The Real Me

I sat in the circle dreading my turn to talk. The facilitator of our “team-building” activity had asked our group of eight to answer these questions: What do you love to do? If finances were unlimited and failure was unlikely, what would be your dream?

I started praying we’d run out of time before they came to me. But just in case I had to answer, I listened to everyone else describe their dreams, hoping to get ideas. One wanted to be the first female president of the United States (that would be Lysa). Another friend said she’d always wanted to sing in a Christian rock band (That would be Glynnis, P31 Woman Sr. Editor). I was in trouble.

Here I was 32-years-old (at the time) and didn’t know who I was or what my dreams were. Eventually everyone looked at me for a response. I stumbled over my words but finally admitted that I didn’t really know what I loved to do. I didn’t have a dream. I felt like a third-grader living in a grown woman’s body. Did I want to be a nurse, a school teacher, or a movie star?

Who was I? What did I like to do? Unfortunately, I’d never taken time to answer those questions. Instead, I had tried to be who others wanted or needed me to be. But honestly, I wasn’t very good at it. I often had this uneasy feeling in my heart and a sense of just not being happy. I was also a constant candidate for burn out.

Later the facilitator encouraged me to ask God what His dreams were for my life and to spend time getting to know myself better. She also suggested I read some books on personalities. I took her advice and began a process of getting to know the real “me” who’d gotten buried in the busyness of life and people-pleasing.

As I read books about different temperaments and personality traits, I started to recognize what I liked, strengths that came natural for me, and what I needed emotionally to encourage my heart. Instead of wanting to be like women I knew and admired, I realized there was a reason that I was who I was – with my passionate preferences and mixed bag of emotions. For the first time I felt like someone (the author of those books) understood me. I also sensed that God wanted to use the unique way He made me to shape my heart for ministry.

Isn’t it easy to completely neglect ourselves to meet the needs of everyone around us, and call it self-sacrifice? It sounds godly, but in doing so we risk shutting down a place in our soul where God’s dreams and gifts are waiting to be revealed. It’s not self-seeking but God-seeking to intentionally get to know and become the woman He created you to be.

Getting to know the woman God created me was a huge step in me becoming a good friend. Until then, I didn’t think I had anything to offer other women. But when I started getting to know the “real me” I discovered the gifts I had to offer in friendships and in ministry.

Okay, now I want to know more about you. How well do you know the real you? Have you ever taken time to think about what you like to do? How would you fill your free time if you had no fears, no insecurities and no doubts? (I know, you have no free time, but what if you did?) What are your dreams?

Please post your thoughts by clicking “comments” below. Can’t wait to hear YOUR heart!

About Renee

Renee Swope is a Word-lover, story-teller, heart-encourager and grace-needer. She's also a wife, mom, friend, daughter and author of A Confident Heart, a Retailers Choice Award winning book that became a best-seller and has been published in six languages, with over 150,000 copies sold. Renee is speaks around the country at women's events and and serves on the writing team for DaySpring’s inCourage blog. For twenty years, Renee served in leadership at Proverbs 31 Ministries and as former co-host of the ministry's radio program, “Everyday Life with Lysa & Renee.

Comments

  1. Mocha with Linda says:

    Much of this really resonated with me. I often struggle with being a people-pleaser. Part of that is because my personality and spiritual gifts fall in the caring/encouraging/ministering areas – I love to help people and do things for them.

    But just like many things, it’s a two-edged sword. It’s easy to feel like I have to “do” to earn people’s friendship. I have often been the one who takes the initiative more in friendships. That can get discouraging because sometimes I would like someone to be the one to call ME! Then I would know they like me for me, and not because I’m doing something for them.

    But I do truly love doing things for people. I love picking up a gift – a CD, a book, or whatever just because it reminds me of someone. I wish I had unlimited funds to do more of that.

    I feel like I’m pretty much where I’m supposed to be ministry-wise. Our church does a great job of evaluating folks and plugging them in to their best fit.

    Lots of interesting stuff to think about….

  2. Digging for Pearls says:

    Much of what you said Renee, as well as Linda resonated with me as well.

    I feel like I am in the process of getting to know the real me. I have always had a passion for writing and a desire to get published at some point in my life. Not to make a name for myself, but to be able to reach out to more women about the importance of following Christ radically.

    I also have insecurities as well. I have often through the years had different friendships that last for a time, but then get to the point where they don’t really talk to me anymore. I wonder, what is wrong with me? I honestly don’t know. I find it is hard at times to get too close because of that fear of being hurt again. Right now I’m dealing with I finally got to the point where I opened myself up, and developed a very close friendship, and she will soon be moving far away.

    Okay, enough of that. One area I really enjoy is being an encourager to others – writing notes, little gifts, etc. I pray that God somehow uses me in a mighty way to reach the hearts of women for Him.

    Well Renee, you asked for gut level honesty! 🙂

  3. Oh my goodness Renee…you are describing the journey I am on right now. Thanks for the hope you are offering my seeking heart. I want to share more, but it’s almost midnight. Tomorrow is a very busy day (Lysa and Holly are at my church and I’ll be all day with them – they arrived in Toronto safely in this big winter storm – God is good!)- but I want to respond more and be brave enough to let you see into my heart.
    Bless you,
    Joy

  4. Renee … as the others have said, I too, have been on this journey. Not knowing who I am, what I wanted, all the while knowing that God had a purpose for my life. I have been down several different roads in my life that have all led me back to God and His will for my life. I have finally felt a peace about what that will is … writing discipleship curriculum for mainly new Christians who have never even heard about the love of God. Now, I am just being patient for God to provide the right opportunity for my gifts to be used. I haven’t been patient enough to wait on God, and now, I am learning to be patient and wait.

    Since my personality is not exactly the “wait and see” type, this is a very difficult task for me. Thank you for your prayers as I wait!

  5. Wow…This is such a powerful post. It truly described much of how I have also felt in my heart for a long time. I too am a people pleaser and it sometimes makes me forget to please God first.. and what pleases Him most is being who He created me to be.
    Not pretending to be someone else to make others happy.

    He used this post to speak to me today because my Women’s Ministry director at my church asked me the same question on Thursday at lunch that your facilitator in your small group asked. I think I need to answer that question in my mind and heart too.

    Thank you for being so transparent and real and revealing your struggles so we can know we aren’t crazy and aren’t the only ones who are having these thoughts.

  6. Renee … as the others have said, I too, have been on this journey. Not knowing who I am, what I wanted, all the while knowing that God had a purpose for my life. I have been down several different roads in my life that have all led me back to God and His will for my life. I have finally felt a peace about what that will is … writing discipleship curriculum for mainly new Christians who have never even heard about the love of God. Now, I am just being patient for God to provide the right opportunity for my gifts to be used. I haven’t been patient enough to wait on God, and now, I am learning to be patient and wait.

    Since my personality is not exactly the “wait and see” type, this is a very difficult task for me. Thank you for your prayers as I wait!

  7. Up to this point in my life, I knew what my place in Christ was, I am a mother, and that is something I know I was called to be. While I’m still a mom and will be raising children for the next 18years or so, I feel like God is calling me to move forward into another area. My DH is studying right now to become an Army Chaplain. I know that a Chaplain’s wife has an important role in the minitry team as well. She may be many things, a speaker, an encourager, a mentor, a counselor and friend. I have never had a position of leadership, although I don’t feel entirely unqualified. I do feel like that is a stretch out of my comfort zone. I’m stretching into areas of writing and Bible study. But I’m not sure where God will be leading me next.

  8. Renee,
    Thanks so much for this post. I think that it will give a lot of women permission to discover their potential in God.
    I love completing personality inventories and spiritual gifts inventories. I think it’s fun! Although I am introverted, these tests always show that my gifts are in the areas of leadership and teaching. I also love writing. God has pulled me back from the arenas for the past few years, but I sense that He is pulling me back in again. It is exciting to see what we will do together!

  9. Heather@Mommymonk says:

    I sure wish we could all be a room together – face to face, just like your small group and see the moist eyes and the transparency here. I just want hug you ladies!

    I struggle with being a people pleaser and overcoming my insecurities too. But I have big dreams – I want to be a Bible teacher. I guess more than anything, I want to be used by God. I’m not sure right now if God wants me to use my gifts through speaking, writing or pursuing a PhD. And I’m not so patient in waiting for Him to make it clear.

    The thing I’m struggling with right now is the inevitable rejection that comes along with the speaking and writing ministries. It’s difficult to get started in these realms and it doesn’t happen overnight. I know God is calling me to persevere through this stage, but it hasn’t been easy for me.

    I think the most important thing is hearing God’s calling on each of our lives and following His lead. Step by step.

    Thanks for your vulnerability Renee and each of the ladies who’ve commented here – it’s so encouraging!

  10. Lisa B @ simply His says:

    Oh how I wish we could all be in a room together like Heather suggested. I would have no idea how to answer this question either.

    I would love to know what books were recommended to you on personality stuff that helped you. Most of the time I feel like a big flake. Most of the stuff I start, I don’t finish and I know that’s not pleasing to God. If I could just narrow down to the one thing God would have *me* to do, I think I’d finish a lot more.

    Thanks for your transparency. I can’t imagine being friends with Lysa or even in the same church as you ladies!

  11. Wow! This was amazing! Maybe you could recommend a couple of those books for some of us who are a little uncertain of what our gifts are. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Lisa B – Here are some great books to read –
    Personality Plus – Florence Littauer

    The Confident Woman – Annabell Gillham – changed my life!!

    Cativating by Stasi Eldridge is also very good. It doesn’t deal with personality types but it does deal with knowing who you are in Christ.

  13. It took hitting the hardest rock bottom I could find and being stripped of almost everything I found security in other than Jesus, to find the real me. Once I did, it wasn’t long until I was very proud to be Christy. I could see what God had done and is doing so clearly. It was clouded before. There are days it still gets clouded. I just recognize the storm brewing much earlier and know where to run for safety.

    I would love to run a retreat center for people in ministry. It would really just be an expansion of my home. I want to have a safe haven for people who are hurting either from a church crisis, personal crisis, or health issue. I want to provide a place for people in ministry to get away from it all when they couldn’t afford to any other way. Particulary those that are bivocational or in small churches or minsitries with very limited budgets. My husband and I were raised in bivocational ministry families. We have both served on staff at several churches. All of our close friends are ministers, ministry leaders, or missionaries. We just can’t get away from it. 🙂 God has placed these people in our lives for a reason. We love being able to minister to them as we can. That’s what I would be doing.

  14. Renee,
    I have always love to entertain. When I was a young girl I would dress up as a little old lady and make my mom’s friends laugh . Then as a teenager I did some acting and I always dreamed of going to NYC to be an actess on Broadway. I’m not sure when my dream began to fade, I guess life and choices just got in the way.

    But God never forget my dream . How could He for He is the one who placed it there in my heart. He has begun to open doors for me to perform for groups of women portraying women of the bible. I also portray “Jenny” a modern day woman who kept a serect, her abortion, hidden for years. I use that when our team from the crisis pregnancy center(where I volunteer)are invited to share our stories at women functions.

    I am always amazed how God uses my gift to help women feel His presence.

    Renee, I love reading your post because you are so honest and transparent. I remember seeing you at the the conference in 2007. I thought to myself “now there is a lady who’s got it ALL together.” Thank you for letting us see you, you so encourage me.

  15. Renee,
    I have always love to entertain. When I was a young girl I would dress up as a little old lady and make my mom’s friends laugh . Then as a teenager I did some acting and I always dreamed of going to NYC to be an actess on Broadway. I’m not sure when my dream began to fade, I guess life and choices just got in the way.

    But God never forget my dream . How could He for He is the one who placed it there in my heart. He has begun to open doors for me to perform for groups of women portraying women of the bible. I also portray “Jenny” a modern day woman who kept a serect, her abortion, hidden for years. I use that when our team from the crisis pregnancy center(where I volunteer)are invited to share our stories at women functions.

    I am always amazed how God uses my gift to help women feel His presence.

    Renee, I love reading your post because you are so honest and transparent. I remember seeing you at the the conference in 2007. I thought to myself “now there is a lady who’s got it ALL together.” Thank you for letting us see you, you so encourage me.

  16. It was so great to read these comments. I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, and I am 30. I too, have started and not finished projects, why is that? It’s interesting that you are asking if I know the real me, and frankly I don’t. I spend my time being a mom, wife and employee, volunteer that I rarely sit back and ask that question to myself. This year, I have gradually tried to unload some of these responsibilities so our family is healthier. After resigning from the PTA Board and a sports Board (yes I did both w/ 3 kids, crazy, right), I am finding that God is opening doors for me.

    I had been asking God to reveal what I can do for busy women, and he answered me just last week. I am coordinating a Women’s Book Club Blog for busy women. I am hoping to do an online Bible Study Next.

    If funds were unlimited, I would stay home with my children and write.

  17. WOW! Renee, awesome post but also some awesome responses in here too…. lots to think about! If I had unlimited funds, it would definitely be a ministry of some sort – probably like the Kleenex commercial! 🙂 I love to listen to and read people’s stories.

  18. I was looking at your questions trying to answer them in my mind. I happened to look over at your favorite quote and it was exactly what I was thinking. I started a blog a week ago in the hopes that I might find who I am somewhere along the way.

  19. I enjoyed your post and all the comments. I think being a mom has helped me learn more about the real me than I anticipated. You have to really know what you believe and feel to answer your child’s questions and teach them what you think is important. Nothing shines a light on a habit or characteristic you wish you did not have than seeing it mirrored in your child.

    Last year, we did “Finding Your Place in Ministry,” at our church. It was an enlightening tool to examine how your personality interacts with your spritual gifts, God-given abilities, your passion, and your life experiences.

    One of my biggest dreams is to teach internet/personal safety programs to teens, tweens, and children. My passion for writing has also been rekindled through Lysa’s blog. I would also love to encourage others through writing.

    Thanks for your honest and heartfelt posts.

  20. I am doing what God has called me to do. We are missionaries on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ. I get to do fun skits, share funny stories several times a year with our staff wives. (Usually about 100.) I am speaking in a month to our parents at school on how to stay connected as a family.

    It has been a long road, but gradually the Lord is opening up doors for me to use my gift of public speaking, story telling.
    I haven’t really ever been paralyzed by being a people pleaser, though I do want people to like me! It’s more that I needed to grow in my walk with the Lord, refine my rough edges. Though I am nowhere near where I need to be. The Lord has just been gracious enough to allow me to share what He has done in my life.

  21. Lisa B @ simply His says:

    Thanks Renee for using my name in your post today “What’s Wrong with ME?” It got my attention and reminded me to check the comments here — yep, I’d forgotten to check back 🙂

    Thanks Christy for listing the books. I found 2 of them on Paperback Swap (Love that site!) and have them on order. Funny, but I already have Captivating — I just have to read it now 😀

  22. I’m glad I couldn’t sleep tonight and I’m glad you provided the links to these older posts. 🙂

    I had never thought of reading books on personality before to get to know myself better. I admit I have spent so much time not liking who I am…which is just so not good because God did create me as I am for His purposes, to bring Him glory.

    I need to trust Him at all times…and that is even in who He has made me to be.

    Right now I don’t really know what my dreams are…and I think part of that is tied into fear of failure. Hmmmmmm….much to think on as I drift off to sleep.

    Okay…my late evening cup of coffee is now wearing off. 🙂 I will have to come back to this post to get the personality books someone listed in the comments.

    Goodnight, Renee! Still praying for you as you write your book!

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