This post was originally posted to Facebook on December 8, 2013
Have you ever felt like you’re not good enough?
We all have people in our lives who live on the extremes. If they’ve got a problem in some area, it’s usually an extreme of the problem. If they’re awkward when they’re in public, they’re really awkward in public. If they freak out under pressure, they *really* freak out under pressure. If they’re nerdy, they’re really nerdy and usually have conversations like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory (I guess that person for most people would be me…)
I find it comforting and helpful sometimes having these people in my life. While they represent the extreme of a problem, the feelings, the journey and the approach taken is usually just as true when charting my own journey. It sells really well too. Sometimes it’s cool when watching a show about someone who is really unfit, some of the cool tricks and attitude changes they make along the way are actually good for all of us to keep in mind. Or the character in the movie who’s really stuck in dealing with their emotions and not being able to see beyond them – their journey is usually really caricatured and extreme in their struggles, but their journey is entirely relateable and understandable.
If we didn’t have these extremes presented to us, maybe we wouldn’t realize the subtle, deeper things inside ourselves.
One such thing that is harder to pick up in your life, is how you’re feeling about yourself.
Usually, you’re not too concerned with how you see yourself. Most of the time, you’re pretty content with life. Things keep moving forward, people are happy, you’re doing good. And then you go through those times in your life where all the buttons in your life are being pushed. A little bit of pressure is applied, someone else’s expectations are around, and now all of a sudden you start to feel like maybe you’re not actually doing as well as you thought.
And it’s a weird feeling. It’s not that you don’t like yourself, it’s just maybe that you don’t feel like you’re actually accomplishing all the things you wanted to. Maybe the things you are doing, you don’t feel like you’re doing very well.
And maybe you just wish that you were happier about it.
It’s a scary feeling and a scary place when you start to question yourself. And just like everyone else, this is a place I can find myself in quite a bit. I can be very hard on myself. I usually am fairly lenient in my expectations of others and do my best to allow them to be themselves, but with myself I am quite strict and ruthless. I blame myself when things aren’t as good as I think they can be. Maybe you can relate with me. I think we all tend towards doing this.
But here’s the thing – you and I are both wrong in our approach here. And we can all learn the art of being “happy with me”. The attitude of moving past this place of discontent and uncertainty.
First thing to start with is those expectations. Ah, those expectations. Like I already mentioned, I think our problem is that we expect so much from ourselves that we don’t expect from others. Maybe we’re compensating for the fact that people around us might not be doing as good with their decisions or reactions as they should be. Maybe that’s why we take so much on ourselves in trying to be the strong one, or trying to fix things.
Take a step back and pretend to be an objective observer of your life. If you don’t know how to do that, maybe ask a friend to comment. Put it on paper exactly what you’re doing right now, and why it’s wrong.
Yeah, dumb reasons aren’t they?
That’s what I find a lot of the time, anyway. On paper, I’m usually doing exactly what I should be doing, if not more. But on the inside, my heart is frustrated that there are other things that could be happening that aren’t. But the thing with our lives is we’re a little too close to them. We can’t see things clearly because we are super emotionally involved in, well, ourselves. LOOK THROUGH HEAVEN’S EYEEEEEEEEEEEEES (insert Prince of Egypt refrain here)
You’re doing better than you’re allowing yourself to appreciate. Celebrate that. Celebrate those victories. Take a look back on the year. Wow, this has been a big year. And we have all done more than we imagined we could. That’s gotta count for something. If you were looking at someone else’s life, you would throw the biggest party to celebrate that level of accomplishment. Maybe it’s time you did that for yourself.
But it’s not just your expectations, is it? It’s what others are expecting.
But it’s not really what they’re expecting that grinds us, is it? It’s our perception of what we’re expected to be.
A great story of this is on the ever-pertinent topic of relationships, and found in the Scripture in Song of Songs. It’s about a beautiful woman named the Shulamite, who starts the story quite down on herself. Her brothers made her work hard in the sun growing up, so she feels like she’s a lot darker than she should be. It’s always hard when there’s a family hurt invovled in progressing your story. And here comes Mr Man, King Solomon, and he starts to make a move on her. Well, great, she’s been hurt by the men in her life before, and here comes another one. And he sees something else in her. He sees beauty, strength, grace, and an affectionate heart.
And he manages to convince her that she is actually a lot better than she thinks, and he is absolutely over the moon with what is on offer here. When her sisters come to her later and wonder how she’ll ever make a man happy (what’s with this family?), she stops and thinks, and tells her sisters, “hey, wait a minute, I’m fully developed, and when my lover sees me, he will be fully satisfied”. And she was right.
Maybe the perceptions of how this man would see her would have been tainted by her background, by her past, by what’s happened before. But she allowed the reality check to hit, and saw that his expectations of her was that she would just be her great self.
I wonder what expectations from others you need to reevaluate? Maybe it’s a relational expectation, like the Shulamite, where you think someone is expecting more from you than you can provide. Maybe it’s a career expectation, where you feel like you need to be aspiring and inspiring beyond your expertise or humanity. Maybe it’s a volunteer or service expectation, where you’re doubting your own ability because you think someone else is (even though they’ve never said or inferred such a thing).
Once again, the perception problem rests with us.
And then there’s God’s expectations.
And here’s where a lot of people live in fear and discontent and despair. God must be so disappointed, we think. We’ve done so much wrong when we’ve known better. We should be acting more on what we’re called to do, we should be giving more, we should be, we should be, we should be. Do do do do do do do do do.
But Jesus said Done.
You are now free from moral obligation. You are now free from pressure to be more than you are. You were accepted at your worst. How much better is it now that you’ve accepted that grace and allowed it to transform your life for the better?
We think God may be distant or absent in His opinion about us. The truth is He couldn’t be happier. Allow Him to communicate His content with who you are. If God of all the heavens and all the earth can say that about you, who are you to disagree?
So there is a bit of an art to being “happy with me”. And it’s all in your court. Give yourself some realistic expectations of yourself, and celebrate the wins. See the expectations of others as they really are. And let God’s perception of you always guard your heart and mind, and lead you into contentment and fulfillment in every area of your life.