Affirmation, Identity, Identity Gold Star Standard

Identity: Gold Star Standard

My next couple posts will explore a little bit about identity, and lessons I’ve learned the hard way about my identity. Hopefully, it’s not too transparent! I look forward to your thoughts.

**For the record: The pictures in this post are only meant to illustrate what were once important gold stars. 🙂

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“My name is Jeanne, and I’m a gold star seeker.”

“You’re a what?!”

I’m a gold star seeker. I learned at a young age how good receiving a gold star feels compared to having a gray dot pasted to my proverbial skin. (See Max Lucado’s book, You Are Special.”)

In elementary school, I excelled at earning those academic gold stars. My sixth grade teacher wrote the name of every student on pieces of construction paper. He taped them to the wall outside our classroom. Each Friday, a gold star appeared on the papers of the students who received 100% on their spelling tests that week. A silver star went onto those who only missed one word. I worked hard for those gold stars! It felt good to see my star line keeping up with the popular kids’ star lines. I had one way in which I felt equal.

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In every other way, I gathered gray dots without even trying.

Picked on. Spit on.

Left out of games.

Talked about.

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The gray dots formed my identity. For years. My time in elementary school molded how I perceived myself and my interactions with others.

As I grew older, I figured out how to get gold stars. I was a strong student. A “good girl.” I was a good swimmer. I had a decent singing voice. When I became a Christian at fourteen, I learned the Bible and how to live life the ways God expected. My life looked godly.

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But I still struggled with feeling rejected—ever in fear of earning gray dots instead of gold stars.

I learned how to work to my strengths. Those gold stars I earned made me feel G-O-O-D. The problem with working to my strengths was that I became fearful of doing or saying things that would earn me a gray dot (Translate: Would cause people to stop liking me).

My whole identity became wrapped up in earning gold stars. I think the reason I cried the first time I heard someone read the story, You Are Special, was because my spirit resonated with Punchinello’s (the main character) struggle. True confession: I was in my mid-thirties when I first heard this story. It touched me at the core of who I was.

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My mind recalled all the gray dots I’d earned over the years. I pictured how each one shaped my identity, taught me how to respond to life. I also pinpointed those “gold star” moments that encouraged me to continue doing whatever was necessary to earn more of them. Living life chasing after the gold stars left me empty and fractured.

I’ll share what I learned next week.

What about you? What are your thoughts about gold stars and gray dots? What is your identity?

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12 thoughts on “Identity: Gold Star Standard”

  1. I’m afraid I was rather the opposite when I was young. My childhood and teenage years were not pleasant, and I learned early that no amount of being ‘good’ would shield me. I developed a volcanic temper, colored with unpredictability.

    My identity was bound up in being hard., and almost viciously moralistic. I tolerated no ‘gray’; a friend who offered me marijuana paid a rather unfair price for what he considered a friendly gesture.

    I also made a point of keeping kids within my ‘orbit’ from being picked on, and a number of school bullies had to find other ways to vent their spleen. I broke them.

    I just realized – I was trying to counter the immorality at ‘home’ by being a Crusader of the most fanatical stripe.

    It took me places, as an adult, where I was an effective instrument of official policy, but not the sort you’d want to invite to dinner.

    Guess I was all gray dots, or perhaps black ones.

    I’d like to say Jesus turned me around, but He didn’t. Buddha did, and eventually Zen led me back, over a long road, to the Cross. But that’s another story.

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    1. I guess one good thing I had is that I knew I was loved at home. Each person responds to life’s circumstances in a unique way. Though you weren’t protected at home, you gave other kids something you yourself probably wanted. It sounds like you developed strength, and you’ve learned how to use it more effectively as an adult.

      I appreciate your transparency, Andrew. Thank you for sharing.

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  2. The ‘gray dot collection’ puts a name on my insecurities. Helpful imagery, Jeanne – made me realize that I spend a disproportionate amount of time hanging around my gold-star areas because it’s comfortable and makes me feel special – instead of acknowledging that the REAL special is just being His.

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    1. Shel, thank you so much for stopping by. I think most people deal with some sort of insecurity. I think sometimes, it’s seeing them through God’s lenses rather than through mine that helps me move beyond them, if that makes sense. And seeing ourselves through God’s lenses rather than our own. You’re right, the REAL special is just being His. I like how you put that.

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  3. I got very few gold stars and they didn’t really matter until my preteen years. Then I started to try and earn them which became too hard. I felt for as old as I was as a Christian I should have been showing more fruit. Not for the fruit itself but in order to receive more gold stars. My solution was to make my own. For two decades I did this and wore my emotions out. It is not easy to make your own gold stars and remember the stories behind all of them when they are false. When I couldn’t do it any more I came clean, but then decided to go for grey dots. Not until 1998 did I realize that I don’t need stars or dots.

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    1. Andrea, I hadn’t thought about making my own gold stars, but I think I did that too. And you’re right, it’s exhausting. Seeking after gold stars is a never ending, never satisfying pursuit, isn’t it? I’m so glad you came to the point of realizing you don’t need stars or dots. You are God’s precious girl. Thank you for your transparency, and thank you for stopping by today!

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  4. I saw this post this morning, and I had to let my thoughts simmer.
    I was never an A student. I wasn’t athletic. I preferred walls to dance floors. I was never skinny. I wasn’t rebellious.
    I was basically vanilla.
    Sort of just there.
    Sort of needing something to add life to it.
    Then we moved away, far away, and there was no church I’d spent my life in, with eyes always watching me and occasionally reporting in to my parents any of my activities. Even as an adult with a child!
    In the new town?
    No dots.
    Lots and lots of stars.
    I had no shadow, no history in this little town. I just had an open book. And I learned who I was!
    I said what I wanted. I didn’t have to worry about anyone’s opinion but my husband’s.
    My personality got a chance to grow and thrive.
    I figured out who I was and decided to stay.
    I may be slightly left of center, but I have a better view of me from here.

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    1. Jennifer I’m so glad you stopped by. You may have appeared vanilla on the surface, but you’ve always been chocolate on the inside. Lots of flavor and richness—in many ways.

      As you shared your thoughts, it got me thinking about how sometimes we allow others to paste an identity on us, and for whatever reason, we live up to it. I’m so glad that God gave you the opportunity to discover who you really are. You’re beautiful inside and out.

      I remember by the time I graduated from high school, I was really excited to attend college out of state because no one would know me or have pre-conceived notions about me. I guess we have that in common. Sort of. 🙂

      Thanks for your thoughts today!

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  5. Oooo, yes. Yes. Yes. That was me too. I formed my identity as the smart girl, because I knew I’d never be the popular one. In seventh grade, all my friends just stopped being my friend…and never told me why! I realize now how much of the lie I believed — that I was what I achieved — was generated from that dark moment and countless others like it. But the great thing is that God has been using this writing journey to really show me the truth.

    Looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts! Love you, friend!

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    1. I love that God’s got a unique way to show each of us both what we’ve allowed to form our identities as well as that perfect tool to show us how HE sees us. Who we are in Him. And it sounds like you’re in the same “walking it out discovery mode” as I am. It doesn’t seem to all become a reality in my heart and thoughts in one day. I live it out daily, and begin to “wear” it more as I walk more closely with Him. Does that make sense?

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