Who You Are, Really
When being the “It” girl just isn’t enough.
Heather was an extremely shy and soft-spoken freshman.One of her teachers introduced her to me when I spoke at her school. It only took a few minutes for me to see Heather was lonely and very insecure. As we were talking, several girls walked by and made a crude comment about her. My heart broke for her. She told me she didn’t have many friends. She even asked me what I thought she should do to make more friends. I was hurting for Heather, but as I watched her walk back to class, I knew there was no way I could understand how hard life really was for her…
Renee was a popular, smart, funny senior in high school, and she had a singing voice that made Britney Spears sound like Miss Piggy. (Actually Britney Spears does that all on her own.) Renee and her boyfriend, Reed, stopped me backstage at a conference where I spoke.
They were both in the band that led worship that night. Renee was a preacher’s kid. Ask her a question about the Bible, and she had all the right answers. “When your daddy is the one in the pulpit, you kind of have to act like you’ve got it all together,” she said. But I could tell Renee was far from having it “all together.”
The more we talked, the more the facade began to fade. She said, “I can’t remember the last time I had a real conversation with my dad. He’s so busy doing church that he hardly ever has time for me.” And then, as I continued to listen, she confirmed what I had already suspected: “Reed and I are sleeping together. I know it’s wrong. But we are.” Obviously, her lack of attention from her father left a void in her heart she was trying to fill with a cute guy and sexual intimacy. It was
wrong. And I could tell that, deep down, she knew it…
Sarah was sixteen when I met her at a camp in Texas. She introduced herself by saying, “Hi, I’m Sarah, and I’m dying.” Talk about an introduction. It was one of those awkward slo-mo moments where you really don’t know what to say. Wanting to keep the conversation positive, I responded and said something really
smart: “Hi, Sarah. I’m Jeffrey, and I don’t like cheese.” Yes, it sounds as stupid now as it did then. I’m still learning that if you don’t have anything smart to say, sometimes you should just say nothing.
Sarah told me about the day she heard the news that she had leukemia. She talked about chemo, pain, losing her hair, and a fear of dying. She was mad at God, mad at the world, and basically mad at everything and everyone. (Who wouldn’t be, right?) “I haven’t lived a perfect life or anything,” she said. “But I don’t deserve this. It’s just not fair!” Sarah’s reality was difficult for her to understand. It was difficult for me to understand. I might have told her that a lot of things in life seem unfair and they aren’t always easy to explain, but that wouldn’t be what she wanted–or needed–to hear. So, rather than once again saying something I might regret, I just listened as she talked. That’s what she really needed…
Then there’s Lisa. She’s a cheerleader. She told me how difficult it was to live the life of a Christian while also being a cheerleader on her high-school campus. She talked about post-high-school plans of college and eventually Bible school. She wanted to be a missionary.
“My friends respect me, but they also think I’m a little crazy to believe in all this Jesus stuff,” she said. “I want to honor God with my life, but it isn’t always easy, and honestly, it isn’t always fun.” She shared with me that lately things had been tough–her parents divorced at the end of her junior year. I could tell Lisa really wanted to live right. But I could also tell she was struggling with trying to figure out if living right was really worth it for her…
Heather, Renee, Sarah, Lisa: Their stories are different, but they share a common theme. All these girls want more–more than what they have right now. They can’t see themselves as they really are or what they can be, because they haven’t realized God has a very special purpose for each girl–a purpose he created them to fulfill. Believe it or not, he created every single one of us with a unique plan in mind. When these girls realize this purpose exists, they’ll find out who God made them to be. The same goes for you.
A L I T T L E C O N F E S S I O N
In case you didn’t notice yet, I’m not a girl. I’m not even a teen. But I’ve spent over a decade in youth ministry listening to teen girls share their stories, and it was their pain, their confusion, and their hope that made me believe I could write this book. Still, why wouldn’t I just leave girls’ books to women writers? They know more about your life and understand you better, right? Well, that may be true, but I can offer you something they can’t–a guy’s perspective. I thought you might be interested to know what goes on in guys’ heads. If you are, I can help you with that.
Of course, I’m not only writing this book to give you advice on boys. I may know a few things, but definitely not enough for a whole book. What I want to talk to you about most is God’s truth. We live in a world of untruths. Lots of girls like you don’t have many adults in their lives willing to stand in front of them and tell them the truth. It’s hard to get a straight answer–whether it’s about guys, sex, God, or yourself. Lots of adults today are more concerned with getting you to like them than with telling you what you need to hear. And lots of people want to convince you there are no absolute truths, that everything, even the most basic biblical lessons, can be questioned.
You can start to feel like it doesn’t matter what you do because there’s really no right or wrong. I want to show you there are
choices that are absolutely right and choices that are absolutely wrong. I want to be the guy who’ll be straight with you about the things that matter most, because these are the things that’ll help you feel better about yourself and your place in the world.
M O R E T O L I F E
Take a minute to look deep into your heart and ask yourself these questions:
• Do I want more from life than what I have right now?
• Am I unfulfilled?
• Are there some past choices I’ve made that I regret?
• Do I feel like something is missing from my life?
• Is there an emptiness inside me that I try to fill with worldly solutions that don’t work?
• Can I be a better woman than I am right now?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, you’re who I wrote this book for. This Is Me
is a guide to becoming the woman God made you to be. This means finding fulfillment, filling your emptiness, and having more than you ever imagined possible. You live in a world that a lot of times doesn’t value who you really
are but who you can pretend
to be. The makeup, the clothes, the hair, the performance to win over the boys–it’s easy to lose the real you. I want to help you discover the person God made you to be and the purpose he created you to fulfill. When you seek and eventually discover this purpose, you’ll stop feeling like you’re always falling short and finally start feeling complete–and content with who you are.
take a break
How’s your life? Take a minute and write how you feel about your life right now. What frustrates you the most about your life? What about your life makes you smile?
W H O A R E Y O U ?
Recently a sixteen-year-old girl named Jennifer approached me after I spoke at her school. She said, “I feel like I’m always trying to be what everyone else wants me to be instead of just being who I want to be.” When I asked her why, she simply said, “I just want to be liked.” She told me she’d changed the color of her hair, had dieted, and had even slept with several guys, all in an attempt to feel accepted. Jennifer was desperate for attention. She was desperate for acceptance. And she was willing to become whoever and whatever she thought was necessary in order to fit in.
I totally understand how Jennifer felt. Don’t you? One of the greatest pressures you face is the pressure to fit in, to find acceptance. I call this the “It” dilemma. You want to be It. You want to do It. No matter what It is at the moment, you have to do It, be It, have It. And the It is always changing. So the pressure is unrelenting. And happiness never lasts.What He’s Thinking
You think guys never feel insecure or pressured to fit in? You might be surprised to know that guys are not immune to any of that. They may hide it better, but they’re struggling just like you are. Is the guy you like sweet to you when you’re alone, but then he ignores you when his buddies are around? He could just be a jerk–but probably he doesn’t want his friends to think he’s weak or “whipped.” Just remember, boys feel the pressure too, so you can find a little comfort in the fact that girls aren’t the only ones.
Lots of girls I’ve counseled have told me about struggling with this It problem. They may not realize it, but when they’re trying to achieve It status, they’re really searching for popularity, acceptance, love, security, or self-worth, just like Jennifer. But that search is leading many of them on an endless quest for It rather than becoming the woman God created them to be.
You may think that becoming, having, or doing It will make you feel complete. But I think you’re smart enough to know somewhere deep down that it won’t. It might feel really good for a while, but it won’t last. The definition of It is always changing, so your goal is always moving just out of your reach, forcing you to become something new again and again. Trying to live up to the world’s expectations can lead you straight into trouble…and pain. Because, by the world’s standards:
• you’ll never be good enough
• you’ll never be beautiful enough
• you’ll never be skinny enough
• you’ll never be sexy enough
• you’ll never be smart enough
Unless you get focused on the only It that matters–God’s purpose for you–you’ll get confused by all kinds of other things, things that seem important but eventually fade away. Satan wants nothing more than to confuse you and convince you that you can never be the woman God made you to be. Yes, God made you for a very specific purpose–and he made you for more than what the others at school think is cool. Satan is working overtime to convince you that fulfillment isn’t found in pursuing God’s plan for your life but only in striving to be It. But really, the more you try to achieve It, the more you’ll feel like you’ll never
So if your life isn’t just about family and friends and parties and boys and popularity and living day to day without a guide or a goal, then what is it about? The answer is pretty simple–and pretty complicated.
It’s about something more.
At your age, you’re going through all the cliché teenager stuff that means you’re “growing up”–your body is changing, you’re learning to drive, and adults are always exclaiming about how much you’ve grown and asking if you have a boyfriend. But becoming a woman is not just about growing older. (I’m sure you can think of a few people who are older than you who don’t act like “adults” at all.) You don’t choose whether or not you get older–you just do. But becoming a woman is a choice.
This “something more” I’m talking about is different for everyone. Right now you may be thinking, If you can’t tell me what it is, then how am I supposed to find it?
Well, it isn’t about figuring it all out right now. It is
about trust. God does have a plan for you, and he’s not going to hide it from you. He wants you to know what it is. You just have to trust him. Are you willing to trust God that much?
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5—6)
In other words, God is saying: Give me a chance. Let me prove to you that I have it all under
control. Let me show you that I am capable of doing something amazing with your life. Let me make you into the woman I created you to be. Let me make you into the woman who will stand for me. Let me use you to show the world who I am.
Maybe things in your life are okay right now. Nothing catastrophic has happened lately. But every time you look in the mirror, you find something wrong with yourself, something that’s just got to be changed. Or maybe everything
is wrong right now, and all you think about is how you have to change every single thing about yourself. If you want to have the ability to fight that feeling and look in the mirror and be happy (or at least happier) with what you see, you need to give God a chance. Things may be good, but he can make them great. Whether you’re completely depressed or pretty happy, you always need God–because, in him, you can be so much more than you ever imagined you could be. You can be who he created you to be.
W H AT Y O U N E E D T O K N O W A S Y O U R E A D
God’s purpose may be different for every person, but there are some rules and advice that apply to everyone as they look for their purpose and then try to achieve it. First, I’ll try to help you see how God feels about you. If you can see yourself the way God sees you, it’ll make your life a lot easier–and happier. I’m also going to have chapters about all the usual teenager topics–sex, dating, family, and friends– so I can help you see how what you do in these areas can get you closer to God (and the closer you are to him, the easier it is to hear what he has to tell you). I’m also going to have chapters on evangelism, finding your purpose, and one about some of those problems that you usually keep secret. In all of these chapters, I’ll share everything I know about God’s truths and try to help you figure out how to live them out every day.
But before you start, there are five Foundational Truths you need to know as you read this book. It’s critical that you understand these truths before you move on to the following chapters, because they’ll help you get the most out of what you’re about to read.1. Don’t just take my word for it.
When I was younger and I read books with a lot of scripture in them, most of the time I’d skip the scripture, just to save some time. If you do that with this book, you’ll miss the good stuff. Each verse has been chosen for a very specific reason. So as you read, don’t just take my word on a particular issue. Read the included scriptures. Contemplate. Go deeper. Ask questions. Don’t just be challenged by me–be challenged by God in his Word.2. If he says it, he means it.
Since I just established in Truth #1 that I’ll share a ton of scriptures with you throughout this book, you need to know this: if God says it, he means it. There are some who teach that God’s Word is no longer relevant to your life or that you don’t have to do everything the Bible says. Don’t buy it. The Bible is truth. It’s from God. And it’s God’s gift to you to guide you on your journey. The point is–you can take God at his Word.3. You’ve gotta be tough.
Following God is the best road, but it’s not always the easiest. You don’t have to apply the advice I give you in the following pages, but you’ll have a really tough time becoming the woman God wants you to be if you don’t. This book is not a walk-in-the-park, feel-good read. Becoming a woman of God shouldn’t be taken lightly. As you read, you’ll need discipline, consistency, determination, and trust. And if you choose to apply these truths to your life, it’s a choice that’ll help transform you into his likeness and shape you into the person you were made to be. It’ll be tough. But it’ll be more than worth it.4. Give me a chance.
There are probably a lot of books you can read written for girls by a girl. Obviously, this is not one of them. That’s why this book is unique. Most likely there are few, if any, men in your life who’ll talk to you as openly and honestly as I will in this book. Think of our time together as an intimate talk…with a guy. (How often does that happen?) I’ll also pause sometimes to let you in on how guys feel about the things we’re talking about together. You’ll be surprised and, I hope, encouraged when you read some of my explanations. However, while I’ll be really good at giving you a guy’s perspective on things and at sharing with you my knowledge of the Bible and what I’ve learned from counseling, I won’t be as good at talking about some of the really girl-specific stuff that only girls can really understand.
That’s why, throughout the book, you’ll see a voice, a girl’s voice, coming in and calling me out on some of the stuff I’m missing or getting wrong. That voice, brought to you courtesy of a real (and very…how should I say it?…inquisitive
) female, will keep me in check and hopefully ask some of the same things you’re thinking as you read.5. You can do this.
I’m going to be honest with you and really challenge you in these next chapters. I’ll ask things of you that are more difficult than anything you’ve done before. But don’t worry–though you can’t become the woman God wants you to be by just cramming for the test the night before, the extra work will be worth it. There may be times as you’re reading when you’ll feel like throwing in the towel. But don’t do it. Your walk with God isn’t like getting spiritual plastic surgery. Everything’s not fixed in an instant. It’s a one-day-at-a-time thing. So don’t give up. You can do this.
W H Y Y O U N E E D T O K E E P R E A D I N G
First, this book will encourage you and remind you that you’re worthy of God’s love and meant to live out his purpose. As you start to see yourself as God sees you, you’ll feel stronger, more confident, and more able to face the unavoidable challenges life in an imperfect world brings.
Also, this book can be a resource for you, a place to turn for help and advice. You’ll sometimes face problems that seem insurmountable. And that’s usually when Satan works overtime to mess up God’s plan for your life. If you feel shaken, like you don’t know what the right thing is (or the wrong thing just seems too good to pass up), this book will help you get refocused on what’s really important.
Lastly, you probably have a lot of questions you’re too embarrassed to ask anyone else, or maybe you don’t know who to ask. I hope this book will be a place you can come to for answers. Inside all these chapters, I’ll try to use my experience working with teenagers to answer some of your toughest questions. I won’t pretend that I know everything–because I definitely don’t–but I’ll share what I’ve learned in my own walk with God and in helping other people with theirs.
You don’t need to be perfect for God to work in you. You don’t need someone to wave a magic wand and change you into someone new. You don’t need to lie or pretend to be someone you’re not. You just need to be willing to let God lead you, so you can be who he made you to be. Then you’ll finally be able to say, “This is me. And I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Excerpted from This Is Me by Jeffrey Dean. Copyright © 2007 by Jeffrey Dean. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.