I know what I want to be when I grow up
Growing up, I was always told I could be anything I want to be. As a millennial, that was what our parents told us, our teachers told us, and what society told us.
Work hard and you can be anything you want to be.
And I believed it! I still do in fact.
I’m 33 years old and in my working life, I’ve worked in college athletics. I’ve been on staff at a church. I’ve started and built my own business. All three of those are incredibly unique things that I’ve been able to do at a relatively young age.
On top of those, I’ve been able to be a husband, a dad, a youth leader, and a business mentor.
These are all things I wanted to be growing up. Some of them have been really hard. Some have come pretty naturally. But it’s through all these other things that I learned what I want to be more than anything else:
I just want to be me.
Back in high school, some friends gave me the nickname SuperJon. It started as a joke but it ended up sticking in a way that weird high school nicknames stick. It stuck so much that my high school girlfriend got me a Superman t-shirt with SuperJon across the back because that’s the type of thing you do in Myrtle Beach in high school.
Over time, “SuperJon” developed into a persona. It was a part of me I channeled when I needed it. SuperJon was the loud, outgoing, energetic side that people saw in public. It was also the first side of me most people met.
What I came to realize was that SuperJon was my way of putting up a barrier and keeping people from knowing the real me. It was a persona there for my protection. When I thought people couldn’t handle the real Jonathan, I’d tone that side of things down and tap into SuperJon.
Eventually I realized this shape shifting was exhausting.
A few months back I decided I was too tired to keep up the back and forth. For better or worse, I was going to give people the real Jonathan and they could determine what they wanted to do with it.
The problem is I didn’t even know who the real Jonathan was anymore. I’d spent half my life bouncing between these different personas being who each person I was around needed me to be that I didn’t know what was real and what was a mask anymore.
There was one day last fall that I was talking to a counselor of mine and she looked at me with this really compassionate looking on her face and asked, “Do you even know who the real Jonathan is anymore?”
Before I could even answer I had little balls of water in the corner of my eyes. I think they’re called tears but I’m not 100% sure because SuperJon never felt those types of things.
Since that conversation I’ve had to be real honest with myself. I’ve had to force myself to feel things I otherwise would’ve hidden or masked.
And through it all, here’s what I’ve learned:
1. Learning who you are and being true to yourself is really, really hard. I’m the only person on the planet who knows every bad thing I’ve ever thought or done. Balancing that with the truth of who God created to me feels impossible to do at times.
2. Being true to yourself will mean some people won’t like you. This was one of the harder parts for me to grasp. I’ve always put up this front that I didn’t care if people liked me, but it was to mask the fact I really, really hoped people would.
3. Abandoning who God created me to be in order to gain love, get friends, and be accepted only led to surface level relationships and a lot of empty desired. Meanwhile, that creator – the one who would always love me and be there for me no matter what – was there all along just waiting for me to see myself in the same way he sees me.
This entire video has been about me and my experience, but my guess is you’ve likely experienced these things in similar ways. You might have masked it differently than I have, and you might be at a different point along the journey, but this shape shifting, or code switching, happens to all of us at one point or another.
If you’re dealing with this, here’s what I want you to know:
If you can fight through the insecurities and have the stamina to keep digging through the walls you’ve built up, you’ll find a person who was intricately and wonderfully made
You’ll learn that who you are – with all your flaws, defects, and issues – is already loved by someone who will never, ever stop loving you. Someone who loved you even before you had the chance to love yourself.
He’s been there all along.
And if we’re willing to do the work, he’s going to be there when we get back to who we really are.
Our world needs the version of you he created you to be, not the B-rate version you’ve fashioned just to get by.
It’s going to be hard, but it’s going to be worth it.
Say your prayers and take your vitamins.
Have a nice week!