You Have Nothing to Prove

Nothing to Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard
Jennie Allen

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“The constant feeling that no matter how hard I try, I cannot be enough.”

You know a book has the potential to really wreck you, when you are looking at the cover already questioning the idea that is possible to NOT try so hard. This idea is so contrary to what I so often think and believe. I’m always trying to figure out ways that I can try harder. It’s in my nature. It’s who I am. Simultaneously, it plagues who I am and keeps who I am from actually living.

“I am not ________ enough.”

I remember uncovering this at my college ministry’s winter conference, Epic Anthology, my freshman year of college. The more I reflected on my life long walk with God, I realized how so much of my story was written with these words.

I remember sharing this visual as a youth leader, literally unpeeling the sticky notes of all of the traits I so easily grasped for and eventually revealing that I am actually not enough. In sending this message to teenagers who probably held some sort of idea that I had it all together, and to a group that I was constantly trying to prove my enough-ness to, I experienced the power in being transparent in my journey of letting Jesus be my “enough.”

“We strive to be seen, to be known, to matter.”

This could hold no more relevance to what I continue to struggle with. In my real life career, in my writing endeavors and passions, and in my relationships/friendships – I want to be seen, to be known, and to be matter. And, when I feel like any of these tenants are withering their way out of my hands, I feel a low grade anxiety that fizzles into panic the longer that I let it fester.

“Jesus is better than happy stories that work out perfectly.”

From my lengthiest memories dating back to childhood, I always felt like the stories that played out in my life fell short of a happy story that worked out perfectly. Although I got by, this falling short of perfection that my life seemed to have continued to nag at me. Why didn’t I have that picture perfect best friend that I could confide my adolescent years in? Why didn’t I have that picture perfect ugly duckling turning into beautiful swan story by the end of my high school years?

What I continue to see time and time again, is that I don’t need to have that picture perfect story. I don’t need to have a happy story where everything works out perfectly, because Jesus is better than all of that.

This is a truth that I am speaking to myself in depth today, as I battle what the future holds in these next months for Josh and I. This is a truth relevant to me each day as I wake up and wonder what the day will hold as a teacher – it certainly hasn’t been a perfect story working out perfectly like I had imagined. And you know what? That’s okay.

But, that’s so so so so so hard to believe.

This book spoke to me in ways that I am constantly trying to speak to myself.

Jennie’s words are the words of truth that myself and countless other people throughout the course of my life have been trying to tell me.

It was incredibly life-giving to have a book speak to me in a way of prose that my heart needed, and in a style that my literary brain is drawn to and appeals to.

The idea that I am not enough is indeed crushing at first, but freeing in my exploration of it. Jennie repeats the message of Jesus’ enough-ness on every page of the book, poignantly pointing to the cross with every word she speaks. Jesus is enough, so we don’t have to be.

This book is for the girl sitting on the sidelines, feeling invisible. It’s for the girl striving to be her best, but never actually being THE best at anything. It’s for the girl constantly trying to do better and be better, but never getting noticed. It’s for the man who feels like he doesn’t have enough ______ to support his family and be the leader, strength, and head that he is called to be. It’s for all of us who are clamoring to be heard, seen, recognized, significant, known — to matter.

I know this because I am this person. And if you’re being honest, you are probably this person too. 


I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers  book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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O is for Opinion

The opinion of others is something that plagues me. For many years, I’ve allowed the opinion of others to control me, dictate my self worth, and determine my moods. I’ve given over my power and agency to others’ opinions. And for that, my mental health has suffered and my joy has been hastily given away.

I allow others’ opinions of me take over my own opinions of myself. I let their views on who I am dictate how I see myself. If they think that I’m inadequate, invisible, or insignificant, I begin to see myself in that way too. If they see that I’m outstanding, exceeding their expectations, and amazing, I begin to see myself in that way too. It truly is a double edged sword.

The cousin to opinion is comparison. I compare the opinions that people have of another person to be in direct link to me. If she is getting all the attention and I’m not, that must mean that she is worthy of the attention and I’m not. If they see her to be impressive and awesome, they must not be seeing me that way either.

In reality, a lot of what I perceive to be others opinions may not even be true. And, even if it is, how much does it really matter? Josh is a king at not caring about the opinion of others.

If they don’t matter, then their opinion doesn’t matter.  – Joshua Lee

At first, I thought that this was a bit harsh. Everybody matters, at least to me. 😉 But, this isn’t about anybody’s worth or value. This is about specific people’s influence over my life. I can’t walk through life disregarding every single person’s opinion. I don’t think that’s wise or responsible. However, I can’t walk through life regarding and giving whim to every single person’s opinion, either.

When evaluating another person’s opinion, it’s important to ask myself these questions:
  1. Are they in my inner circle? There are few people in my inner circle, to whom I would really allow to help shape and guide the bigger decisions in my life. These are people that know me deeply and fully. These are wise people who want the best for me and are truly in my corner.
  2. Is the opinion real or assumed? It’s easy for me to think that “everyone” has a poor opinion of me when the compliments and affirmation run dry. It’s easy to think that nobody likes me or that everybody hates me when I receive small criticisms or feedback. Yet, I can only go off of what people say to me. I can’t assume the opinion of a large group of people, or project one piece of feedback onto a whole crowd of people.
  3. This doesn’t say anything about my worth. This isn’t a question, but it’s a statement. When somebody else’s opinion of me is confirmed as reality (which, let’s face it, it rarely is…because nobody is criticizing or critiquing me nearly as much as I assume), it doesn’t say anything about my worth, value, beauty, gifts, or identity. Period. Case closed.

G is for Generations

G is for the generation of teachers that came before me. They have been more than just mentors and coworkers. Most importantly, they have taught me: 

Why Every 20-something Needs Friends That Are 40-something

I didn’t realize that I had magically warped into an adult until I had my first grown up job and was given an equivalent job description to somebody who could’ve been my own first grade teacher. All of the sudden, the playing field was even and I was considered a peer to the people who very well could have raised, taught, and babysat me.

I didn’t know how to handle this new dynamic. Should I be perpetually intimidated? Do I try to act  just as experienced as them? What do I do with my hands?

Yet, the beauty of a 40-something friend is that they don’t freaking care. They don’t care what I do with my hands or what I think of them or if anybody hates them. They are unashamedly themselves and want me to be the same. They aren’t competing or comparing or keeping up.

I admire that. Because, in many ways, that is the exact opposite of who I am. I care, way too much. I care about what people think about me, and how many people hate me, and how I’m stacking up to everyone else around me.

The ease at which they live their lives shows me what is possible. It is possible to not keep track of what everyone thinks of me. It is possible to not care that somebody is mad, and it’s possible to not take everything so dang seriously. It’s also possible to not take myself so dang seriously.

The decades of life experience that they have has shown me more of who I am, who I can be, and who I will be. These friends and mentors have seen me at my best and my worst. They’ve seen me acting like a capable adult, and also a blithering, crying millennial who just can’t even. They take it all in stride and help me recognize that some days are hard, and that’s just how life goes.

There seems to be comfort in being 40-something. I’m not saying their lives aren’t chaotic, they are. With their adolescent kids causing raucous through their homes and school hallways, they have their fair share of stress. But, I am saying that as far as it comes to being oneself, owning one’s inner strength, and knowing who you are and what you want – they seem to have found comfort in finding that for themselves. And, in each day, I am finding that for myself, too. 

What has shocked me the most is the blessing of the friendship that the decades of life that these coworkers possess have afforded me. Even though I still feel like just a kid to them, never once have they treated me like one. If anything, these people have challenged me to see more in myself and value myself way more than I do. I am forever grateful for the years spent learning alongside them, both as coworkers, and as human beings.

I’ll tuck these life lessons that I gained from them deeply in my heart. Not because they decided that they needed to impart life lessons upon me, but because I simply gained these lessons by watching them.

They may see me as the young, cool, and hip teacher… But, really, I hope that one day I’ll grow up to be as cool as them. Thank you, J & J, for being the first to be these people to me…even for just a short time. 

C is for Change

In the month of February, I’m challenging myself to write more (everyday), share more, and risk more. Welcome to my A to Z series based on whatever came to my mind first. 😉 Enjoy the ride! 

I have a mixed relationship with change. I both fear it, but crave it. In 2014, when my student status turned to working, and my relationship status turned to engagement, and I began life as an “actual adult,” I freaked a little bit. In 2015, when wedding planning continued, and Josh and I became one, it was all so exciting. But, these changes were big and a lot to process. The excitement was almost too much. In 2016, when major life events stayed the same and the only change was a move from one classroom to another, I became a little bored. What? 

In talking to a lot of people my age aka millennials aka spoiled brats to the rest of the world, a lot of us seem to want to make a change. What that means, none of us know. But, in processing this, I’ve considered two major types of change:

Bad to Good

This is when you wake up and you dread the coming hours. Constantly tired, overworked, and stressed, you crave a reprieve. Change comes as a warm embrace, a breath of fresh air, and the best friend that you’ve always wanted. When change comes, anything is better than what you had before. And because of that, you and change are BFFs.

Good to Bad

Things are great and walk with a pep in your step. Your outlook on life is positive, bright, and shiny. You are excited each day. Change comes as a nasty cold, a nagging cough, and that mean frenemy that loves to call out your insecurities. When change comes, you dread it because what you had was already what you wanted. It either comes when you least expect it and catches you off guard, or happens slowly over time. You and change are mortal enemies. 

Obviously, there are many things out of our control. But putting aside those those uncontrollable factors, I think the problem with making a change is that our situations are not all good and not all bad. Likewise, the change you are seeking to make is also neither all good or all bad.

So, what’s a conflicted 20-something to do?

I don’t know.

I’m sure you read this thinking that I’d tell you something useful. But alas, maybe I do know something.

In all of my best English, I will leave you with this: Don’t do nothing. 

Each year, I know more of who I am. I’ve loved the change that has happened on the outside of me, as well as the inside. Each year, I know more of who I want to be. And because of that, whether big or small, I must take steps that make me into that person.

Do something. Test it out. See what happens. Whether the something you choose to do is on the inside or out, for the love of all of those people who have to hear us complain about wanting to make a change but never actually seeing us doing anything, we’ve got to do something.

Here is my something. (This blog, ya goobers.)