One of the darkest, most sinister aspects of my personality is insecurity. Even when I am at my most confident, there is a nagging feeling in my mind that I am simply faking it, and that the people around me will eventually see through my guise and understand me for what I really am: inadequate.
The world is full of bullies. Some of them will push you down, some of them will make fun of you, and some of them will name your shortcomings to your face. These are the obvious bullies, and while they are hurtful, they are in plain sight.
The more dangerous bullies are the ones we don’t see until they’ve wormed their way into our subconscious minds. Society bullies us with advertising. Our peers and friends and family bully us with immodest bravado and boastfulness, even when they don’t mean to do so. Women are constantly bombarded with an unachievable, unattainable moving target of what our society’s “standard” of beauty should look like, and they drive themselves to extreme measures to make themselves more like that standard. Men are likewise shamed into achieving Adonis-like musculature, fretting over their hairline, and wondering about the relative size of their fifth appendage. I am as guilty of feeling shame about my body as the next person. I know intellectually that I am that I am taller than average, thin, and generally not an ugly man. But emotionally, I still feel inadequate.
Once you move beyond the simple body-shaming aspects of the bullies that surround us, there are other, just-as-nefarious messages. We are taught what success looks like: what kind of house to live in, what kind of car to drive, how much money to make, how attractive one’s spouse should be, et cetera. I am similarly guilty of finding myself wanting in these areas. I feel constantly behind where I should be, and constantly comparing myself to my peers.
In the end, this is all folly. I’d like to call out three verses that are teaching me today to understand the nature of that foolishness:
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).
“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (Samuel 16:7).
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Ephesians 4:6-8).
The first verse is particularly poignant with regards to this writing, and I hope to my own life. Paul writes that we should not transform ourselves to be more in line with the concerns of this world–fiscally, physically, emotionally–but should strive to transform our minds (and hearts and spirits). Once I am at peace with myself and mindful of God’s will, I will be able to see and achieve God’s plan for me.
The second verse may seem intuitive and obvious, but it still bears repeating. The Lord does not see us the way our peers see us, or even how we see ourselves. God sees only our heart and spirit, and because we are of Him, that is what He loves most about us. As it pertains to my own life, I must strive only to compare myself to my younger self. Am I closer to God today than I was yesterday?
The third verse is the most action oriented. Paul writes that we should be grateful and give thanks, and that our hearts should not be anxious. Once we understand that “attitude of gratitude,” the peace God imparts will act as a shield against anxiety and insecurity. Then, we can more fully appreciate the beauty in the world around us? Here again, I must endeavor to transform myself every day, and ask myself: am I celebrating and appreciating beauty in His world more than I have previously?
These things are easy to say, and difficult to practice. My insecurities are deep-rooted, and I have not done much to help myself. But I must take into my heart that God’s love is not contingent on what I look like, or what I achieve in my career. God’s love is of my heart, and I should be mindful to see myself that same way.
Prayer for the morning:
Father above us, Father among us, Father in our hearts, in your splendor please grant me the peace that comes from knowing you love my heart. Please also grant me the peace of knowing that there are people who see me the same way you do. Thank you for loving me.