When You Feel Like You Don’t Fit

June 14, 2013 | 32 comments

It’s so easy for me to think of a hundred ways why someone could do this better.

That’s what I was thinking when a woman was trying to fit the microphone headset over my ear. It wasn’t fitting right. And the audience was waiting as we fiddled with that contraption.

“It just. won’t. fit,” she whispered.

This one unhelpful thought pulsed through my mind:  “What if I don’t fit?”

My turn had come to deliver a message of hope to a room full of women.  As she bent and twisted the microphone to make it fit over my ear, I stood up front with a pit in my stomach, looking across the room at all these faces. I inhaled deeply and let my breath out in one long stream of air, wondering if the whole room could see the way that my heart beat hard and fast, beat like it might just jump out of my chest and run out the front door.

No one in the room had claws or sharp teeth. Except for one:

Hi. May I introduce you to my fanged Inner Critic, the one who whispers: “What will people think of you?”

Ms. Inner Critic is the one who tells me I’ll fall or fail. She’s the one who, as a child, made sure I felt like I the nerd, the loser, the geek. And she also knows how to pick on adult women: She makes us look across rooms or auditoriums, and then tells us we don’t belong here.


Maybe you already know Ms. Inner Critic. Maybe she beats hard against your chest when you’re standing at a podium, at a computer keyboard, at the overwhelming list on your kitchen counter. Maybe she mocks you when you look out across your church sanctuary, your cubicle, or your Facebook feed, where it looks like everyone else has the world be the tail. She makes you think that everyone else is winning, and you’ve got a big L on your forehead.

She makes you think you don’t belong.

Your Inner Critic can be a noisy, belligerent bully.  Mine can, too. I have heard her accusations before I publish blog posts, write book chapters, parent my girls, or look in the mirror at my own reflection.

She’ll tell us that there’s something better for our life — if we’d only try harder, get cuter, make the Honor Roll, tell a better joke, drive a better car, shrink into a smaller pair of jeans.

And now, Ms. Inner Critic was trying to stage a protest inside of me, entering in through a door of insecurity that I had left cracked open.

Over the previous hour, three other accomplished speakers had stook at the front of this very room. All three of them — soul-beautiful with anointed words — moved with grace across the stage. They didn’t use notes. They all appeared to speak with a confidence that I didn’t feel on the inside.

But me? Well, I had my whole talk written out, would probably stay close to my notes, and at this point, it didn’t look like I’d be able to wear that cool, rock-star-diva microphone headset.

“It’s just not fitting,” the woman whispered.

Someone put a microphone in my hands.

And then a funny thing happened on the way to the podium.

I walked toward the center of the stage, and with my purple binder under my arm, and I could feel it happening. It wasn’t my heart that ran out the front door.  It was the Inner Critic.

I felt a sudden sense of peace, that God could reveal a bit of His glory through my shaky voice, my typed-out notes, my quirky style. And I stood there, silently for a moment, scanning the faces. They weren’t here to criticize or jeer.

They were here to receive. They were on my side. And they believed that God could speak through one simple farm wife from northwest Iowa.

Looking back, I have a sense of what it might mean for any of us to really fit in: We don’t do any one any favors by trying to squeeze into our idea of what fits. We need only to be clothed in the right-sized life that God designed for us.

And because the over-the-ear microphone didn’t fit that night, I discovered that I had in my hands what fit just right for me —

I lifted a handheld microphone and spoke.

by | June 14, 2013 | 32 comments


  1. Lyla Willingham Lindquist

    And, I imagine, you rocked it. 🙂

    I think none of us fit, really. We just each have our own ways of not fitting, and forget that’s one thing we all have in common. 😉

    • dukeslee

      I’m coming to believe this more and more … thanks, Lyla. And yes, God showed up. That’s His thing! Woot!

  2. Simply Darlene

    when one’s audience is receptive, it’s nice, huh?

    and when they are not, well, that’s when i remind myself that i “fit” with Him. bestest of all.

    (iLike what miss Lyla said up there too.)


    • dukeslee

      Yes, Darlene! Because the truth is, there will still be people in this world that make us feel like we don’t fit. And that’s when we REALLY have to remember where we get our identity. Great point, friend!

  3. Colleen

    Beautiful…needed to read this right at this moment

    God Bless you!

    • dukeslee

      Colleen … So happy for God’s timing and His goodness.

  4. Deidra Riggs

    Yep. This is me, today. Walking around, hosting Ms. Inner Critic and serving her tea and scones. She is tenacious.

    • dukeslee

      Shall we spike her tea? Put a little X-lax in those scones, and send her scurrying off to the loo while we return to our regularly scheduled programming?

      #plots #wringshands

      Love you, Deidra. Praying that Ms. Inner Critic will depart quickly.

  5. debyholtschlag

    I always have to remind myself: turn a deaf ear, blind eye to the LIES of Ms. Inner Critic (getting there) and throw back into her face – while standing firm “in” His Word – “I am fearfully and wonderfully made in His image”. He is in control. Since I have asked and desired He use me anyway, anyhow, anytime – He designed and made me ready for wherever, whenever, whatever, I am at. Just as He has done with all His “Vessels”! Thank you so much for being His vessel!!!

    • dukeslee

      Deby, Way to speak Truth back to the Inner Critic. You go, girl!

    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Michelle. Truly.

      You know, I have long compared myself to other speakers who could stand up and speak with confidence, with hardly any notes. I’ve wondered privately if I’m not open enough to the Spirit’s promptings, if I’m not trusting Him enough in those moments at the podium. You know, things like this: “If you trusted God more, you wouldn’t rely on your notes.”

      And then these past few weeks, I’ve felt God saying to me, “I called you to be a writer. And I’ll give you words when you’re writing.” And that it’s ok to be a speaker SECOND, a writer FIRST, and to use the written words to communicate my message. That God is working in the written word, just as He is working in that moment when the words are being spoken. It’s so simple, really, but it was huge for me as I step out and do more speaking.

  6. andredshoes

    When I speak I stick close to my notes. I am sticking to what the Holy Spirit has already given me in those long quiet times of prep and study.

  7. Marty

    I love it when God places a book, a blog, sign, etc… in front of me that puts into words the thoughts that I struggle to identify and name. Thanks so much for writing this and sharing.

  8. Linda Bolt

    Thanks for this! I needed to hear this. Now and often.

  9. sbrobsts


    THIS. This was needed more than you know.

  10. Cyndi

    You have SUCH a gift with words so I am sure they are just as powerful when you speak them as when you write them, even if spoken with a shaky voice. The shaky voice just makes you more relatable to your audience. God bless you as you use your gift for HIM!!

  11. Floyd

    Answered prayers, Jennifer. “If He is for us, who can stand against us?” NIce job…

  12. Megan Willome

    Jennifer, I’d love to hear you speak, even if you read from your notes. Which, you’d be in good company with a lot of other accomplished writers.

  13. rachel lee

    I absolutely have one of those inner critics. She rears her head in such an ugly, debilitating way so often. Praise God for showing Himself so so strong in your life. I would LOVE to hear you speak!

  14. Beth

    “It wasn’t my heart that ran out the front door. It was the Inner Critic.” When I got to this part I was clapping. And I was wishing I was one of the people in the audience there to listen to you share your heart. You inspire, encourage and bless with your words.
    Thank you. Blessings to you,

  15. Pam@Writing...Apples of Gold

    I look at you Jen and tend to think… she has it all together. She’s such a beautiful writer, mom, person of God. But oh, how I resonate with what you wrote here! Not just about speaking…but in so many ways. Always going back to that feeling of “not fitting into the high school crowd,” and not knowing how to “get in on the conversation.” I confess, I feel that way a lot with blogging and trying to get to know other writers in this “online world” – much as I enjoy the writing. Beautifully expressed as always! Wish I could have heard your talk… 🙂

  16. Pam@Writing...Apples of Gold

    To clarify… When I said “much as i enjoy the writing” above – I meant my own. That I enjoy writing and blogging. Just realized that could be misinterpreted since I went on to reference YOUR writing in the very next sentence… 🙂

  17. Bill Lombard

    The inner critic is always telling me, “What do I have to offer?” Always putting doubt in me. But listening to that other inner critic (you know which one I’m talking about) tells me YES, you do fit in and can do it. It’s just which one do I pay more attention to.

  18. Leah Colwell Adams

    I’ve heard that ‘inner critic’ of late….telling me that I should forget about publishing my latest Bible study. When that meanie knocked on the door of my heart, I let Jesus answer it since He is the one who put me up to writing the study.

  19. Nancy

    Beautiful, Jennifer! just beautiful! God is praised and glorified through you, your life and your words! Love you, sweet friend!!

  20. Kimberlee Conway Ireton

    Oh, Jennifer, this one resonates. Not because of the public speaking fear (though I’ve got some of that, too), but because of the Inner Critic. I named mine after Anne Lamott’s: they’re the men at the Belvedere Tennis Club. And they have catty wives who say all the nasty things I hear about myself in my own head. And they are spawns of Satan. I always forget that, how they take a tiny bit of truth and twist it till it’s a total lie, and I swallow it down like a flounder. I don’t think we can remind each other often enough of the fact that they’re liars. Thank you for being willing to call them what they are–and shout it to the rest of us.

  21. Diane W. Bailey

    Can you feel me hugging you? Can you hear me whispering…’me too?” My fanged obnoxious little cridder sometimes holds on until I actually open my mouth and speak to the fathering,. Sometimes, it runs when I just smile at a woman across the room and introduce myself. And Sometimes, I just have to say, “Shut up cridder, you’re not the boss of me”. Sometimes I believe it, and sometimes, I simply feel Christ’s presence and that is really all I need.

    Love you, Jennifer. Looking forward to being with you at Allume.

  22. Amy Hunt

    This truth is a rock of truth that I stand on this morning: “We need only to be clothed in the right-sized life that God designed for us.”

    Amen, friend. The anxious truth telling and the rock of truth telling, it’s all worship.

  23. Diana Trautwein

    Honey, you just use those notes – those are the words the Spirit gave when you prepared for the talk you’re giving. And they’re exactly right. I’ve BEEN THERE and HEARD YOU so I know this to be true. Tell that nasty shrew to hit the road. So glad she left the building just in time.

  24. Dayna DeLaVergne

    Jen, thank you for expressing so beautifully what so many of us feel…the “nerd, the loser, the geek”…even today. Not *********** enough–fill in the blank. Thank you.

  25. Cheryl Hyatt Smith

    Wish I could have heard you! I’m sure God used you then, as now. Love you, from one fellow Dork to another.


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