At different points in our lives, particularly in our childhoods, many of us have heard it. We’ve heard it from a parent, a teacher, or some other authority figure. Or even from someone we thought was our friend. “It” was a question, in some way phrased to say,
Why can’t you be more like so-and-so??
As grow, if we are aware of such things, we understand we hear it daily from our culture. As adults, we are told we are just not good enough, that someone is more attractive, smarter, more successful, better than us. Our culture has applied its ruler to us, and we’ve been found wanting. We just don’t measure up.
For people who start from a basis of a low self-image, this is a devastating message! Even for people whose self-image is good, the message can be hard to drown out. The constant barrage of negativity will wear even the most confident of us down eventually, leaving secret vulnerable places in our souls. It will, unless we apply a cure. But what can cure such devastating and pervasive attacks? What, or who, can help us?
Some seek to actually try to measure up. As I mentioned in Our Endless Pursuit of Perfection, it’s a frustrating and fruitless end. Others turn to psychology and counselling. Having been through these paths, I can tell you that while they teach valuable skills, they don’t get to the heart issues. And when heart issues aren’t dealt with, the problem remains. Still others turn to religious efforts, trying to measure up to the standards set by the religion or its founders, and only finding frustration. Because if you follow the laws of a perfect God using the ways of men, I’ve learned we doom ourselves to disaster. By now, I am sure you are asking by now, “Is there any good news in all this??”
I wouldn’t be writing these words if there was no good news to be found, no answer I’ve discovered for myself. I would be a hypocrite and charlatan (and a very bad blogger!) if I would post such thoughts and not offer something.
Any time we are measuring ourselves and our worth based on bones in our chins, (yes, I’ll leave that plural for the fun of it), our skin tone or eyelash length, we are doomed for unhappiness. True joy doesn’t change.
What is neverchanging is our real worth. What really matters is not our self-description, but who we are in the Lord’s eyes. “Whose we are” should radiate!
It was only when I began to cultivate a relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ that I began to find my own true self-worth. For years, I’d compared myself to smarter, more athletic siblings and schoolmates, more attractive and successful fellow entrepreneurs and others against whom I felt I just didn’t measure up. As I told Terri in my comments to her post,
I remember I used to look at the slender, lovely women on stage (such as your beautiful inside and outside self!), and compare you all to me. I compared what I saw as your perfections to my obviously glaring imperfections, and became convinced I could never be like you, never be that lovely, that accomplished, that successful.
It took a while, but finally I listened long enough to what you all were saying, and what God was telling me in my heart through you. God didn’t want or need me as a carbon copy of any of you. He had you. He needed and wanted me as ME, just as imperfect I was, willing to grow, learn, change and be used by Him for His glory. Like clay with the Potter, my job is only to coöperate with His process. As I become His more finished handiwork, the glory is His, and not mine, because He is doing it and will have done it in me.
If you struggle today with your self-image, dear reader, the chance to be free of it is available to you. The God Who made the universe, Who spun the stars, Who holds all creation in His hands, cares for you with a fiercely tender love. He is fierce, because He wants you to love Him and no other above Him. He is tender, because He is the greatest Gentleman, and will never force His will or way on you. You have to ask. Let Him in and begin this marvelous work in you! Learn for yourself that no matter what you look like, no matter what you’ve done, no matter who you are, you are completely and forever loved.
As you learn God’s love for you, you will know the freedom to be wholly and completely yourself. You will be able to look at your critics, those who ask why you cannot be like someone else, and say, “Because I’m me, that’s why.” You will be free to grow and discover all you were created to become. Because if we’re wise, we’ll always be growing, changing, striving for more. It will be a life-long process. And instead of trying to measure up to impossible and even unrealistic standards set by others, our efforts to grow will be our very realistic expressions to become the best us we can be. They will be our loving response to the immense love first shown to us by God.