When I was in middle school, I was teased for my frizzy, curly red hair. With sound guidance from the early 90’s, I did what many girls did then: I permed it. You know what happened next. I came out of the salon with slightly-green, ammonia-scented, brittle, extra-frizzy hair. Add five years of braces, and being a natural introvert to the mix, and you have middle school memories that I locked away in the “do not disturb” compartment of life. The photos of this season are buried in my parents’ house somewhere.

Then Sanrio came out with the “The BFF book.” I remember the sting of rejection I felt when my name wasn’t written in a friend’s book. I started to think that something must be wrong with me. I determined to be liked. I became a people-pleaser, always seeking approval and validation from others.

In high school, I would go to the grocery store with my mom and look at the magazines at check-out. Most covers showed women with tan, perfectly smooth, freckle-free skin. I bought all the freckle-eraser creams, and lathered on the feelings of not being enough. I felt like I didn’t fit, and believed that, since I wasn’t perfect, I’d never be happy or loved.

As my friend Lysa says in her new book, Uninvited“Rejection steals the best of who I am by reinforcing the worst of what’s been said to me.”

Or not said.
Or assumed.
Or not written in a friendship book.

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Twenty years later, I got married in my hometown, and went through a painful divorce shortly after. More of my story here. I craved a new identity that couldn’t be shaken by circumstances, or what other people thought, or by the mistakes I would inevitably make along my path. As my friends Jess and Hayley say, I constantly felt like I was too much and never enough. I was deeply in debt, and got a job as a personal trainer at the local gym—-the gym where all those people in my hometown (who had come to my wedding) socialized. I didn’t have any other choices for work at the time though. I needed to make money to pay bills, and the only way forward was to step into what felt like the lions den. Instead of running from it, or trying to fix myself, I stepped right into the feelings of shame, isolation, and rejection.

In that same gym, months later, I met Ari. He didn’t judge me for my past or flinch when I told him about all the baggage I was carrying from the past; he just wanted to know me.

I learned something in that season. There was a way out of the constant cycle of living in lack, believing that I wasn’t ever going to measure up. I started seeking God more. In Christ, I’ve learned over time that I am invited. Always welcome. Always loved.

Something that has helped me is to think about what I know versus what I feel. Feelings aren’t the enemy, but many times they can lead us away from truth.
I may feel rejected at times, but I know Whose I am.
I may feel broken, but I know I’m whole in Him.
I may feel like my heart is a mess, but I know God transforms our messes into our message.
I may feel alone, isolated, and lonely at times, but I know that God never ever leaves me.
Leaning into knowing, instead of letting my feelings inform my worth, changes things.

Lysa posted recently about crushing the lies and lines we’ve believed. I woke up one day a few weeks ago and felt tired of fixing my hair. Always putting it up or straightening it. Hiding my frizz. My curls. My past pain.

So, I washed it and let it go that morning.

Grace played with my hair that night, wrapping my curls around her fingers, putting bows in my locks, and simply wanting to touch my hair. Something clicked. I woke up and let it go again. And again. Each day, I felt more free. But, it wasn’t about a hairstyle, it was about letting go of what years of feeling rejected had done to me. It was about finally expressing gratitude for the way God created me. If I wanted Grace to live loved, I was going to have to show her how, and live it myself. I had to come undone.

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Embracing my curls has been rather life-changing. Apparently I’m not alone in this desire to embrace what God has given us. It’s not about hair though; it’s about our hearts. I look in the mirror now, and I’m reminded to live loved, right where I am.

Rejection is going to happen. It happened to me just last week again and it stung. But, it reminded me to keep fighting to trust in what I know to be true. I am loved. You are too. More than we could ever imagine. Living from the place of knowing we are loved encourages others to do the same. It multiplies freedom.

More in my Facebook Live today.

Have you experienced rejection? How has that shaped you? I’d love to hear your story…

15 Show Comments
  1. Michelle Loretta

    YES! I love the curls, girl! GO WITH IT. (I’ve been thru this myself. I’m pretty sure I lost a job once because I didn’t straighten my hair that day.) LOVE the curls, Lara!
    xo, fellow curly girl, Michelle Loretta
    PS – my rescuer in that field has been my stylist who specializes in cutting curly hair – it’s very different (she is literally named “the curl whisperer” – so WORTH finding someone that will love on your hair and not trying to iron it all out)

  2. Kyla Fetzner

    Amen Lara! Amen to every bit of this post. (P.S. my hair looks almost exactly the same when I let it air dry. Curly hair girls unite!)

  3. Amanda L

    I LOVE your hair! Gracie looks so much like you in that picture from when you were a girl. I love that you are showing her how she is made on purpose.

  4. Catie

    First time commenting here, and I want you to know it is so refreshing to see another freckled red head out there! Thanks for sharing your heart!

  5. Jenny

    I knew it. I could tell. I knew it was more than a hairstyle change. This new look, all of it, looks good on you.

  6. Jennifer

    Thank you Lara for bravely sharing your story and letting your hair down. It’s beautiful and I love it!

  7. Meredith

    From one curly headed girl to another YES!!!!!

  8. Whitney Vaughan Fike (@sparkplugwhit)

    Uh. I just love this! I have curls but no where near as curly as yours! I love the way you write – sucks you right in! Thanks!

  9. India

    We have similar hair stories, friend! My hair is afro/very tightly curled, and in middle school, I relaxed it, which made my hair very thin, bone straight, and unhealthy! I did this for years until i was just tired of trying to force my hair to do something it didn’t want to do. Now, I love my hair and all of it’s wild curls!! <3

  10. Emily DeArdo

    This is so true. I just read Uninvited last week. I didn’t have hair story, like you did, but everything in my life was seen as too much: I was too enthusiastic, I was too happy, I was too loud (I’m Italian, I have a big voice!). Everyone told me to be less–quieter, less happy, less excited, less….less….less……
    And so I felt like I had to hide who I was and what I loved and who I am.
    And slowly I’m trying to let myself BE myself. God made me this way for a reason–for His Glory. And I have to use the gifts he’s given me. Even if I get rejected for it.
    Thanks, Lara. <3

  11. Jessica

    Yes yes yes! Lara I COMPLETELY and totally understand this. I also have curly hair but spent years chemically straightening it. I was so done and am loving my curls now. It feels SO GOOD! I actually wrote a blog post about it here: http://www.jessicanmathisen.com/2016/06/why-i-stopped-trying-to-be-white.html. Thank you for sharing your story, too.

  12. Ella

    Wow, thank you for this post. I let rejection “steal the best of me” for too long in 2016 and have fought through it, and am so excited for the future because I’m leaning into knowing first and foremost what God says about me. In the face of the hardest year of my life and being rejected by people for who I am multiple times, I’ve gone from entry level in the organization where I work, to being employed in a much higher position come the new year, because of fighting through it on the grounds that I am loved and God made me the way I am for a reason. (my hair curls just like yours btw!)

  13. Katherine

    As a curly redhead myself, I so identify with you! From high school until about 3 years ago I got so many straighteners to the point of burning my hair off sometimes. I have quit the chemical part, but trying to smooth my wild hair can be so tiresome. Now that I’m a mom I really don’t want to spend the hour or more to do my hair and have toyed with the idea of just “letting it go”. Thanks for the inspiration and sharing your story.