I have yet to meet somebody whom at some point of his or her life has not tried to compensate for qualities he or she is lacking. For my entire life I have used my facility in the arts to boost the self-esteem that was slowly depleted as I realized I couldn’t compete for praise in other areas. First I realized that I wasn’t society’s ideal of physical beauty, so as I covered up my thighs and looked at my nose in the mirror, I thought at least I can draw. In middle school I was top of my class without even trying, but throughout High school and college excelling in academics became harder and harder, until every so often I felt dumb. I felt awkward at large parties; I had no idea how popular people enraptured an audience. But still I told myself at least I can paint. When all my cousins and friends began to have steady boyfriends and get married, I’d think, I’ve been gifted; I can draw.
So as you can expect the days when I couldn’t quite paint what I wanted and “worse” when the very ideas and worlds I wanted to convey were done more beautifully and effortlessly by close friends of mine, I felt very, very small. I dreaded being compared, I dreaded being glanced over. I dreaded having nothing to offer. At that moment I felt ugly, dumb, unloved, and not good enough. And worse I felt sorry for myself. I had all the comforts in the world, but I felt empty. On top of it all I was ungrateful. I hated myself.
It is a terribly thing to be caught in so great a lie. The devil, I am convinced, loves using small insecurities to create obsessions over things that are lies. For in fact I am not the most beautiful, but often people remark that I am pretty. I might not be able to debate with great wit and write with ease, but I’m most certainly not dumb. I might not have a boyfriend, but I feel truly loved by others. And yes, I’m not the best artist, but I’m pretty darn good.
How is it then that every once in a while I found myself in a deep well of insecurity, feeling so small like I had nothing to offer?
Well, there are several ways to get to that awful place and I’m going to tell you my theories. I’m pretty sure I’m right. The lies you believe might be different, but maybe you’ve experienced something similar.
The Devil lost me long ago, but he is still around looking at any moment to get me back. He is not an idiot he knows that I’m no longer (usually) drawn into serious sin when I am weak, so he has to take a few extra steps. He’s crossed off a few choices that he can’t coax me into anymore, because I know they won’t make me happy. I know they’re sugarcoated poison. But I’m still sensitive and often insecure and that’s all he needs to work with.
The key for the evil one’s plan is now even subtler. He will make me believe that by pursuing and fulfilling the ideals of beauty, fame, intelligence, popularity and romance I will become a whole and worthy person. Only then will this insecurity fade. After all, wanting to be attractive, acknowledged, smart and well liked aren’t bad things. The word ‘sin’ doesn’t immediately come to mind…
In retrospect, I realize that I’ve been coaxed and that I’ve listened.
…So go my dear, pursue these things for look at yourself, young men are now used to looking upon perfect women, you wouldn’t want to disappoint. Nobody will every take you seriously if you can’t match their knowledge of history, and look how alone you felt during all those parties, better work on that too. It is wise for you to worry about the future; you don’t want to come home to an empty house every night, do you? Now, don’t look so sad my dear, at least you are doing well with your art, but isn’t it too bad that you are still second-rate. Oh I know you get plenty of praise, but you’re still just not there. Just compare yourself. Compare yourself.
Now where is My Lord and My God in all of this?
He is waiting for my ear and heart to turn His Way and ask two very important questions. “Who am I?” and then, “What do you want of me?”.
But until I ask those questions, I find myself trying to get out of that spiral by devising plans to achieve all those goals. And the Devil is gleeful, because I have forgotten who I am and the God who loves me. These goals will never be achieved because there is always something more to covet. His lie is alive.
I know this sounds silly. But I have many friends who start tearing up because they think they don’t look good in a bathing suit, or because they are not talented enough, or smart enough. As the outsider and the friend you think they’re crazy! They’re so valuable and kind and creative. What are they talking about? You might think it’s a good idea to slap them out of such on obvious falsehood. It’s always obvious when it’s someone else.
The longer you persist in conversation with the evil one the harder it is to stop. But STOP, and turn your eyes to the heavens and call out to Jesus and ask Him, “Who am I?”And He’ll say quick and loud as thunder, “ You are my beloved daughter”, “You are my beloved son”. Then ask, “What is it you want of me?” And He’ll say, in some way or another, “Your heart; all that you are. Be perfect as my Father in heaven is perfect.”
Stay with Him there.
In that quiet I’ve seen my true self as God’s beloved daughter called to true goodness, to true perfection. Perfect looks so different in God’s eyes, and is so much more exciting!
Do not be afraid to ask! Ask often, I forget all the time.
Most people think that if they give their hearts to God they will have to forget about everything else, but the truth is once you put your confidence in God and not in yourself and what others say you must be going about your life becomes joyful, because your are no longer on an anxious pursuit to become worthy of love. Living with God is living in reality; a land of truth where all the smallest lies are brought into the light.
The pursuit of SELF-esteem is a distorted, winding journey, because truly we are looking for confidence in something perfect that can’t be ourselves because we are flawed. We inevitably fall into either arrogance: believing we are more than we are or self-loathing: believing we are less than we are. No wonder humility is so hard to come by and so highly prized. The humble man is so calm, so unshaken by the affairs of the world and the whispers he might hear. The humble man knows who he is and what is expected of him. He only weeps when God weeps.