A few years ago, I asked my coworker how to hide photos of myself on Facebook. She showed me how and returned to her desk. A few minutes later, she looked up from her computer and seemed startled: Whitney, what are you doing? she asked as she watched me hide every album I had from college.
Unashamedly, I told her I was hiding all of the pictures from my drinking days because the new guy I was dating seemed super mature and like he had his life together. He's pretty serious about his faith, I told her as I continued to hide the albums, I'm not sure I'm ready for him to see these pictures.
She told me this wasn't probably a good idea. If he can't accept you for who you are, maybe you shouldn't be dating him.
I told her she was right. And then I hid the rest of the albums.
I wish I could go back to that day and tell myself: hey, you don't have to hide anything. Who you are is who you are. And if you think you made mistakes, that's OK. You don't have to hide them. That's grace! The man you marry will accept you for the good and the bad. Love is not conditional.
If a relationship feels conditional, it probably isn't healthy. You don't have to perform for love. The moment you hear yourself think I am not smart [pretty, funny, obedient...] enough for him, is the moment you stop and 180. It's the moment you remind yourself you are enough and vow never to utter those words again.
Years ago, I was in a relationship and I kept telling my sister, "I am afraid I am going to mess it up." Because I really liked him. And I felt like he was great. And I feared he might be too great and I'd mess it up. Essentially, I feared he was too great for me. She'd constantly remind me that I couldn't mess it up.
When it's the guy you're supposed to end up with, you don't mess it up. He doesn't walk away when you're too noisy or say the wrong thing or are not together enough. Because when it's right, it will be right.
I wish I could say I had learned this lesson the easy way, but instead, I've sat in relationships afraid to be the full version of myself too many times. Too afraid to admit I did have an opinion on where we went to dinner. Too scared to speak up when I wanted something more - for fear I might be too demanding. Too afraid to admit when I was frustrated or mad - for fear I'd be perceived as unreasonable.
What I've learned is that we don't have to be small.
It's OK to have a voice and an opinion. It's OK to be the full version of ourselves - in fact - it's better. When you meet the guy you're supposed to be with, he will make you even more of yourself - he won't make you feel like you should be less of this or more of that. He will encourage you to be the full version of you. And together, as one, you will be even better.