A year ago, I was at the wedding of two of my friends. At the Shabbas Kallah the bride went around and said something nice about everyone in the room. Since it was a year ago, I canâ€™t remember her exact words, but she said something like this: â€œRachel, your passion for learning is an inspiration to me.â€
Now back then I wasnâ€™t trying to pretend to the world that I had tons of emunah and really was dedicated to Judaism. During my freshman and sophomore years I believed myself that I had all this spirituality, that I was doing what G-d wanted, etc. But at that moment, I realized that I was somewhat of a phony. Everyone thought that I was spiritual, but my faith had already been tested by then, and I started having more and more trouble with serving G-d.
So weâ€™re encouraged to dress frum (whatever that means) even if we donâ€™t feel that way yet, because our actions should lead our intentions in the right direction. And actions are more important anyways.
But what if that frum feeling never comes? And what if others start believing in you, and they think that youâ€™re some wonderful talmid hacham, or eishes chayil, and theyâ€™re inspired by you? Should you let them know that really you have all these doubts and that youâ€™re working on your own emunah? Or do you let them use you as a role model, so they have something to strive for?
I think there is something to be said for being yourself. The more that you try to pretend that youâ€™re something youâ€™re not, the more it eats away at you. Slowly but surely it becomes harder to play that role.
Sure, everyone will compliment you, but you start to realize that theyâ€™re not really complimenting /you/, theyâ€™re complimenting a mistaken idea of you that they have in their heads.
So Iâ€™ve started being myself again. It was hard at first, and it took a lot of courage, but people are a lot more accepting than you might think, if theyâ€™re truly your friends and want whatâ€™s best for you. And Iâ€™m so much happier being myself.
So wear the jeans, the wedding band, the kippah srugah, the colors, the flowy skirt, the nose piercing, if thatâ€™s who you think you are. If you think youâ€™re a black hatter, wear the back hat and the velvet kippah. Wear the strimel and the bekishe. Wear the sheitl, or the hat, or the tichel. Wear the long socks. But I would strongly argue against doing something just because itâ€™s the norms of your community and you want to fit in. It only harms you in the long run. And I bet that you can find a community who accepts you for who you are. Itâ€™s definitely worth searching for.