’re doing. A lot of the time, it feels like saying, “Great, thanks. You?” is simply the expected response. I don’t think it’s necessary to pour your heart out to a random person, but I also don’t think there’s anything wrong with responding with, “Well, things are kind of rough right now, actually,” when a friend checks in with you.

Say what you mean.

The poor kid in the movie just didn’t understand girls, and who can blame him? I think too many things are misunderstood because of what we say–or what we don’t say. If you say, “I love you,” mean it, because love is pure and shouldn’t be a word carelessly tossed around without true meaning behind it. The way that love is lived out will reveal how strong the meaning is behind the word.

In my efforts to live a life of more boldness, I’m trying to be more intentional with my words. So, hopefully if I ever get a boyfriend, he won’t have to have a decoding book handy to try to determine what I’m trying to tell him. It shouldn’t be that complicated.

Words are incredibly powerful, and the more meaning we allow them to have, the more beautiful this world will be.

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