The One Place We Forget to Look for Our True Self

My new book Loveable is available wherever books are sold! If you order it before this Friday, March 24, at 11pmCT, you will receive a FREE BONUS—The Year of Listening, Loving, and Living—a second full-length book I’ve written as a practical companion to Loveable. You can click here to find out more about how to get both! 

Today’s blog post is an excerpt from the companion book…

worthiness

Photo Credit: OlegK1986 (Bigstock)

The library books are overdue.

In our house, that’s no small concern. My kids are obsessed with books. When the monthly book order forms come home from school, they pour over them and circle the books they want, as if pouring over a toy catalogue and constructing a list for Santa. The book order forms are like Christmas, and the library is like Halloween, where a stranger who acts kind and seems really interested in them distributes free and seemingly infinite delights.

We go trick-or-booking frequently.

When we do, the kids want to gorge themselves. So, like Halloween candy, we’ve set a limit to the number of books they can consume—they are each allowed to check out ten books per visit. Yet, with three kids, that’s still a lot of books and a lot of dimes each day they’re overdue. So, realizing they’re overdue, I ask my wife where I can find them. She says she thinks they’re already in her car. I make a mental note to check the minivan before she leaves.

But I forget.

Now, the kids are home from school, they want to get their next library fix, and I want to minimize the damage to my wallet. We pile into my car, drive to my wife’s office, and dig through the debris field that is our minivan. Amidst the carnage I find a shoe that had gone missing, a desiccated apple core, and a weird purple puddle that was probably a crayon before the summer heat melted it into molten color.

But the books are nowhere to be found.

So we return her keys, clamber back into my car and head home, preparing to search the house with a fine-toothed comb. However, we don’t need the comb, because as soon as I open the door, I see the books immediately. Actually, I don’t see the books; I see the bag—a repurposed grocery bag that has seen better days—in which all of the books have been collected. They’ve been sitting there in the entryway all day. I’d walked past them countless times, probably even looking directly at them, but never actually seeing them. Having been told the treasures I was looking for were somewhere else, I’d failed to see what was right in front of me.

Our worthiness is like those library books.

On the outside, our bodies often feel like that old, repurposed library bag—banged up, worn, torn, frayed, and, as they say, a little worse for the wear. But on the inside. On the inside, each of us is full of worthy treasures. On the inside, each of us has a soul in which a spark of the Divine remains defiantly alight. This soul is our truest self, and it is brilliant. Matchless. On the inside, we are each our own unique and worthy version of loveable, we are each our own particular reason for delight. This is our truest identity. Yet, somewhere along the way, that identity goes missing, like a bunch of beloved library books.

Or, rather, like a bunch of beloved library books, we think it does.

Inevitably, we human beings encounter this thing called shame—it’s the message that who we are isn’t good enough, not loveable enough—and it comes to us in limitless guises. In the tired sigh of a weary parent. In the quiet loneliness of an empty cafeteria table. In a friend who quits talking to us or a schoolyard bully who starts talking at us. In the rebuke of a frustrated teacher. In the low grades on the report card or the high-pitched conflict in our parents’ marriage. It’s the message advertised on the billboards of a global culture telling us we still haven’t done enough or bought enough to be good enough. Eventually, this shame message becomes our core belief about who we are and, over time, like a bunch of treasured library books, we believe our true self has gone missing.

Until, one day, we realize we are overdue to find ourselves once again.

So, we start asking, Who am I? How can I find my place in the world? What am I here to do? Then, the voices of shame around us—and inside of us—send us on a wild goose chase. (I realize here in the metaphor I have equated my wife, who encouraged me to look for the library books in the minivan, with shame. All I can say is, it is not easy to be married to a writer.) Shame whispers, “You become loveable when you’re loved by the right people. You will be delightful when you delight everyone else. You are nothing until you do something. You find your worth by proving your worth. Your life will be magnificent when you’ve accomplished something magnificent.”

And so our lives become one long search of a chaotic minivan, as we scour the debris field of life for a self we can treasure. We search for our true self in the right relationship or the right crowd of people or a spectacular achievement. When we’re making progress in these areas of life, we begin to hope we’re good enough, and, when we experience setbacks, we become certain we are not. Then, we start searching again. Meanwhile, our true self is right under our nose, just waiting to be found.

Just waiting to be seen once again.

When we walked in the door and saw the bag of library books, my kids squealed with delight. What if the whole universe is squealing with delight about you? Friend, you may feel like a mess and your life might look like a mess, but you are also, already, the loveable person you’ve always been and the loveable person you are already becoming.

Recognize who you are.

Reveal yourself.

And resurrect your truest you.

One blessed week at a time.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Kelly is a licensed clinical psychologist and co-founder of Artisan Clinical Associates in Naperville, IL. He is also a writer and blogs regularly about the redemption of our personal, relational, and communal lives. Kelly is married, has three children, and enjoys learning from them how to be a kid again. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Patricia

    Oh how I loved today’s post!! It was exactly what I needed this morning as I sit in the mess of a life I’m living currently. It’s a fixable mess but it has rocked me to my core. However, believing in one’s loveableness gives us the strength to deal with life on life’s terms. I so appreciate this excerpt from your new book and can’t wait to read the rest. Blessings to you , Dr. Kelly.

    • Patricia, you’ve nailed it. What we ultimately discover is that when we are connected with our worthiness, we gain a new resilience within the storms of life. Well said, and may you increasingly know, you are loveable.

  • Shel Llee Flexman-Evans

    Oh, to be ready to let those delighted sounds rush from us when we find our happy treasured selves in the mess—-instead of clinging to the anger, frustration, and disbelief that we managed to lose ourselves yet again!

    What a gift it is to unwind ourselves as readily as we wind ourselves up.

    • Shel, as usual, you add a beautiful bit of wisdom to this. The seeing of ourselves once again isn’t a one-time event. It’s a losing and a finding and a losing and finding, until eventually, the periods in which we are found become more of the norm. Thank you for this.

  • Nancy Currie Wells

    This touched something in me that I’ve been looking for. I know it’s there. I can’t get to it, though. Such a beautiful post. The library story struck a chord with me because that’s what books and libraries are like to my family. My kids and I could spend hours and lose ourselves at the library. But lately, I’ve been disconnected and out of sorts and we are all suffering for it. It would do me good to read your books. Thank you, as always, for your writing, for what you bring to the world.

    • Nancy, I saw over on Twitter that you ordered the book. I hope it, in combination with the bonus book, will help to bring about a reconnection in you with everything that is truest and most loveable about you. It’s there. Keep looking. 😊

  • Ginny

    Thank you, thank you. I have your book and have begun reading it. When I came to the line “There is loveliness in ordinariness.” I had to stop because it brought such emotion to my heart. Several weeks ago I commented after one of your blogs about how I felt the Lord telling me He delighted in my ordinariness and you answered with affirmation that you thought that would be EXACTLY what He would say. And then there it was again in your book.
    Thank you for the companion book which I just downloaded and am anxious to read after I finish “Loveable”
    Finally, I am beginning to leave shame behind, the shame that whispers, “You become loveable when you’re loved by the right people. You will be delightful when you delight everyone else. You are nothing until you do something. You find your worth by proving your worth. Your life will be magnificent when you’ve accomplished something magnificent.” And oh, how I want to pass this truth onto others, but how do I do that when some people are so full of shame that they cannot even fathom the affirmations I try to give them?

    • Ginny, thank you for sharing this again. I think the fact that that particular idea keeps resonating with you so deeply means there is a wound there and something in need of healing. Good for you for moving toward that pain and the healing on the other side of it. And you ask a great question about passing it on to others. Later in the book, I talk about the voice of grace just keeps whispering within us, waiting for us to listen to it again. I think what we can do is be the voice of grace to others. We show them they are loveable and that is all we can do. The seeing is up to them.

      • Ginny

        Thank you. I look forward to finishing your book.