TBH I joined AAIV because I heard of the good community it had from my older sister, who was very involved (aka a leader). Then when I joined AAIV I met a lot of people who knew my sister and I was afraid that they might be disappointed because I was different. But even if people didn’t compare me, I would do it to myself.
Growing up, I would compare myself to my friends, my siblings, and to everyone around me. It was an insecurity that I had, and I felt like this insecurity made me unsure of who I was as an individual. The world would always whisper lies—telling me that I was not good enough, kind enough, funny enough, smart enough, and etc. And I didn’t know what it meant to really be 'me,' because I was so busy trying to fit the standards and molds of others. I saw the “good traits” of others and I would try to make them mine. But in actuality, it just hurt me as I felt like no one would like me for who I really was because I didn’t even know who 'I' was.
Today, I am a much more different individual. I can confidently say that I know my identity as not only a child of God, but also as someone who generally isn't seeking to fit an image. I wouldn’t say that I am 100% invulnerable to this image-seeking because I am imperfect like everyone, but I definitely don’t allow it to hold its power over me and that is partly because of the community that I found within AAIV, and also the space AAIV provided to learn more about God and my identity through Him.
Although the AAIV community is imperfect, there are still people within who will be vulnerable to you, compassionate, loving, and enable you as a friend or fellow member to challenge your spiritual and individual growth. I can’t promise that everyone will be your friend, because that’s actually impossible, but at least be willing to get to know people and their stories. And for those who struggle with finding a community or understanding who they are, I encourage you to be prayerful and surround yourself with those who want to grow and not stay comfortable, because you may find yourself joining them on that journey.