Am I the Only One?

Saturday, April 28, 2012 7:12 am

Today I'm preparing to go to a women's event. I don't even know how to describe it. I was invited by someone I've met and shared a lunch with but don't know well. The group of women (I don't know how many, and I don't know any of them) will meet at her home. We will watch a webcast and, I suppose, talk about it. There will be brunch involved. We're all supposed to bring something to share for the brunch. I'm taking a loaf of strawberry bread that Rachel made.

I'm feeling very insecure about it. Not an unusual experience for me. I already feel sort of dorky about going to be in a room with a bunch of women I don't know. I always feel insecure and inadequate in situations like that. I worry that they won't like the bread or that it's an inadequate offering or that it's wrong of me to take something that Rachel made rather than making something myself. I'm nervous that I won't be dressed right. I worry that they'll judge me because of my car. I'm afraid they'll all know each other — they at least all know the hostess, because she invited them all — and I'll feel left out. I'm afraid that they'll see how unspiritual I am and I'll feel uncomfortable because they'll talk in the religious platitudes that drive me crazy. I'm afraid nobody will like me.

I don't want to be the needy one in the group. I want to be the strong and helpful and accomplished one. I want friends, but I want to be sought, rather than to be seeking. Always. I want people to want to be my friend. I guess this is the consequence of a friendship that wasn't really. When I reach out to people, even if they respond positively, I feel like they're just humoring me and I'm imposing on them. How silly is that? How many other women feel that way?


Image by Benjamin Earwicker
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I wrote the words above in my journal on Saturday morning as I was preparing to go to an event that I appreciated so much being invited to, but was so afraid of attending. A writer I know published a blog post recently about how women often hurt each other. I know I've done it to others, and I've felt it myself. The fear of rejection is so strong that it keeps many of us hiding behind carefully constructed walls. We pretend that we have everything under control, that all is well, even when it's not. (And, truth be told, even in the most fabulous life — and I acknowledge that mine is pretty great — sometimes things are out of control, not well.) The fear of rejection is so powerful sometimes. Like today, when before I left the house to go to this get together I said goodbye to my family with the old (probably apocryphal) gladiator's phrase: We who are about to die salute you. I was joking, of course. Sort of.

Of course, the experience was not nearly as awful as I feared it might be. The women were kind and friendly. There were only seven of us, so it wasn't a scary-big group. We each shared a little about who we are and what we do. And there were flashes of transparency, like when someone admitted that she felt intimidated by the rest of us. All of us seem to be in transitional phases to one extent or another, feeling a little off balance, a little vulnerable. At the end, we traded email addresses and blog URLs and talked about staying in touch.

Whether we do or not, I'm glad I went. I still wonder if there's someone out there who'll want to be my friend — the kind of friend I can be real with and feel safe. The kind of friend I've thought I had in the past (but found out I was wrong and not safe at all). The kind of friend that I want to be to others. I tell myself that it's busy schedules that make connecting so difficult, and that it's not just that I'm fundamentally unlikeable and unworthy of friendship. Sometimes, though, I wonder.

What I thought about as I left the event, what I thought about throughout the rest of the day, is the very real possibility that I'm not the only one who feels inadequate and unlovely, who's hoping that even at this stage of my life it's possible to find a true friend. I'm not looking for someone who thinks I'm fabulous, but someone who sees that I'm not, and likes me anyway.

Regardless, I'm at a place in my life where I'm just not willing to play pretend anymore. If there's a chance that there are others out there who are feeling the same, maybe they're waiting, too, for somebody to give them permission to be real. As brutally risky as it feels to me, I've decided that, as best I can, I'll go first.

Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . .
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Are You Asking the Wrong Way?

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There's a body of literature out there (magazine articles, scholarly reports, books) examining the differences between the ways women and men communicate. Various materials I've read say that women tend to be more tentative and even apologetic when stating their opinions or asking for things. Some say that this communication style arises at least in part from women's generally stronger emphasis on relationships over results, but most seem to agree that it can result in women being less likely to get what they want.

Recently Stepcase Lifehack published a guest post on this topic. The post, titled “How Not to Ask,” is an excerpt from a book called  Knowing Your Value: Women, Money, and Getting What You’re Worth, by Mika Brzezinski (an MSNBC anchor and television personality). The post focuses on one narrow area: how women ask for raises or promotions in the workplace. The concepts discussed, though, apply to pretty much any situation. The premise is that in general (of course there are exceptions to every rule) women are more “emotional” and less direct than men about asking for what they want.

I encourage you to read the post (by clicking either on its title above or here). I found the post intriguing and probably will read the book. If you're a woman, do you recognize your asking style in any of the examples cited in the post? Do you think it matters? I'm interested to learn what you think about the article.

I Was Just Thinking . . .
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6 Blogs You Should Be Reading

One of the great things about the internet is accessibility to information. Anyone with a computer (or a smart phone or a tablet) and an internet connection can log on and find or share info on any subject in the world. Countless people have taken advantage of that opportunity by launching blogs on every topic and from every perspective imaginable. The upside: whatever you're interested in, there's a blog (or two or twenty) that covers it. The downside: wading through the plethora of blogs on any given topic can be an overwhelming task. Many of the blogs you'll find are badly written, full of useless (or just plain wrong) information, and/or little more than a sales pitch for the author's product or services.

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I could easily spend all day, every day, reading blogs. My RSS reader currently lists subscriptions to over 100 blogs. Thankfully, most of them don't post daily. I usually try to spend no more than 30 minutes daily scanning the titles in my reader and reading the posts that interest me.

Of the 100+ blogs in my reader, there are some that I make a point of reading almost daily. Here are a few blogs that I recommend you consider subscribing to:

  • Michael Hyatt's Intentional Leadership. If you're not in a formal leadership position, please don't assume this blog has nothing of interest to you. Chairman and former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers Michael Hyatt is a bestselling author and speaker who blogs on topics of interest to most of us, including productivity, social media, and life management. I've found his posts to be insightful, inspiring, and life-enhancing. I particularly enjoy when he shares the technology and systems that he uses in managing his busy life. It was on this blog that I was first introduced to Evernote and several other apps that form the foundation of my efforts to get my life under control. In addition to his written posts, Michael also produces weekly podcasts that are well done and informative.
  • Jeff Goins Writer. Jeff Goins is one of the most generous and encouraging bloggers on the ‘net. Although aimed primarily at writers and other creative types, his blog contains much of interest and value to people who don't think of themselves as creative. Jeff encourages his readers to pursue their dreams and openly shares what he knows about how to do so. If I could read only two blogs daily, the two would be Jeff's and Michael Hyatt's.
  • Stepcase Lifehack. If I could add a third blog to my daily reading, this would be it. Billing itself as “your daily digest on productivity and life improvements,” Lifehack publishes several short posts each day on a variety of life-enhancing topics in the categories of communication, lifestyle, management, money, productivity, and technology. The posts generally are either inspirational or practical–or both, usually including truly useful tips that you can put to use immediately to improve your life. Unlike the first two recommended blogs, Lifehack is not the work of a single writer. Instead, the Lifehack directors seek contributions from writers from a broad spectrum of specialties and perspectives. I'm proud to be one of their newest contributors, but I was a devoted reader long before I began writing for them.
  • Mary DeMuth's Live Uncaged. Multi-published author Mary DeMuth is a determined, devoted, and effective encourager. On her Facebook page, Mary says that she writes “so people don't feel alone anymore.” That purpose is reflected in her honest sharing of lessons that she's learned (and is learning) from life. Many times I've found myself nodding (and sometimes crying) as I've read her posts, grateful to find encouragement there from the fact that there are others who share my struggles. If you're a writer, you'll benefit from her posts on the writing life.
  • Lowering the Bar. This one is just for fun. Written by a practicing attorney, this blog offers hilarious commentary on court cases and legal escapades that will having you shaking your head at people's odd and sometimes downright stupid behavior. Just reading the author's bio and “comical yet binding disclaimer” pages will have you laughing out loud. I read this blog when I need a laugh, and it never disappoints.
  • Time Management Ninja. Just what it sounds like–this blog is a treasure trove of useful tips on time management. Written by Craig Jarrow and his talented guest posters, this blog's stated purpose is to help you “win the battle against wasted time, disorganization, and all other things evil.” Unless your life is always quiet, calm, and under control, you will find valuable information here.

I read and enjoy many great blogs, but these are some of my favorites. (Check my blog's right-hand sidebar for links to others.) I encourage you to check them out; then come back and let me know what you think. In the meantime, what blogs do you read regularly? What motivates you to subscribe to a blog (or at least return to it to read more)? Please share your recommendations in the comments below.


I Was Just Thinking . . .
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Step Outside – Guest Post by Author Staci Stallings – & Free Kindle Book

I'm pleased to welcome author Staci Stallings to share her thoughts with the readers of I Was Just Thinking . . . . I hope you enjoy Staci's encouraging words — and take advantage of the opportunity to pick up a free e-book version of her book, Deep in the Heart, from Amazon (2 days only — see details at the end of this post)

It’s truly amazing to me how God puts certain understandings in my path. I think I see clearly what He’s doing, what He’s done, and then click, a new piece falls in and “Wow!”

Sometimes, there just is no other word for it.

In a sermon I once heard, Dr. Lee A. Simpson related the story of Abram. This was a man who God had given a promise to. God’s promise was that Abram would be the father of many nations, but as Abram got older, he looked around, and this thing that God had promised just was not happening. And Abram began to question God and question the promise. It began to look to Abram like God just didn’t know or understand how things worked down here on Earth.

So Abram went into his tent, and he started praying and explaining to God that youth had passed him by. He was no longer a young man. In fact, he was old, and so was his wife, and this whole father of nations business was just not happening the way Abram had thought it would when God promised him this.

How many of you have been there? I know I have. “God, I thought You were going to use my writing to touch other people’s lives. What’s up with that? I feel like I sit here and I do all of this stuff, and what’s it even accomplishing? Is it helping anybody? Because frankly, I don’t see it. I don’t see Your plan. I don’t see You in this like I thought I would.”

Then (I love this), God said two words to Abram. “Step outside.”

You see, Abram was in his tent, he was in his own little world. In that tent he was safe. He probably had his bowl right by his favorite mat—you know, like that glass you have right by your favorite chair. He probably had all of his little knick-knacks just so and his schedule down pat. And then God came and said, “Step outside.”

God tells all of us, “Step outside YOUR comfort zone. Step outside YOUR plans. Step outside what YOU think is possible, and when you do, you will step into MY world.”

As Abram came out of that tent of his own limited experiences, his own limited vision, his own limited perspective, he saw the stars above him, and God said, “Count them.”

Understand, Abram had been used to praying in his tent. What had he been counting there? Tent wires? He didn’t think about what was outside because from inside his tent, he couldn't see outside. So the stars outside that tent were amazing to behold. “Lord, if I could count them, they would number as the stars.”

And here's something really cool. Did you know that if you go outside at night and hold a dime out in front of you at arm's length, you will block from your sight (if you could see them with the naked eye) 15 million stars? And that's one dime's worth!

In fact, the lesson then went on that God wanted Abram not to just count the stars that he could see but those that he couldn't see as well. The truth is there are so many more stars than even the ones we can see. As Dr. Simpson says, “God wants you to count the stars you can see, and the ones you can only imagine…”

Ah, that’s beautiful. Count the stars you can only imagine.

That's how many blessings God has in store for you. For He made the same promise to you.

Ephesians 3:20 says it like this:

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.”

So my question to you is this: Are you inside that tent? Are you comfortable where you are in the knowledge that you have, or are you ready to come when God calls you to step outside?

When you do, I challenge you to count the stars—your blessings, those things God has put into your life to bring His light and His love to a darkened world through you. And then, breathe, and begin to also count the stars that you cannot see.
Step outside…. You will be amazed!
Staci Stallings, the author of this article, is a Contemporary Christian author and the founder of Grace & Faith Author Connection. Staci has a special surprise for you today and tomorrow only…


April 18 & 19, Staci's novel:
Deep in the Heart


“This is more than a romance. The author cuts straight to the heart of God–love. God is love. Even through unexpected tragedies. And we can overcome evil with good–by His love.”

–Betty Anne Bantz


Can Keith defy the most powerful men in Texas to follow his heart?
Available as a free download from Amazon!
Connect with Staci on Facebook
“Like” Staci on FB to find out about new books.
Follow on Twitter @StaciStallings

Thanks to Staci for sharing these truly encouraging words. Have you been feeling a tug to “step outside” of your own comfort zone? Will counting your “stars” help give you the courage to take that first step?


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New, Old, and Different – Why What You Do Still Counts

Do you ever feel like giving up?

I know. Dumb question. Everybody feels that way sometimes. We all have barriers that make achieving our goals or dreams seem difficult some days, impossible other days. Whatever it is we want to accomplish, we can be fairly certain that we'll run up against challenges that wear us out, leaving us sometimes feeling discouraged.

One of the barriers I have to deal with in my writing is the feeling that everything I want to say has already been said, and better than I can say it. That came up this week. I need to get another post written for a blog that I contribute to. I struggle to come up with fresh ideas. An idea came to me of a topic to write on, and I was turning it around in my mind, thinking through what I wanted to say. Before I could get it written, though, that blog's daily email hit my inbox, and the day's post was on a topic very similar to what I had in mind. And the writer did a pretty good job of covering it.


It threw me a bit. Maybe I was just tired, or hungry, or hormonal, but I spent some time that afternoon feeling like, “What's the point of trying?”

I've felt that way before. I've only recently been admitting out loud that I'm working on writing my first novel. Something I've wanted to do for years. But in the past, every time I'd start, I'd get discouraged, because I'd start thinking about all the writers whose work I admire, and I'd conclude that I can't possibly write like them, so why try? Or I'd read another novel that had basically the same story concept as I was thinking about.


What I want to do has already been done. If I can't come up with a new idea, what's the point?

The fact is, everything has already been written. But I realized a couple of things that helped me get over my discouragement this week:

First, even though everything's already been written, everybody hasn't read it yet.

Second, even though it's all been said before, nobody will say it quite like me.

These two truths are why so many new books get published every year, why so many new movies come out every year, and new TV shows go on the air. Believe it or not, there still are lots of people who haven't yet read The Hunger Games or Twilight or even the Harry Potter books. And some people never will. So there's still room for stories that explore the same themes in a different way, using different characters in a different setting. Even though every story has been told already, most multiple times and multiple different ways, there still are people who haven't seen the “old” ones. And even those who have seen the old ones want to see another version of the same story. People who like romance novels read lots of romance novels. Every romance novel tells the same story, but they keep selling because there's something in our hearts that wants to hear that story over and over again. Every action adventure movie has the same basic plot, but we keep buying tickets because we like the thrill of vicariously experiencing adventure.

When I put my blog posts out there, or when I write my novel, I'm writing for a different audience than the people who've read other people's versions of similar messages. There are people who read my “stuff” who haven't ever read the other “stuff.”

And even if I'm covering the same topic, or a similar plot line, what I write will be different because I am different. My point of view is different, because my background and experiences are different. I will choose different words to say what's been said before. I will come at it from a slightly different angle.

When I get discouraged, I can remind myself that, first, it's true — everything has been said. The writer of Ecclesiastes said centuries ago that there is nothing new under the sun. But the fact that somebody else has already said what I want to say doesn't mean that I shouldn't say it too. Some things bear repeating. So even if what I want to say has been said before, I can still say it. I'll say it to my different audience, using my different words, my different style. And it'll be okay.

If you're a writer (current or wannabe) or speaker or communicator of any kind, the same is true for you. No matter how many other people are out there saying the things you want to say, your voice is different. Your voice is needed.

Whether you're a writer or not, what barriers stand between you and the things you dream of doing? How do you encourage yourself to keep trying? I'd like to hear from you. Maybe we can encourage each other.

I Was Just Thinking . . .
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