By Candace Payne (a.k.a. Chewbacca Mom)
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
— Ephesians 4:22-24
Why did I tell myself I couldn’t run?
It was a simple question. But it was an act of resistance, challenging my tendency to count myself out before I had even tried. That’s the power of why.
Why had I told myself I wasn’t a runner? It was more than facing rejection or comparing my lack of skill to the junior-high track star. I could see that I had two working legs, breath in my lungs, and that running was no threat to my health. The reason I started lying to myself was rooted much deeper, and this question led to questioning everything on my list. To uncover the answers, I needed time alone with my thoughts—which I got as I walked each morning. I had decided I was going to walk often and run (even if it was only in 15-second sprints) every day.
Each day I would lace up my orange running shoes and leave the front porch of my home feeling a calm and peace that I had tried to gain in my thoughts for years. It’s as if every step I took was stomping out tiny remnants of campfires of deceptions I had long believed. As a person who earnestly intends to grow my relationship with God, I would use this time to pray, talking with my God about my list (of lies and cant’s) and recalling his words found in the Bible. For every single lie on my list, Scripture countered with a truth. And praying no longer felt as though I was saying words that would hit a short brick ceiling above me. Talking to and listening to that small voice within began to cross out the list of lies one by one. I began feeling such a freedom while walking and running that I didn’t want to miss a single day.
That was easy enough before the Chewbacca Mom video went viral. In its aftermath, however, the interviews and travel made it a nightmare to find extra time and places to walk. But I was determined. The walking and running were so essential to honing a new skill of calming my mind and had become such an important routine, I made it a priority no matter where I was or what I was doing. So much so that I found myself running across a grassy knoll atop the Facebook headquarters in California. Yes, you read that right.
The media and press whirlwind was overwhelming, to say the least. Imagine the pressure of never doing interviews or being on live television before, and now the entire world seemed to know your name and wanted you to retell your experience. How would you deal with the overnight success? I didn’t have a game plan. I had, however, established a way to center my thoughts. And I knew if I was to keep my head in the midst of the chaos, I was going to make every effort to keep that routine.
A few days after I utilized Facebook’s live video platform and became the record holder for most views, I was invited to tour their company headquarters. As I walked through the elaborate campus, two thoughts went back and forth in my mind. The first was amazement at the beauty of the place. Y’all. There’s a woodshop (what they make other than keychains and the super sweet plaque they presented me with upon arrival is still a mystery), an incredible restaurant where the whole community dines as though it’s the local hot spot, and a park on the roof. I didn’t want to miss a single moment of the wonder in each turn, stairwell, and hallway.
However, my other thought was beginning to stifle me and give me cold sweats. I kept repeating to myself, “Who am I? What in the world am I doing here?” As I listened half-intently to the description of how they built this amazing rooftop park, I became inundated with a sense of unworthiness, the same feeling that I was being laughed at that I felt during homecoming week in college. I told myself to shake that garbage from my thoughts. (In my mind, I had Jenny from Forrest Gump yelling over the voice of my tour guide, “Run, Forrest, run!”)
And then I abruptly interrupted this sweet and tender-voiced millennial. “Hey! I have an idea. Have you ever just run the length of this knoll and back?”
Unmistakably caught off guard from what felt like her scripted tour, she said, “Why do you ask? You wanna do it? You wanna run?”
“Yeah. I do. I think I’m gonna run over there and run right back. Want to join me?”
She took off her high heels, lay them in the grass, and we took off running together. In that four minutes, I recentered. I recalibrated. I embraced and owned those sweat beads running down my forehead while with a group of dashingly thin and beautiful people. As we turned a corner atop the roof, I asked for a few minutes to catch my breath and be alone. I sat in a chair and overlooked miles upon miles of the most gorgeous landscape you can imagine—sparkling water, green treetops, cityscape, and more. It was a clear, blue day and nothing was impeding my view. I had gone from my living room to the top of the world.
I sat there and prayed for a few minutes—words that, to this day, I don’t remember. However, I do remember the thought that came to mind as I lifted my eyes to the horizon one more time before rejoining the patient group waiting to escort Chewbacca Mom. I thought: I’m sitting on top of a building that houses some of the most creative minds and concepts in the whole world. As a matter of fact, their motivation is to connect the entire world. They have seemingly unlimited resources and can do the most incredible Willy Wonka-style imaginings to their headquarters. Now, if that’s what Facebook can do, what more could a God with unlimited resources do with little ole me? I suddenly felt a charge that I was given grace to connect this world in ways beyond my inherent capabilities. I knew at that moment that I had been given the opportunity not just to share joy but to empower people to live joy-filled lives. For some reason, I felt as though I only heard that acutely because I was obedient to answer the internal call to run . . . to embrace my new identity as a runner. And now I understood that it was both a figurative and a literal title.
Currently, I am on a quest to abolish the list of can’ts I have believed about myself. One common obstacle consistently rears its ugly head when I consider changing these thoughts. It’s this hideous, offensive word that accompanies my goals. What word, you ask? Should. I cannot tell you how many times I shame myself or my past or my present struggles with that cuss word. Yes, it indeed has become a cuss word to me.
Here’s a small example. I will look in my past with regret on how I allowed myself to become so overweight or lazy or careless with my health. It’s in those musings that I hear that I should have done better. I should have been more proactive, should have made better choices in what I ate and my level of physical activity. Over the years, I’ve heard this pushy inner voice say I should do Tae Bo, Zumba, and Ab Rocking, and buy everything that Suzanne Somers sells on late-night shopping channels.
In my present struggles, I am still tempted to embrace counterfeit joy over authentic joy. Yes, I know. The person who shared four minutes of straight-up joy with millions struggles daily with maintaining authentic joy. It’s so easy to hear that little temptation that says I should be happier on days I wake up in a foul mood. But since shutting up the shoulds, nothing within me feels pressure to maintain this false platform, because the moment the door was opened to me was one of raw, authentic, and defiant joy. That doesn’t mean I won’t face the decision to answer Should’s call to make do with less just because of the people watching. Every time I hear I should do something outside of the call to be authentic, I know it is an assault on the progress I’m currently making in uncovering what a life full of joy looks like.
That tiny word, should, tries desperately to lay claim on my future as well. It divides paths that would otherwise be clear and narrow. It pushes like a bully to work and perform and hold tight to something I have to pour all my power and effort into to maintain.
If you’re ever going to break up with the list of lies you possess about yourself, it’s not only time, but vital to do so. Today this is my invitation to you: Shut the should up! Come on; somebody needs to read that again. Shut the SHOULD up!
There’s beauty in living each and every moment knowing that you can take any path you choose and find each step that is authentic to your story. I’m not telling you to embrace some crazy thinking where you do only what pleases yourself, or that you now have a free pass to live life without a moral compass. Where there is injustice toward others or even yourself, take a stand. But please don’t stand just to earn the applause and fleeting popularity of a crowd. Live authentically with the grace to know risks are where bridges of joy are forged over many waters of disappointments, regrets, failures, and lists of can’ts. Loving others and living brightly as a light to a hopeless and hurting world is possible because you are enough—even if you’re a work in progress. Authentic and defiant joy embraces the fact that it is more than okay but absolutely necessary to quit should-ing yourself.
So, go ahead. Make your list of lies. Pick just one small lie you’ve believed far too long about yourself. Decide to replace that lie by doing the opposite of the core belief that has held you back. Then do a gutsy thing and tell a friend—name the lie you’ve been believing and the truth you want to live instead. Have your friend hold you accountable and support you when you feel the desire to embrace the negative.
Be a full-on rebel and prove your lying list wrong! Tackle as many as you can, one-by-one, every single day. When it gets tough, don’t be surprised. It means you’re close to a breakthrough. Keep at it and don’t give up!
Shut the shoulds up! Run, Forrest, run! Do what you were made to do. True joy waits on the other side of every small victory.
Taken from Laugh It Up! Embrace Freedom And Experience Defiant Joy by Candace Payne. Click here to learn more about this title.
The world knows Candace Payne as “Chewbacca Mom,” the wife and mother of two from Dallas who captured the hearts of nearly 200 million people around the world with nothing but a toy Chewbacca mask, a smart phone, and infectious laughter.
Candace’s viral moment of simple joy became Facebook Live’s top video. But what the video doesn’t show is Candace’s storied journey of daunting obstacles on the way to the joy-filled life—extreme poverty, past trauma, and struggles with self-worth.
Laugh It Up! tells the rest of the story behind the woman in the mask. Like most of us, Candace has often felt overlooked, undervalued, and insignificant. But she has also discovered the secrets to unshakable joy that no circumstance can take away, and Laugh It Up! will help you discover and experience the same.
Join Candace to discover the gift God has given us all to experience life to the fullest. All you need to do is answer “yes” when joy, whom Candace personifies as a friend, calls you to come and play.
- Do you feel tempted to give up on your dreams? Joy stays the course.
- Do your knees knock when thinking about the future? Joy hopes for what can be.
- Do you feel unseen and unnoticed? Joy is content whether backstage or center stage.
- Do you feel crushed under the weight of regret? Joy loves you enough to weep with you, but also enough to help you move on.
When life punches you in the gut, it can be difficult to muster a smile—much less a laugh. But with humor and power, wit and wisdom, Candace lights the way forward to a life that is free indeed.
Candace Payne is a viral sensation whose Facebook Live video of trying on a Chewbacca Mask became the most-viewed Facebook Live video to date (165+ million views). She has been featured in more than 3,000 media outlets and has interviewed with major media such as Good Morning America, The Late Late Show with James Corden, The New York Times, PEOPLE and Cosmopolitan. Candace recently launched a video series with TLCme and her first book will release in the fall of 2017. Candace lives in Texas with her husband, two children, and an ornery pug. Connect with Candace online at CandacePayne.me.