My youngest sister was born when I was in high school. Along with the joy of having a cute baby around the house, I was assigned baby duty quite often. Sometimes I loved it and other times I was a normal teenager who wasn’t thrilled about baby-sitting for free. [My older self thinks, “Smart move, Mom & Dad! Teach your teens responsibility and get free help with childcare!”]
The thing I disliked the most wasn’t a baby hanging on my side or when she cried. It wasn’t even the dirty diapers. It was the whispers. When I went to the store with my baby sister, I got looks. It was clear enough we were related. Onlookers gave away their thoughts with a puzzled stare and the frown that came after. The judgement felt palpable. I wanted to defend myself and explain: “This isn’t my baby! It’s my sister! I’m a good kid!”
I never did.
Now that I’m older, I regret not having some fun with those who incorrectly assumed I was a teen mom. Sadly, I cared far too much about what people who had no importance in my life thought of me. I felt like I needed to defend myself. I did not. I wanted their approval even though it wouldn’t last. There would be someone else who’d walk by and judge me. I’d want their approval too, which would satisfy me until the next person came by and I needed theirs as well. Finding approval in what others think of you is one of the most exhausting pursuits. It will never be enough.
If I could go back in time, I would tell my teenage self to stop stressing about what people think. It’s not worth your time. In the future you’ll have harder battles to fight, ones that hit much closer to home. Start listening to the only voice that matters–God’s–for the approval that you’re designed to crave. Then I’d need to jump back to the present, look in the mirror and tell myself that I still need to stop stressing about what people think. His approval is the only remedy to the incessant need for people’s validation.
At the end of my life, only one voice will matter. Did I do what He wanted or did I do what others wanted? Did I find rest for my weary soul in His acceptance and love or did I run myself ragged pursuing the fickle love and acceptance of others? Life is different than back in high school, but the question still rings true: Whose voice am I listening to?