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  • Becky Ykema


Let's talk people pleasers. Oh boy. This has been a marker in my life and cost me oh so many dollars in therapy over the years! An incredible woman, author, advocate who I deeply respect, wrote a book years ago called Nice Girls Don't Change the World. When I picked up the book in my mid 20's and read the title, it was as if someone finally put words to what I needed to hear. A message that whispered somewhere quiet and deep in my heart, "you don't have to always be the nice girl!"

But what do you do when the world has conditioned you to be nice? To...

-draw in the lines

-play by the rules

-eat what's given to you

-be grateful for what you have

-say yes to the first boy who asks you to the dance

-not ask questions

-be agreeable

-not stir the waters

About a year ago, we were on a live music binge one evening, catching up on NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts. We tuned into the one and only Alicia Keys episode. She played the song below, a song neither of us had heard before, and when the final words of the chorus landed, it was like a prophet laid a truth bomb on the street and out of it burst all colors and clarity. My husband and I looked at each other with that wide-mouthed, tear-filled gawk of surprise. The song, her honesty, her sweet nice-girl melody teed us up for a truth bomb.

Gramercy Park

I've been trying to be everything I think you want me to be I've been doing all the things that I think you wanna see I've been trying to fulfill you with your every need Now you're falling for a person that's not even me Said you're falling for a person that's not even me

So here's the deal. I connect to these words so much. I have bent, conformed, pleased and "yes sir-ed" for most of my life, believing this to be a tangible bearing of my cross (Matthew 16:24-25). To deny myself, my personhood, the dreams, whims, quirks, holy-discontents within me was somehow holy, because it meant I was taking up my cross. I was losing my life in order to find it.

This is terrible theology.

I had it all wrong. You see, I let the accolades of a nice girl intermingle with a theology of becoming trampled on, fully denied, bending and contorting to what others want in order to be in the hand of God's will. No no.

Let's look at our Bible friend, poet, shepherd, king, David. David writes in Psalm 139:

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful, I know that full well."

David knew who he was. He could embrace it, even celebrate it. His knowing of who God made him to be and living confidently in that actually led him back to gratitude and worship of God. What if we could embrace that? What if we didn't try to be everything we think others want us to be, becoming versions of ourselves that people fall for that aren't even us?

For awhile Alicia Keys swore off makeup. She said no to one of the things that was conforming her to be some other thing desired by people that wasn't even her. Glossy, smooth, drenched, coated, skin aching to breath. I'm just curious what good might be brought forth in this world if we chose to press into our God-given quirkiness, wonder, delights, passion and imperfections in the remaining days we are gifted here. We might find ourselves a little less glamorous, a little more real, a little more known, a little more seen.

And now, a cover song.

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