I’ve always struggled with being a little different from everyone else. My story never seemed to sound like everyone else’s story. Let me give you an example.

Sometimes people will ask me, “Where do your parents live?”

Now most adult children will say their parents live in their hometown or home state. Maybe they snowbird to Arizona or Florida for the winters.

My parents live on remote island in the Bahamas in a shack they built themselves by pulling every two by four and bag of nails up from the beach landing. When they didn’t know how to build something they’d pray and ask God to send someone. Within a few days someone would show up on the island and explain to them how to build to roof or help them hang drywall. They lived in the shack for three years until electricity reached the island, and now life is much easier.

That answer seems to be, ahem, different than everyone else’s response. For most of my life, my family, including Leif, lived out the script of our lives differently from most people. I’ve secretly been jealous of “normal” people most of my life. As a kid, I dreamed of living in a neighborhood where all the houses matched and everyone wore the same clothes to school.

So getting comfy in my own skin has taken a while. I’ve had to learn to embrace what some of my friends endearingly call “quirkiness.” Which is a word I despise, by the way. Probably making it all the more true. Insert eye roll.

When a friend and noted Bible scholar read through Wonderstruck, he said, “In this book, you’re more comfortable in your own skin than I’ve ever seen you before.”

The words stung, because they confessed what I know to be true but would rather not give voice to. But I decided to embrace the hearty compliment and become even more committed to this journey of becoming comfy in my own skin.

Maybe you’re on your own journey. If so, here are five tips I’ve been learning along the way:

1. Learn to celebrate your story.

Every person’s story is unique. Some more than others. Wink. Some stories have more highlights, others more lowlights. But every story has its share of triumph and tragedy, accolades and aches. Through these stories and all their variations, God reveals the greater story taking place in our world.

When we hold back our stories, we tether the proclamations of redemption, transformation, and freedom. When we don’t share our stories, someone else is denied the opportunity to find solace in knowing they’re not alone.

2. Nurture those long time friendships.

You can buy more than a million items on Ebay, but a 10- or 15- or 25-year friendship isn’t one of them. When we invest in friendships that trace back to elementary school, high school, college, graduate school, the military, previous workplaces and neighborhoods, we obtain the things in life that can’t be bought—the wonder of knowing and being known.

Those friendships often reveal the history of people and places and situations that shaped us. Remembering those moments allows us to celebrate our joys and process through our pain. Sometimes we must venture back in order to move forward.

3. Take your biggest, deepest questions to God first.

Most of us carry around big, deep questions we rarely say aloud—though they often manifest themselves in our actions and attitudes. We may wrestle with questions of if we’re loved or whether we’re loveable. We may face questions of belonging, purpose, and identity.

I believe God wants to answer those first and foremost. He wants to whisper the breadth and depth of His love into the inner recesses of our being. God longs to remind us that we belong to Him and our identity is only truly discovered in Him. As we take these questions to God and seek answers through the Scripture, we find ourselves more grounded in Him and all we’re designed to become.

4. Remember that your greatest strengths and weaknesses are intimately intertwined.

Most leadership books encourage us to maximize our strengths and minimize our weaknesses, but don’t explore the idea that our strengths are intertwined with our weaknesses.

Becoming comfortable in your own skin requires acknowledging and coming to terms with areas where you’re gifted and those where you’re lacking and learning how to navigate life, relationships, and the workplace accordingly.

5. Embrace your quirkiness.

This has proven the most difficult of all to me. But I’m wildly peculiar about the most random things. I prefer a rollerball pen to a ballpoint. I’m not a fan of the color purple except in sunsets and sunrises (sorry!). I’ve been known to drive 50 miles to chase down a killer food truck. I get nauseous if you touch my belly button. I think cooking feels a lot like creating art. I like that feeling. I love playing outdoors and drinking in the beauty of creation. I prefer laughing until my belly hurts to sit up. And I have a slight crush on Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec. Don’t worry, my hubby Leif and I have talked about it. (Turns out he’s a lot like Ron Swanson—go figure!).

As we learn to laugh at ourselves and love ourselves as delightful creatures made in the image of God, we can’t help but become more comfortable in our own skin. And when we do, something magical happens for everyone around us.

They suddenly and quite unexpectantly become a little more comfortable, too.

Maybe you’ll read Wonderstruck and think what my friend thought—that I seem more comfy in my own skin than ever before, too. Maybe not. Regardless, I invite you to embrace wholly and fully who you are—living, laughing, loving God and this blessed life.

What’s your secret to becoming more comfortable in your own skin?

*Original photo found here